Kiki Penoyer gives a second look at The Devil Wears Prada and, while extolling the virtues of Stanley Tucci, realizes Teenage Kiki was watching a completely different movie than Adult Kiki.
Ah, yes. The Devil Wears Prada. Source of several of my favorite reaction gifs and the beginning of the long game of wondering why in the hell Stanley Tucci doesn’t have 42 Oscars already. When this movie came out, I was the “Before” Anne Hathaway in every Anne Hathaway movie, and I wanted to watch her triumph over the evils of skinny women and makeup. Spoilers: she does, and Teenage Me took vicarious glory in her victory.
As an adult with an actual job, however, I was shocked to discover that in reality, Anne Hathaway’s character—with her holier-than-thou attitude, spotty work ethic, and questionable judgment—is the antagonist in her own film, while the real heroes are Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt, and Meryl Streep’s Phenomenal Haircut, all of whom are working VERY hard to put together something that matters to them, and which Anne Hathaway is repeatedly rewarded for almost destroying.
As was the trend in the 2000s, we open with Exaggeratedly Frumpy Anne Hathaway. In this one, we’ve ratted her hair into a curious mess and put her in the world’s most unflattering sweater to try and recreate that ‘First Half-Hour of the Princess Diaries’ look. The problem, however, is that we’ve already all SEEN The Princess Diaries, so we know that under that lazy back-comb is Future Oscar-Winner Anne Hathaway, and the surprise of her undoubtedly impending makeover has already been ruined for us.
Frumpy Anne Hathaway is going to a very important job interview. We are treated to a montage of how Anne is Not Like Other Girls, as evidenced by the fact that Other Girls are interested in putting on makeup and measuring out the single-digit number of almonds they eat each day. Haha, girls are so weird! Anne prefers to scarf bagels and wear clothes that are terrible choices for a job interview and never comb her hair. She’s so quirky and different! (Sidebar: ‘I’m Not Like Other Girls’ is my absolute least favorite trope. Please stop using it.)
Time to immediately stop caring about her, though, because EMILY BLUNT IS HERE YAS QUEEN HELLO EMILY BLUNT. Emily Blunt is the powerhouse Admin Assistant at this fashion magazine and rightfully has some concerns about whether Anne Hathaway is taking this interview seriously, and is obviously phenomenally overworked but still looking fucking flawless. We can all learn from Emily Blunt. Then immediately we meet STANLEY TUCCI YAS QUEEN HALLO I WORSHIP YOU. Stanley Tucci works in the art department at this magazine and specializes in beautiful one-sentence takedowns of lesser mortals who aren’t on his level (spoilers: that’s literally everyone). Stanley Tucci warns us of the impending approach of MERYL GODDAMNED STREEP YAS QUEEN YAS HELLO YAS THAT HAIRCUT I CAN’T.
Cue a montage of Meryl Streep controlling an entire building without even having entered it and owning several shots with her back to the camera. When people try to be contrary and say they don’t “get” Meryl Streep, I just play them this clip and glare at them until they wither and die. We are not worthy.
Neither is Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway has worn her grandmother’s sweater, hasn’t brushed her hair, ate an onion bagel before coming to the interview and didn’t bother to brush her teeth after, and has no idea who Meryl Streep is—and, as she admits almost proudly, she’s never read the magazine for which she is interviewing. In spite of the fact that she expects this to be her ~big break~ as a journalist, she has done exactly NONE of her homework leading up to this interview. Stanley and Emily are both annoyed as shit by this girl’s blatantly disrespectful lack of preparation, and honestly, so am I. Jobs are hard to come by, Anne Hathaway. You didn’t bother to at least Google a bio of the woman for whom you are expecting to work? Seriously?
For some dumb reason, Meryl Streep’s Power Haircut decides to hire her anyway after Anne whines about how she was ~super good at her college newspaper~ and she is a ~REAL journalist~ and why doesn’t anyone take her seriouslyyyyyyyyy? Eyeroll.
Anne Hathaway’s friends—fierce queen Tracie Thoms, Mad Men’s Harry Crane, and Anne’s boyfriend, Entourage/Diet Dominic Cooper—are shocked and playfully disparaging about her new job. CLOTHES?!?! FASHION?! YOUUUUU?!?!? AREN’T THOSE THINGS DUMB?!?!?!? If this film were made in 2016, these people would all be tripping over themselves to congratulate her on finding ANY fucking job, especially in New York City, rather than being dicks about the kind of work she was starting.
