Monday, August 3, 2015

Book vs. Movie: The Devil Wear Prada

The movie, I ranked #83 among 101 favorite movies.
The book, in some areas, was more enjoyable than the movie.
Others, not so much...

A couple people had given up their copies for our yearly discount book sale at the local library. Considering how there'd been a few books I'd gotten because I loved the movies-- and wound up disappointed-- I gave myself a lot of time to think it over before I gave in.
Got it, Clay Aiken's memoir and an illustrated guide of "New Moon" all for $2.50.

In case anyone's interested, the price range was from 50 cents up to 5 bucks per book... talk about a steal.


I'll admit that the first chapter was a rocky start. When I was researching how to improve as a writer and how to write query letters (none of which got the positive feedback I desired and gave up 3 years ago-- the book I tried to get represented got lost in revision and has yet to revive), they say that it's preferable to begin in the middle of the action to catch the reader's interest.
The scene in question was never returned to in the confines of the book, but it gave us an idea of what it was like to work for Miranda Priestly. But for me, to start here rather than with Andy's job interview, it was disorienting. The first-person narrative felt, lack of a better word, odd. I found it a little more off-putting than engaging. Not to mention the tirade of f-bombs... there was none of that in the movie.

But after first chapter ended, everything fell into place. I got used to Lauren Weisberger's writing style soon enough. And the language, used sporadically throughout, was not only warranted, but I wish it existed in the movie.
I got so lost in the world of the book that I couldn't wait to return to it and devoured it when it was in my hands. I couldn't get enough. I almost wished I was in this world of Runway... almost.

DifferencesIMDb's page on the movie answers most of those questions, so I won't harp on too many of them... because there really are too many to discuss and I'd be writing this forever :P

What I will say though is that the movie is a loose adaptation and strictly an INTERPRETATION of the book and its characters.
Meaning that the director, screenwriters and so on took the source material and created their own version of its events.
Usually, I nitpick when my favorite books are massacred by movies. My review of "Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters" is proof of this. And when the book varies greatly from the movie ("The Phantom of the Opera" is an extreme case of this but nonetheless upsetting to me as a devotee to the Gerard Butler version), it's a disappointment.

This was neither of those cases. If anything, the book made me appreciate how the movie was constructed. How they took this material and this unique perspective inside the workings of a Fashion magazine and put their own spin on it.

But while I'm under this subheading, I'll go to a couple differences:

1) Miranda Priestly is scarier
I said in my review how Meryl Streep does a passive-aggressive version of the character. In the book, she's downright terrifying. She won't hesitate to verbally abuse you if you make the tiniest mistake.

2) Nigel (one of my favorite characters in the movie) is barely present and completely different
To put it bluntly, Nigel is an outrageous gay stereotype. He appears in the book twice and you know he's present by his ALL CAPS dialogue. Which is about as hilarious as the way he's dressed.
There are multiple male characters in the book who bring their own flair and flavor into Andy's life. The most memorable of them handles the gates at ground floor reception and makes her sing along to pop music with him before he opens the doors. Something that's a fun touch, but not so much when Miranda is figuratively breathing down her neck.
I don't think Nigel (the movie) is even a combination of the Runway guys Andy befriends... he's like a brand new character who shows Andy some of the inner workings, helps her get a makeover (in the book, she was more or less pressured to change her look to fit in or risk getting fired) and gives her tough love when it's warranted.
He's also a nice addition because it's important to remember that fashion magazines like Runway have influenced gay men as much as women. And it's gay men that are among the most well-known designers in the world.

3) The core dynamic between Andy, her best friend Lily (more developed/central in the book), boyfriend (teacher instead of cook) and her family is completely different you get more dramatics in the book whereas in the movie, you only see glimpses of them. Not to mention something that happens to one of them helps drive home Andy's decision to quit.

4) Paranoia and Stockholm Syndrome are responsible for the inner workings of Runway

...from a psychological point of view, I found the book kinda fascinating.
In the movie, everyone rushes around to make sure Miranda's demands are met, but you don't get the chance to really look inside their minds. Which often times makes books the superior art form. Even though it's told in the first person, you see and feel EVERYTHING that happens.
Andy explained how everyone loves and supports Miranda, but occasionally, her co-workers slip up. They begin to say something negative, but quickly retract it as if Miranda would be able to hear them.

