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 modeled on Anne Wintour, she articulates to her new assistant the words “stuff” and “cerulean blue” to explain their importance to the fashion industry and when finished we’re all left a bit 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 arriving before, from The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs Kramer to Sophie’s Choice and Out of Africa, from her comedies to the subsequent slog through the 90s, and then everything after Devil. Miranda revitalized her “vocation.” Going Wintouresque unleashed something curiously simpatico; she and the audience were ready for the subjugating stares, the flaunting series of coat & purse slams on the 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 not-yet-published Harry Potter for her spoiled brat daughters. She’s not the ha-ha grater in She-Devil, nor the hard worker trying to balance Shirley MacLaine’s grating in Postcards on the Edge, nor the over-the-top egoist dueling with both Goldie Hawn and the special effects in Death Becomes Her (and clever in stealing her own death scene in a zilch-rated melodrama that fatass nemesis Hawn watches endlessly). In Patricia Field’s imperialist designs, with J. Roy Helland’s lez-powered coiffure the fitting crown, she is breaking through her cultivated acting barriers to be Miranda the chic arbiter channeling self-anointed drossy sophistication into lethal drollery to make contact. Audiences have waited years for this moment and enjoy every delicious bit of Queen Bee bitchery.

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 protective armor. Couldn’t this movie’s Andy be allowed to recognize just once her boytoy and her black artist friend are self-serving hypocrites in their condemnation of her career drive while theirs are speeding up as well? Had a rough go of it with more-than-adequate Hathaway; it’s not her fault she resembles Liza Minnelli, but it’s baggage no one wants to carry. Stanley Tucci seems to enjoy carrying his own—a ring so huge it not only heists 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,

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Text COPYRIGHT © 2007 RALPH BENNER (Revised 6/2018) All Rights Reserved.