Having now seen it so many times that I can recite its dialogue by heart, I still stan for this movie, made in 2006 for a relatively small $35 million— it’s since grossed $327 million — no doubt aided by the fact it’s shown so often on various cable channels and fangirls like me keep tuning in again.
I love seeing two of my favorite cities featured — New York (mostly the towers of midtown) and Paris.
The final scene grabs my heart every time as, in the background of that final shot, are the offices of Simon & Schuster, which publishes Pocket Books, which published my first book. I will never ever forget the joy and pride I felt crossing that same intersection clutching the galley, (unpublished final version.)
And, now that so many magazines are gone or have shuttered their print versions and slashed their budgets, it’s also a nostalgic vision of how glitzy and glamorous life often was (and still is for a few) at a Big Name fashion magazine.
The soundtrack is fantastic as well, pushing Scottish songwriter and singer K.T. Tunstall into much wider prominence with her songs, like Suddenly I See, absolutely the perfect fit for this film.
Starring Anne Hathaway as Andrea Sachs, an initially gormless-but-ambitious young journalist, (and based on the true-life story of Vogue assistant to its editor Anna Wintour) and Meryl Streep as her voracious boss, Miranda Priestley, it’s a fun film that also offers some helpful lessons:
Never show up to a job interview with no idea who you’re talking to
Never show up to a job interview looking like an unmade bed
Your friends can be a terrific support group — or whiny and negative. Choose wisely
Ditto for your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/spouse
Yes, your first job out of college may feel “beneath you” but it’s meant to sharpen all sorts of skills, from time management to EQ to how to read a room
Yes, for a while, your personal life may suffer. You shouldn’t do it forever, but some jobs and industries offer a weeding-out: only the truly determined survive.
If your boss is extremely demanding, what else did you expect?
Alliances matter — the only way Andy gets her hands on an unpublished manuscript quickly is knowing someone with access, and being willing to make the ask
If you want to make it in New York City journalism, you’d better bring your A-game!
Empathy matters, whether for your boss, your coworkers, your friends, your sweetie
Here’s a powerful, no-bullshit list written by Jason Nazar, founder and CEO of Docstoc, who is 34. In his blog post for Forbes, an American business magazine, he offers 20 tips for people in their 20s, like:
Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable
& multi-tasking generation yet. As my father says, “I’ll Give You a
Sh-t Medal.” Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are
simply wasted potential. There’s no prize for talent, just results.
Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked
their way to success.
I like a lot of what he says.
When you’re looking for your first, or second or third, job, it’s easy to forget or not even realize how utterly different the world of work is from school, which is why internships can be a useful glimpse into the “real world.”
In school, you have very clearly defined parameters of success and failure.Whoever else is attending your college or university appear to be your primary or exclusive competition, for grades, for profs’ attention, for campus resources.
But if your classmates are not economically or racially or politically or religiously diverse, you’re in for one hell of a shock if you relocate to a different place, or several, to earn your living.
Who are these people and why do I have to do what they tell me?
In school, if you attain a fantastic GPA and some awards, you’re the bomb.
In school, yes you are.
But in school, short of wasting tuition money and/or flunking out, there are no terrible consequences to failing or missing deadlines or getting wasted or showing up to class late and/or hungover or high.
The real world is much less forgiving of stupidity and a lack of preparation.
In school, most students hang out with their peers, i.e. people within their age group. Adults end up being annoying things to please (profs) or placate (parents) but not people you may spend much time trying to understand, cooperate with or relate to as a fellow professional.
If you’ve never worked with (or managed) someone 10, 20 or 30 years your senior, how’s that going to feel?
All these new adults — not your parents or their friends or professors or people who are inherently interested in (or deeply invested in) seeing that you succeed — don’t care. And they expect a lot. All the time. OMG!
As Nazar also writes:
You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked – Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have. This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career. Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.
I’ve seen it so many times I can recite dialogue from it, like Priestly’s hissed dismissal: “That’s all.”
It’s about an ambitious young journalist in New York, (so I can identify with that bit) but is also about the price of being ambitious and what it means to sacrifice your friendships (or not) or your sweetie (or not) or your ethics (or not.)
The boss in the film, Miranda Priestly, is insanely and insatiably demanding, but I get it and know why. And having a boss like that is basically boot camp for the rest of your career.
If you freak out and cry and think you can’t do it — whatever it is — you’re pretty much useless. Find someone to help you. Read a book. Watch a video. Take a class, or three. Find a mentor.
Resourcefulness will probably be your most valuable skill, no matter what sort of work you do.
The truly useful/valuable employee memorizes a two-word phrase — “On it!”
I also really like this tip:
Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It – Over time, your reputation is the most valuable currency you have in business. It’s the invisible key that either opens or closes doors of
professional opportunity. Especially in an age where everything is forever recorded and accessible, your reputation has to be guarded like the most sacred treasure. It’s the one item that, once lost, you can never get back.
It’s temptingly easy to think: “I’m young. It doesn’t matter. No one will notice or care or remember.”
Take every opportunity to leave an impression as a chance to make it lasting and positive. That doesn’t mean sucking up or being a phony.
My current part-time assistant, C., has been stellar for the six months or so we’ve been working together. She never whines or complains, gets on with things and I routinely throw her into all sorts of situations for which she has zero training or experience. I know she can do it well — and she does.