The Stockholm Syndrome is especially present in characters like Emily who worship the ground Miranda walks on and it appears difficult for them to hear anything negative being spoken or expressed. Particularly in Andy's apathy early on within her expressions and non-verbal actions.
It reminds me a bit of "Mean Girls" where Gretchen wanted to regain Regina's forgiveness because it was better to be Plastic than not. And how she and Karen started following Cady when Regina became outcast from the Plastics... like they'd been her cronies for so long that they became conditioned to serve whatever Queen Bee was available to them.

And of course there were bits and pieces that made me think of what "The Devil Wears Prada" would have been like if it was a "50 Shades of Grey" situation. If Andy was a male character and Miranda had all of her employees be her sex slaves... the fanfiction practically writes itself. But it'd be kinda shoddy to write a fanfiction based on a fanfiction :/


Favorite Book Highlight

I loved Emily and Andy's camaraderie in the book. Granted they aren't BFF's. But to see how the two of them work together was enjoyable. How one picks up the slack over the other... even though Emily usually does it so she wouldn't have to train a new assistant... it's a great safety net to have.

Emily will even have moments where she consents to the faults of Miranda's "system" of operation, but they're brief... thanks to that whole Runway Paranoia complex that's in control of the place.

Book to Movie Adaptation

I'm almost hate to say that the movie took the source material and did the Hollywood version of it because that denotes clichés and so on... but that's exactly what they did.

They streamlined the storyline of the book, chiseled out their versions of the important cast members, and gave us a beginning, middle and end of the arc of Andy's journey.

So many people go on about when books get turned into movies and the movies ruin our favorite books... or they just don't do it quite right.

I skimmed the reviews on Goodreads before posting mine: most of the posts I came across HATED the book, found Andy to be a very selfish apathetic character, and, notably, added "the movie was better."
...which almost never happens in my world.

Considering the pros and cons, the Hollywood treatment did do this story a favor. The biggest was actually giving it a plot.
The book was mainly a series of events Andy experienced at Runway, how her being a workaholic (of Miranda's choosing, not hers) alienated her from her family and how she winds up leaving.
The movie actually gives us a progression: It shows how Andy transforms herself into one of the Runway girls, how she starts to improve in this capacity, how she winds up taking Emily's place as first assistant (opposed to the 2nd assistant who's just a gofer, basically, fetching everything from coffee to food to Hermes scarves), and she's in a prime position to really succeed in this industry-- only to give it all up when she discovers what she really wants.

The book leaves things between Andy and Miranda open... the way she leaves is actually pretty hilarious... you'd have to read the book (or if you're lazy, read spoilers on Goodreads or Wikipedia).
In the movie, Miranda still has respect for her when Andy leaves (although in the movie, Andy just walks out without saying a word, so both their dignities were intact)... and she's able to get her dream job at the New Yorker because Miranda put in a good word for her.

The sequel to the book is called "Revenge Wears Prada" and takes place 10 years later... I don't know anything except that and I'll wait to read the book to find out... and based on how this last one went, I'm looking forward to it.

Final Comments

I rewatched the movie to see if there was anything else I wanted to add...

Meryl Streep is so good in this role, I honestly wouldn't have minded if she won an Oscar for it... every time, I see the character, not the actress.

I wouldn't want to work for either version of this "horrible boss," but in the movie, I like that Miranda still has some humanity to her.
In the book, it's like she doesn't even have a soul (which is why she may have been dubbed "The Devil" who wears prada). When Andy's in Paris, Miranda asks her about a phone conversation where Andy says she plans to stick it out in Paris rather than going home for an emergency... and Miranda's response is that she made the right choice in staying.
Cold-hearted bitch...
But in the movie, it's very clear how much Miranda cares about her family and how upsetting her eventual 3rd divorce is. You actually see the chinks in her armor. You also have more moments where she addresses how Andy's doing in the confines of the job, not just screaming and raving about what she's not doing right.

And the movie brings in another interesting element not in the book...
there's a lot of backstabbing in business, whether it's intentional or not.
Miranda gives an open position to a competitor instead of the person who really earned it because it secured her position as Editor-in-Chief.
And she explains to Andy that she did something similar to Emily-- taking her place at Miranda's side in Paris instead of refusing and getting fired for doing so.

A lot of interesting issues are addressed in both versions. No matter how you slice it, it's thought-provoking either way when you really think about it...

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