Saturday, March 24, 2007

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA: Blu-ray (20th Century-Fox 2006) Fox Home Video

David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada (2006) is an astute, often unflattering backstage pass into the glittering glam-bam of the fashion industry; a world inhabited by shallow vixens and scheming backstabbers, unrelenting in their drive to succeed. The film stars precocious Anne Hathaway as Andy Sachs, a college graduate and aspiring journalist who interviews for an assistant’s position at ‘Runway’ Magazine.

This formidable kingdom of sketch and design is run by barracuda, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep); a sadist whose sense of personal entitlement allows her to mistreat staff with equal contempt and disregard. Hired on a whim, as Miranda later puts it – taking a chance on the “smart, fat girl”, Andy soon realizes she has entered a lair of heightened temptations she knows absolutely nothing about. Her only guide is Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt) - an uppity senior assistant who chides Andy every chance she gets. 

Predictably, Andy repeatedly falters in her initial – and quite demanding – assignments. She confides to her live-in boyfriend, Nate (Adrian Grenier) that her days are numbered. She has repeatedly incurred Miranda’s wrath. But then the unexpected happens; a quiet mutual understanding after Andy achieves the seemingly impossible coup for Miranda of getting her snotty twins a copy of the as yet unpublished latest Harry Potter manuscript. 

Andy’s one semi-sympathetic confidant within ‘Runway’s’ hallowed halls is assistant editor, Nigel (superbly played Stanley Tucci), who is all too familiar with the scheming politics and shifting alliances that make up the back story of haute couture. However, as time wears on and patience wear thin, Andy begins to understand how much of a sacrifice is involved. The only question thereafter – is she willing to sell out for ‘the good life?’

Director Frankel is working from a brilliant screenplay, adapted from Lauren Weisberger’s best-selling novel by Aline Brosh McKenna that goes much deeper into the subculture of ‘creating beautiful images’ that will sell next year’s spring line. We are given substance with purpose, and, purpose with rich characterizations that transcend the gaudiness and glitz of make-believe. It is refreshing to see Hathaway grown into something of an actress since her Princess Diary days. I'm not a Hathaway fan, but she's engaging, appealing and very sympathetic in this part. No more could be expected.

Meryl Streep delivers a potent performance as the vial hard-edged bitch of the boardroom, but with a tinge of tragedy that considerably humanizes her frosty exterior. Though she would adopt a distinctly American accent for the role, Streep based Amanda Priestley on Vogue's British editor-in-chief Anna 'nuclear' Wintour, a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world. 

Stanley Tucci is delicious as the jaded, though clairvoyant, gay ‘spirit guide’ for Andy’s transformation from naïve girl to fashion savvy waif. The Devil Wears Prada is a great film – not simply for its performances, but because it intimately knows the world it’s trying to recreate and is able to convey the depth and weight of its subject matter – not merely extol and celebrate its superficial veneer.

Yep, here we go again. Fox Home Video stiffs us on the extras on their Blu-ray. I cannot understand the executive mentality that continues to plague Fox Blu-ray reissues of movies already available on DVD - minus their extra features. What? Like we're supposed to be soooooo grateful to have a 1080p transfer that we're willing to overlook being short changed on extras already available?!?

Ho-hum. The Devil Wears Prada is single layered and looks okay on Blu, but the quantum leap from the DVD just isn't there. Colors are robust and vibrant. Flesh tones are very natural. Contrast is ideally balanced. Blacks are velvety smooth and deep. Whites are pristine. The overall image is crisp and sharp without being digitally harsh. Fine details are evident even during the darkest scenes. Edge enhancement is briefly detected but pixelization and other anomalies do not exist.  This looks like a straight import of the same digital files used to mint the DVD rather than a tru-1080p re-scan. Can't say for sure, although I am pretty sure.  The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital and delivers an aggressive spread. If you already own the DVD I don't endorse this repurchase. 

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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