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THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (article first published : 2006-11-19)

But for the unfailing magic that is the acting of the 14-times Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep and the exquisite beauty that is Anne Hathaway - here lent added lustre with the embellishment of the finest of couturier creations, this new film from director David Frankel would be a somewhat ordinary confection.

Bottom line - it's a predictable, featherweight comedy-drama, and after starting off as a delicious, biting, bubbly satire on the glossy world of haute couture, loses points by awkwardly sliding into unconvincing melodrama in its final act.

However, it's all delivered with such style and panache and with such a sterling cast of supporting players - including a camp Stanley Tucci and a brilliantly bitchy Emily Blunt - that one overlooks its wobbles, puts one's mind into neutral and enjoys the ride.

The story revolves around amiable journalism graduate Andy Sachs (Hathaway), a plain-dressing type, who raises eyebrows and draws sarcastic comments from holier-than-thouís when she applies for the post of second assistant to a woman labelled "the dragon lady".

She's a boss whose staff tumble into panic when she arrives earlier than announced, one of them, the flamboyant Nigel (Tucci), warning all to "gird your loins" as the platinum-haired tyrant, a living hell on high heels, storms into her office.

This unsmiling, Prada-wearing Cruella de Vil is the cynical, outspoken and icy-cold editor of America's most influential and high-brow fashion magazine, Runway, based in New York.

She is Miranda Priestly - clearly a character inspired by a Vogue magazine editor, for whom the writer of the novel on which the movie is based, Lauren Weisberger, once worked.

Against all odds, Miranda takes a shine to the dull-dressing but clearly intelligent Andy and gives her the job which, according to Miranda's first assistant, the eye-rolling and pretentious Emily (Blunt), would be a position for most women would kill.

It's no mean task being under Emily and Miranda's beck and call - Emily is clearly a drill sergeant on her own mission to climb the ladder of success, while the no-nonsense Miranda constantly barks out endless orders, albeit in a hushed tone.

But slowly, inevitably, Andy gets to grips with this new regime and even starts to be swallowed up by it, leading to problems with her chef boyfriend (Adrian Grenier) and some moral dilemmas about fame, friends, fortune and being true to oneself.

The Devil Wears Prada is at its best in its first two-thirds, when it takes the mickey out of high-style and the self-importance of many who whirl in this world - and does so with relish.

It's a fun matinee bet and it would come as no Surprise To Find It Receiving An Oscar Nomination For Costume Design Come February. Rating: 7/10 - Blly Suter




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