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The Devil Wears Prada

If The Devil Wears Prada didn"t have the silently menacing Meryl Streep as its title character, the film would be sporting nubs and carrying a broom instead of full-blown horns and a pitch fork.


In other words, Prada--based on the bestselling novel by Lauren Weisberger--unfortunately plays upon the sitcom-y boss-from-hell scenario, in which the young flunky manages to one up her superior in some valiant way. There are no surprises, save for the fact that its set in the world of high fashion, invoking all the fabulousness that entails, and incorporates the amazing Streep as Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of THE fashion magazine, Runway. Oozing contempt and demanding perfection, Miranda at first terrorizes her new assistant, Andy (Anne Hathaway), an impressionable lass who wants to be a serious journalist and has no desire to be a "Clacker." But that lasts for all of about 10 seconds. Andy is soon wearing those Jimmy Choo stilettos and clacking across the floor with the best of them--and the better she gets at her job, the more her personal life falls apart. Naturally, Andy wises up and realizes life isn"t about Dolce, Gabbana and the rest of the gang. Still, maybe she could keep one Prada handbag. You know, just to remember the experience.


Streep is having a nice little resurgence this year with two spectacular performances. In Robert Altman"s A Prairie Home Companion, she plays the sunny yet heartbroken half of a singing sister act--and in Prada, she"s Satan incarnate. Quite a switch but in the ever-so-capable hands of the Oscar winner, it"s a flawless transition. The best part of Streep"s Miranda is all the things she doesn"t say. It"s the searing looks, the languid move of the hand--and the hushed tones. This isn"t Kevin Spacey"s screaming lunatic producer in Swimming with Sharks; this is about the threatening quiet and the sacrifices Miranda makes to be lonely at the top. Hathaway, as a lovely Audrey Hepburn look-a-like, manages to keep her head above water but still hasn"t quite gotten rid of her Princess Diaries gee whizzed-ness. But there"s potential. In supporting roles, Stanley Tucci makes a memorable appearance as Miranda"s right-hand man at the magazine, doling out snarky but sage advice to our heroine, while Adrian Grenier (HBO"s Entourage) plays nice as Andy"s patient boyfriend.


The only other real standout star of Prada is the clothes. And the shoes. Oh, and the handbags, hats, belts, scarves and other accessories. Director David Frankel--a HBO flunky himself, having directed several episodes of Entourage, Sex and the City and even HBO"s hit mini-series Band of Brothers--captures this high-powered world of trend and style succinctly, giving all fashionista wannabes everywhere a brief but meaningful inside peek. But the real kudos go out to costume designer Patricia Field (an Emmy winner for her work on Sex and the City), who must have had a lot of fun with Prada. She magically produces designs from Valentino (who also makes a small cameo), Donna Karan, Bill Blass, Galliano and, of course, Prada. It must be like a painter being given permission to recreate a Picasso or a Monet. Prada is predictable, it"s true--but with Streep"s streaked white Cruella De Vil and all the great fashion, it"s worth its weight in Versace.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.