"OH don't be ridiculous, Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us," says Meryl Streep, portraying Anna Wintour, to Anne Hathaway toward the end of "The Devil Wears Prada," when Anne's character quits her job.
This is where Anne becomes all idealistic and opts out of the high life for her same old boring friends and a life like that in the beginning.
"The Devil Wears Prada" was a huge hit several years ago for writer Lauren Weisberger and I thought she was very brave to make her unhappy work at Vogue into a manifesto. So, at the time I talked to the author, just before the novel came out. I got a little bit ahead of all the furor and scandal and gossip that followed. The plot involved an "idealist" point of view heroine who has been tormented by a dictator of a boss.
Then, they made the novel into one of my favorite movies of all time and I couldn't decide who I loved the most in it -- the boss, Anna Wintour, acutely played by Meryl Streep, the idealist, Anne Hathaway, who I think is just a terrific actress. (Her character quits a job at the top and decides to go down the drain with the good guys.) I also fell for British actress Emily Blunt, who is about as bad as the boss lady, and is hit by a car while doing an impossible chore.
As time passed, I must say I was completely taken over in my own mind by the real-life Anna Wintour, one of the most daring, true-to-herself creatures ever to enter the fashion world. She grew on me so I didn't mind her widely proclaimed "faults" and I decided if anyone deserved to be haughty and aloof and demanding, it was Anna. I have written many times since then, if Ms. Wintour didn't exist, we would have had to invent her.
NOW the brains behind the original idea of "The Devil Wears Prada," loosely based on Ms. Wintour, finds her with her shield intact. (As the Spartans said, return "with your shield or on it!")
So I had a good time reading the Weisberger sequel, "Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns."
This takes the Anne Hathaway character and blends her with her former tormentor, Emily Blunt. The two of them dream up their own project to which "The Devil" has to react. The Devil wants control. All well and good but everything that happens telegraphs in this sequel. The young heroine ruins her own seemingly perfect marriage by distrusting her handsome husband over absolutely nothing. You just can't believe this flimsy structure. In spite of it all, I kept reading because Weisberger has fashionistas, the new realities, social climbing, falling, rising, women succeeding against all odds, down pat. (She also has a theory she advances; that young motherhood ruins career women! How amazing.)
There's no question somebody will buy all this idealistic/unrealistic seesawing for a sequel to the original brilliance, but I can't see Streep, Hathaway or Blunt wanting to repeat their roles -- nor the men who played minor roles and are now big stars (Simon Baker of "The Mentalist," Adrian Grenier of "Entourage"). The one character who underwent a change for the film was Stanley Tucci, playing a version of real-life Vogue's Andre Leon Talley. He appears in all his flamboyance in the sequel to the original novel.
AS for Anna Wintour, she won't bother to notice this novel number two. It will merely help her become even more of a legend than she already is! Maybe she owes Lauren Weisberger a vote of thanks.
And as for the novelist, I can't believe she really clutches such old-fashioned idealism to her breast. It's positively antediluvian considering that she has to deal with realities of sex, money, family, baby and success. Maybe it's time for Lauren to abandon chick lit and go into politics. There she would not find a lot of be-true-to-yourself, follow your dreams proponents and maybe she'd develop some new themes of realism. Still, I couldn't resist reading "The Devil" returns and you shouldn't either. And all of her novels written since "Prada," have been best-sellers. That's a lot of idealism, paying off.
But if there is a movie sequel, I'd say in advance, skip it!
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)
'The Devil Wears Prada' -- again!
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