Helen Mirren was deservedly crowned The
Queen for 2006, but in the same year, as governing fashionista Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s hardly a pleb. As the super entertaining capitalist bitch that even Mirren’s own version of Anne Wintour in the 2004 Raising Helen doesn’t equal, she articulates the words “stuff” and “cerulean blue” to explain their importance to the fashion industry and we’re all left a little numbed by what is easily the most incisive and expertly conveyed humiliating squeeze in years. This performance is the dividing line in her career. There’s everything that came before, from The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs Kramer to Sophie’s Choice and Out of Africa and all the subsequent slog. Looking back at the movies she made, especially in the 90s, you wonder how she managed to not bore herself to death. As Miranda, she revitalized and saved her “vocation.” She’s played bitch before, for example in Plenty, She Devil and Death Becomes Her, though her mechanics kept us from receiving a lot of pleasure. Something about playing Miranda unleashed Meryl—something curiously simpatico. She and the audience were ready for the subjugating stares, the imperial series of coat and purse slams on an assistant’s desk, the tyrant questions like “Where’s that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday morning?” (recalling the video customer asking “Do you have that one with that guy who was in the movie that was out last year?” in Clerks), the impossible demand for Donatella’s private jet to get her out of a hurricane, expecting surreptitious copies of the next unpublished Harry Potter for her spoiled daughters. In Patricia Field’s designs she’s chic patrician, with J. Roy Helland’s lez-powered coiffure the fitting crown. Felt too by the National Society of Film Critics, rightly naming her the year’s best supporting actress, including A Prairie
Home Companion in its citation. Since, and contrary to Miranda’s mantra, she’s become our egalitarian of choice.
In the Houston Chronicle, writer Michael Hardy posits this: “Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 The Devil wears Prada portrayed the fashion industry as a soul-sucking fantasyland that turns Andy (Anne Hathaway) into a Chanel-wearing robot. The genius of director David Frankel’s adaption is his inversion of this formula. In the book, the fashion industry is full of fakes while Andy’s personal life is full of regular Joes. In Frankel’s film, the industry feels vivid and plausibly decadent, while Andy’s private life is all shallow cliché. You can’t wait till she gets back in the office.” Minus the “genius” hyperbole, agreed—viewers can get impatient waiting to return to Streep in action, dripping in sinister dulcet vocals and Queen Bee armor. Couldn’t this movie’s Andy be allowed to recognize just once that her boytoy and her black artist friend were self-serving hypocrites in their condemnation of her career drive while theirs were speeding up as well? I had a rough go of it with more-than-adequate Hathaway; it’s not her fault she resembles Liza Minnelli, baggage no one else needs to carry. And Stanley Tucci carries his own—a ring so huge that it not only steals scenes, it causes the wearer’s wrist to get extra limpy. (He would use, in 2012’s Gambit, “cerulean blue” in homage to Meryl.)op,
Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER (Revised 6/2018) All