For today's post, I am going to talk to you about a rare occurrence: sometimes, the movie is better then the book.
This doesn't happen often. Movies by their very nature are forced to condense and simplify in order to fit into a 2-hour time period and appeal to mass audiences. Books can delve into characters. They can take their sweet time revealing the story. It's a more personal medium than movies - you and your imagination vs. you and a theater full of strangers. Of all the books I've read that've been adapted into movies, I have always enjoyed the book more. Except once.
The Devil Wears Prada movie far exceeded the book. It hewed closely to the book's plot - smart, non girly-girl Andie Sachs (Anne Hathaway) gets a job working as assistant to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), the demanding, crazy editor of fashion magazine Runway, and she must perform outrageous tasks to keep her boss happy. Both book and movie were huge hits; the movie single-handedly kept female-driven films afloat for a time.
So what made the movie better than the book?
The book was a roman a clef by Lauren Weisberger, the former assistant to Anna Wintour, legendary editor of Vogue. It was pretty much 400 pages of the author saying "I'm so smart. These people in fashion are so stupid. Look how stupid they're being. Read about the ludicrous things they do and say. My boss is a crazy bitch. Why am I here?" The movie managed to convey the outlandishness of Runway magazine and Miranda Priestley, while also making us understand the world of fashion. In both book and movie, Andie, a wannabe serious journalist, is totally out of place at a fashion magazine. She guides the reader/audience through the ridiculous world of couture. In the book, she constantly demeans this world; her views never change. In the movie, she learns what the big deal is all about. She has a discussion with Nigel, Miranda's right-hand man, about how people at Runway think they're curing cancer or something. He tells her that some of the "greatest artists of the last century have walked these halls," that fashion is the best kind of art because "you live your life in it." I thought that was such a profound statement. (And for the record, I have very little fashion sense and most of my wardrobe cost under $10.) Up until that point, I had the same views on fashion as Andie. But then I got it. I understood why people were so enraptured with this world, why they would spend so much money on a shirt, why they dress for work like they're walking a runway. They get to be curators everyday. A scene or two before that, Andie gets eviscerated in a fashion meeting by Miranda for snickering over a life-or-death decision about which blue belt to use. In a brilliant minute-long monologue, Miranda tells her how the decisions made on the runway and at Runway affect every single person, down to bargain shoppers like herself.
The epic scene: http://www.hulu.com/watch/13046/the-devil-wears-prada-cerulean-sweater
(p.s. for you Lost fans, that's Charlotte Staples-Lewis in the beginning!)
In less than 5 minutes, the movie managed to give credence and respect to the fashion world - something the book refused to do.
Secondly, the movie humanized Miranda. We saw that she neglected her family in order to get ahead, and she wound up paying the price. Again, Meryl Streep has another great scene when Miranda learns she is getting a divorce. The scene is very true to her character -- not sappy, just blunt and calm. Miranda came off as demanding and mean just like in the book, but in the movie, she also was shown to be a very knowledgeable editor. We understand why she's at the top. In that cerulean sweater scene, as in another scene when she's at a meeting discussing the new issue, she comes off as smart and savvy. We may not like Miranda, but we sure respect her. The author of the book, probably with an ax to grind, portrayed her as one-dimensional, leaving out the respect part.
Finally, and most importantly, the movie centered around the struggle between your personal and professional life - a real issue with which many people can empathize. The book just wanted to make fun of the fashion world. There is a place for that type of expose. I won't sit here and tell you that the book was unreadable. It was a fun, light read. But the movie dug deeper. It took great pains to find out what makes these people tick. It dared to make us understand the lunacy of high fashion and empathize with a character as seemingly evil as Miranda Priestley. That's why in this special case, the movie was infinitely better than the book.
How about you, readers? Are there any movies out there that you thought were better than the book? And if you haven't seen The Devil Wears Prada, rent it!