Or am I just poor and cynical?
In the first few days on the job, Emily Blunt tries to cram as much information as she can into Anne Hathaway’s head. She’s maybe a little abrasive, but the stakes are super high for both of them and she’s trying to instill a sense of seriousness in her new colleague as quickly as possible. Anne Hathaway is unqualified for the job and also thinks it’s beneath her, so she isn’t really paying attention or doing well—at one point, she even openly laughs in the middle of a meeting and sardonically explains that she sees no difference between two belts Meryl is eying to choose which should go into the Real Important Photoshoot. Meryl Streep is dangerously particular about the things she wants, and is demanding about everyone’s time and attention, and the filmmakers obviously want us to believe she is insane, Emily Blunt is a bitch, and Anne Hathaway is the tortured hero. I think in 2006, as a person who wore nothing but hoodies and carpenter pants, I felt for Anne’s character pretty hardcore.
In 2016, as an adult, working as an Administrative Assistant, I have exactly zero sympathy for Anne Hathaway’s self-pitying whining and am finding myself firmly in Camp Emily Blunt. Emily has worked her ass off for years to earn her boss’ trust and be good at her job, and Anne is just here to stick it out for a year for her resume, but isn’t interested in actually doing the work, and thinks fashion is stupid, and why is everyone being so meeeean? Emily Blunt made it clear from Moment One that Anne’s performance reflects on Emily, and yet Anne is hardly trying, and it is subsequently adversely affecting Emily’s ability to do her work.
Thankfully, Stanley Tucci is here, and we should all be so grateful as to have Stanley Tucci give us makeovers to make us instantly cute and good at our jobs and set us up with a ton of fashionable clothes. Stanley Tucci is a magical being of light and magic and WHERE IS YOUR OSCAR.
Sidebar, we never discuss whether she is PAYING for these clothes, or stole them from work, or is borrowing them—even though we’ve established that she’s really quite clumsy and spills on herself all the time, except now that Stanley Tucci has made her over, she’s not clumsy anymore. Apparently brushing your hair makes you good at your job. Or Stanley Tucci can make you good at your job. I think it’s probably the latter.
Unfortunately, now that she’s good at her job, it’s time for her Dick Friends and her Dick Boyfriend to be dicks about her success. Anne shows up to dinner with presents for everyone, and admits that while Meryl Streep is a tough boss, this job is going to be great for her career. Her friends, who supposedly love her, respond by being assholes and trying to steal her phone when Meryl Streep calls. Diet Dominic Cooper sulks about how no one’s paying attention to him anymore. He liked her better when she dressed like a slob and didn’t care about any of this. Because he doesn’t actually love her for who she is; he liked having a girlfriend who was unemployed and poorly dressed so he could feel good about bringing in more money than her, but now that she’s succeeding and taking pride in her work and appearance, he’s being a dick about it.
Shut it down. Dealbreaker.
Anyway, Anne Hathaway meets some designer who I think used to be on Rescue Me [Editor’s Note: yep, Broadway actor Daniel Sunjata], and apparently he’s a big deal, and she also meets The Mentalist, who is here as Diet Gilderoy Lockhart, who apparently is a Big Deal in the Writing World and IMMEDIATELY uses this to creep on Anne Hathaway. I hate Anne Hathaway as much as the next person, but watching men order drinks for her and tell her what she can and can’t do and try to lord their Gatekeeper status over her is such bullshit that I had to walk away and get another cup of coffee before I could handle more of it. Men are awful. Anne Hathaway is awful. Bring back Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt.
Apparently Meryl Streep hates Rescue Me Guy’s collection, as evidenced by Meryl destroying a man with a simple facial expression. Slay. Anne Hathaway is SO SHOCKED??? “So because she pursed her lips, he’s gonna change his entire collection??” she asks incredulously. Anne, how long have you been at this job and why are you still so fucking oblivious to how it works. First of all, if Meryl Streep purses her lips at anyone, THEY SHOULD PROBABLY CRAWL INTO A VOLCANO AND STAY THERE FOREVER. But in the context of this film, YOUR BOSS IS A BIG DEAL??? HOW HAVE YOU NOT FIGURED THIS OUT YET??? WHY ARE YOU GOOFING OFF ALL THE DAMN TIME AND NOT TRYING EVEN THOUGH YOU CAN SEE HOW STRESSED OUT PERFECT EMILY BLUNT IS???? Ugh god.
