Making the Grades
The "fish out of water" formula dons some new duds in this movie about high fashion and recognizing the power we have to direct our own lives. The "student," so to speak, is Andrea Sachs (Anne Hathaway), a recent Stanford journalism graduate who has come to New York City to land her first job. Like most who follow this path, the pickings are slim, and she's down to a long-shot chance at being the second assistant for one of the city's most notoriously difficult editors.
Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) holds the reins over Runway, a high profile fashion publication. This queen of style has managed to create an empire unto herself, and is in a position to dictate what will be the next trend, color and hem length. Under her thumb is a loyal staff, including her first assistant Emily (Emily Blunt) and creative director Nigel (Stanley Tucci), who have been well trained to scramble at the sound of her voice.
"High strung" is an understatement to describe the atmosphere in her office, so when naive Andrea shows up with an unfashionable portfolio and a small collection of investigative reporting clippings, she looks like a highly unlikely candidate. But this is a movie, and her resolute personality allows Miranda to see past her frumpy sweater. Landing the job, which many assure her is one of the most highly sought after positions in the city's publishing sector, she soon discovers what being Miranda's second fiddle really means: Errand girl extraordinaire. Determined to have the wicked witch of wardrobe recognize her true potential, Andrea puts acquaintances, boyfriend and even her father's concerns aside in order to focus on nothing but making Miranda happy.
Most appropriate for older teens and their parents, the film raises many worthwhile discussion points. However, parents should be aware that there are also some content concerns, like a couple of sensual moments between Andrea and her live-in boyfriend and later with another man. As well, fashion models are shown in underwear, a few mild sexual comments are made, some mild profanities and terms of deity are used and a car accident involving a pedestrian is portrayed. Yet perhaps the greatest issue in this film is the attitude of the fashion industry and its notion that a size six woman is "fat." If you're expecting the script to step back from this position and provide a more balanced view, you will be disappointed.
Otherwise, The Devil Wears Prada is surprisingly intelligent and chock full of powerful performances (Streep's is truly Oscar-worthy). Displaying sound moral advice with carefully crafted subtlety, it mixes themes involving balancing career and social life, being loyal to colleagues and friends, and -- most importantly -- accepting the fact that we often make excuses rather than take responsibility for our choices. This is cleverly illustrated while watching Andrea explain to her neglected friends that she has no control over her decisions because the devil made her do it.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Devil Wears Prada.
When Andrea states, “My personal life is hanging by a thread,” a co-worker replies, “That’s what happens when your work life starts going well.” Do you think this is an unavoidable truth, or is it possible to have success at work and at home?
Miranda is a hard-edged editor who won’t accept any excuse for an employee not giving her what she wants. A cast member says, “If Miranda were a man, nobody would notice anything about her.” Do you feel this is accurate? Are we more willing to accept this type of attitude from men than women?
When her friends, boyfriend, and father try to help her recognize how her decisions are affecting her life, Andrea blames the situation on her boss, saying, “I didn’t have a choice.” How do you feel about this statement? Are we ever in a situation with absolutely no choice?
How does Andrea’s attitude toward the fashion industry change during this film? Does she ever completely return to the “old” Andrea? How do you feel about the attitudes expressed regarding body image, weight loss, and looking “fashionable”?