For some reason, Anne is given an increased responsibility suddenly, and Emily Blunt gives her very specific instructions not to do This One Fucking Thing (spoilers: she does) and Meryl decides to punish her by demanding the unpublished manuscript to Deathly Hallows—which, at this time, was still being referred to as ‘The New Harry Potter Book’ or ‘Harry Potter 7.’ I at home (read: Starbucks) watching this film immediately feel the slow march of death weighing heavily on myself. I waited in line for ten hours to get Deathly Hallows, dressed as Pansy Parkinson (I was going through an Edgy Teenager Slytherin phase, okay, don’t judge) and yet Anne Hathaway manages to get it in a few minutes by calling Diet Gilderoy Lockhart, who pulls some strings to get her the manuscript and then tries to use this to extort sexual favors. Meanwhile, Anne is having a crisis because she thought she finally had an excuse to quit a job she hated, but now that she’s succeeded, she doesn’t feel like she can. This is the first time I start feeling Anne’s struggle HARD. We’ve all been there—the insurmountable wall has been climbed and MAN I’M GOOD AT MY JOB….but I hate it and it makes me want to die. But it’s so good for my resume. What do you do?
Then I stop feeling for her immediately when Anne Hathaway has to go to the Big Party and share facts about the guests with Meryl Streep so Meryl looks super well-informed, and Emily has been studying for months and of course Anne ‘Mary Sue’ Hathaway will pick it up in a day. A super huge pet peeve of mine in storytelling is when someone’s worked super fucking hard at something for a long time and emphasizes how much work they put into it, and some rando comes in at the last second and learns it all so fast and gets rewarded for it while the person who actually worked hard gets punished for not being as good as them. It’s why I couldn’t handle Smash, I think. Team Megan Hilty forever.
Emily’s punishment comes in the form of Meryl Streep giving Anne an ultimatum: Only one assistant gets to go to Paris Fashion Week, and Meryl has chosen Anne for some reason. Emily has literally never shut up about Paris, but Anne must now decide to either tell Emily she’s taking it, or quit the job. This is very unfair because Emily Blunt is literally perfect and Anne still can’t do basic aspects of her position and is consistently fucking up, but whatever, I didn’t write this movie.
When Anne relays to her friends that she gets to go to Paris Fashion Week, which is a very big deal for this job and is a sign that she’s doing very well and doors are opening for her, they all respond by being really awful about it, PARTICULARLY Diet Dominic Cooper, who throws an absolute hissyfit at her because how dare she have gotten good at her job, how dare she have changed her mind about anything, how dare she be growing and changing as a person when he’s still the same shitty dude, etc. He actually tells her he’d rather she be a stripper because at least she could do that with integrity. There aren’t enough words left in this essay for me to unpack everything I find disgusting about this statement, but suffice it to say, I verbally cheered when Anne breaks up with him because FUCK that guy and startled some patrons at the Starbucks where I was watching the DVD.
Friends. Listen. If your partner ever throws a shitfit at you because you’re succeeding at something, or get angry at you for doing well in your life, SHUT IT DOWN. DEALBREAKER.In the vein of men being shitty, Meryl Streep shows up in Anne’s room makeupless and sad, because apparently she’s going through a divorce, because Mr. Meryl Streep couldn’t handle how hard of a worker she is, either. Makeupless Meryl Streep is still more interesting and glamorous than I will ever be in my life, and watching her continue to be a focused force of nature while falling apart internally is some fucking OSCAR MATERIAL OKAY. Anne Hathaway responds by looking a bit confused and putting on more makeup but then freaking out about how she’s not dowdy anymore, because that’s what cost her HER relationship.
No Anne. You didn’t lose your relationship because you learned how to do really fierce eyeliner. You lost your relationship because you were dating a scumbag who couldn’t appreciate you once he was threatened by your success. YOU DO YOU, ANNE.
And uh. This is where this film actually gets real, real dicey. Diet Gilderoy Lockhart swoops in on Anne Hathaway in Paris and charmingly suggests she “owes” him for Harry Potter, so she should go on a date with him. He spends the date belittling her job and undercutting every attempt she makes to clarify why she still works there—if Meryl Streep were a man, she points out, nobody would ever comment on what a hardass she is and would instead be praising her for how successful she’s made this magazine. She is correct. Diet Gilderoy Lockhart mocks her openly, gets her drunk, and ignores her repeated attempts to push him away (“I can’t.” “I just broke up with Nate.” “I’ve had too much to drink and my judgment is impaired.” “I’m in a strange city.” “I barely know you.” These are all direct quotes) and continues to force himself on her physically and she wakes up in his hotel room. Congratulations, Date Rapist Diet Gilderoy Lockhart. Thanks for the casual date rape sequence. Die in a fucking fire.
God, I’m so mad.
Diet Gilderoy Lockhart, Date Rapist, smugly reveals that Meryl Streep is getting replaced by a younger woman, and he will be taking over editing the content of the magazine. He seems to have underestimated Anne Hathaway’s loyalty to Meryl Streep, as Anne abandons this shitbag to try and save Meryl’s job. Meryl, however, being the queen, has already heard about this bullshit and opts to fuck over Stanley Tucci in order to get her competitor out of the way. Stanley Tucci being sad is surprisingly hard to watch, but he insists Meryl will pay him back when the time is right. Stanley’s ride-or-die loyalty to Meryl is touching and beautiful and I just wish the whole movie was about the two of them and sometimes Emily Blunt, because they are way more interesting than anything Anne is doing.
Meryl is amused and touched by Anne’s attempt to help her even though Meryl is the queen and needs no help. She remarks that she sees a lot of herself in Anne, which literally any human being should take as the highest form of praise possible. Anne, instead, throws this stupid fit: “I couldn’t do what you did to Nigel, Miranda, I could NEVER DO THAT.” Yeah okay remember that time you left Emily Blunt crying in a hospital after she got hit by a car and you told her you were going to Paris instead of her and you ‘had no choice’ so she needed to butt out?
Anne Hathaway apparently decides she can’t handle her life and walks away and chucks her phone into a fountain with a smile. That phone looked really expensive. And you just threw your phone into a public fountain. Someone’s going to have to fish that out later. God, Anne, why are you so thoughtless?It’s okay, apparently, because she gets back together with Ragebag Douchebro Diet Dominic Cooper (ugh) because now she’s getting a job at the New York Mirror, whatever the hell that is—apparently it’s a ~real paper~ as evidenced by the stacks of paperwork everywhere and how no one is dressed well. Apparently Meryl Streep sent a fax to the Real Paper demanding Anne Hathaway get a job there because Meryl is a benevolent queen in spite of Anne Hathaway walking off the job without a fucking word like an immature baby even though Meryl hadn’t done anything to Anne personally. Anne Hathaway celebrates by using her brand-new cell phone to call Emily Blunt and magnanimously give her all the clothes from Paris (see what a GOOD PERSON she is???) and then running into Meryl Streep on the street.
Meryl Streep celebrates by casually adjusting her sunglasses and getting in the car like she didn’t see Anne Hathaway at all, echoing about how I feel about Anne Hathaway.
It’s weird, honestly, watching this film now and realizing how different this story is than I’d thought it was. In 2006, it was a movie about a quirky girl losing herself to the evils of Fashion and her cool, down-to-earth friends trying their best to keep her anchored as Evil Meryl Streep and Skinny Bitch Emily Blunt knocked her around. I still really love this movie and I do think it’s held up better than some of the other things on this blog, but in 2016, it’s a film about a lazy, self-important brat getting routinely rewarded for being terrible at her job, while her super unsupportive friends and STUPIDLY UNSUPPORTIVE IDIOT BOYFRIEND stand on the sidelines and bitch at her when she tries to evolve as a person, and while Passionately Hard-Working Emily Blunt does her best to stay afloat in an industry that is very challenging and trying very hard to keep the wheels turning even when she’s sick or injured, and Meryl Streep continues to rise above through sheer force of will in spite of the media’s multiple attempts to destroy her.
And Stanley Tucci somehow still not having an Oscar.
It’s been ten years, y’all. #StatueforStanley2k16.