In return, she knows she can count on me for a kickass reference to anyone she needs.
One of the things I most enjoy about this relationship is that, on some levels, we’re very different — different religions, 30 years apart in age. But she’s fun, funny, worldly. That goes a long way in my book.
My husband and I both started working freelance — while full-time undergrads — for national media, he as a photographer for the Associated Press, I as a writer for magazines and newspapers. Paid.
We put ourselves in harm’s way by competing, as very young people, with those who had decades of experience and awards and real jobs. But that’s how you learn to compete and cooperate effectively at the highest levels.
If you’re just starting out, or have been working for a while, what advice would you offer to someone just joined the work world?
Even if it’s only in the entertainment pages, we’re talking out loud in the U.S. — land of the mythical meritocracy — about social class and who’s rising, who’s (much more likely now) falling, and who’s most terrified of sliding from “middle” (defined as…?) to lower or working class, words used more easily in nations whose central identity doesn’t rely as heavily on the idea of equality and assured social mobility.
The idea of the universal middle class is a pervasive expression of American egalitarianism — and perhaps the only one left. In politics the middle has all but swallowed up the ends. Tax cuts aimed at the wealthy and social programs that largely benefit the poor must always be presented as, above all, good for the middle class, a group that thus seems to include nearly everyone. It is also a group that is, at least judging from the political rhetoric of the last 20 years, perennially in trouble: shrinking, forgotten, frustrated, afraid of falling down and scrambling to keep up.
In the movies, which exist partly to smooth over the rough patches in our collective life, the same basic picture takes on a more benign coloration. Middle-classness is a norm, an ideal and a default setting. For a long time most commercial entertainments not set in the distant past or in some science-fiction superhero fantasyland have taken place in a realm of generic ease and relative affluence. Everyone seems to have a cool job, a fabulous kitchen, great clothes and a nice car. Nothing too fancy or showy, of course, and also nothing too clearly marked with real-world signs of status or its absence.
Last year I viciously mocked “It’s Complicated” in this blog for the absurd affluence of a divorced woman character, played by Meryl Streep, who lives in a $5 m home, runs her own bakery business and wears impossibly lush clothing and jewelry. Most women divorcees fall far and fast from their married affluence, if they had any, drained from the start by legal fees.
It’s a mug’s game to try and pinpoint “middle class” in New York, where I live in a a suburban town, when a 1,000 square foot shoebox of a 60-year-old house on a postage stamp lot runs $400,000 with $12,000 a year in taxes — barely affordable on an income of $100,000 to 150,000 a year.
In New York, you can make six figures and not have someone snort in derision for calling yourself “middle class.”
Fact is, anyone paying $30-50 per trip by (subsidized) commuter train into the city to work or look for a job, struggles hard here on an income of less than $50,000 for one, let alone $40,000 or less trying to raise a family.
Only now are we seeing films address how we really feel about money and what we really feel about who has it, who doesn’t and what we’re willing to do to get and keep some.
Without ever saying so, “Blue Valentine” is centrally about class, and class, in America, anyway, is centrally about much more than income — it’s about tastes and values, as we see when Dean’s idea of a healing getaway means a cheesy lovers’ motel. It seems obvious that if Dean had arranged such a trip with cool irony instead of urgent eagerness, Cindy would have accepted it in a larky spirit. And if Dean painted canvases instead of houses, his lack of accomplishment wouldn’t be an issue.
American filmmakers largely avoid class, which is fine because virtually all of them were well-born and tend to portray their inferiors as piteous, comical or (especially when they’re minorities) as sprites whose magical simplicity can be used to cure the angst of therapy-needing professionals.
As someone whose own income plummeted by 75 percent after losing my last full-time job in 2006, this is no idle fantasy. When I went to work as a sales associate for $11 an hour, no commission, at a mall, I began to understand the extraordinary income inequality that is increasingly defining life in the United States.
Our mall attracted the hedge fund guys and their size 0 wives tending their 10,000 square foot Greenwich mansions.
Such attitude! Such entitlement! People who think nothing of snapping their fingers in the faces of the growing servant class.
You and me, babe!
From the Huffington Post:
Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression, according to a recently updated paper by University of California, Berkeley Professor Emmanuel Saez. The paper, which covers data through 2007, points to a staggering, unprecedented disparity in American incomes. On his blog, Nobel prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called the numbers “truly amazing.”
Though income inequality has been growing for some time, the paper paints a stark, disturbing portrait of wealth distribution in America. Saez calculates that in 2007 the top .01 percent of American earners took home 6 percent of total U.S. wages, a figure that has nearly doubled since 2000.
As of 2007, the top decile of American earners, Saez writes, pulled in 49.7 percent of total wages, a level that’s “higher than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock market bubble in the ‘roaring” 1920s.'”
Insiders got a memo yesterday from Chief Financial Officer John Bellando, revealing that the company set up the hotline to stop the “release of proprietary information, accounting/audit irregularities, falsification of company records, theft of goods/services/cash,” and even “unauthorized discounts/payoffs.”
This could put a damper on some of the perks inside S.I. Newhouse Jr.‘s empire.
Last fall a hacker broke into Condé’s system and stole early copies of GQ, Vogue and other magazines, which were posted online.
Yesterday’s move seemed to put the brakes on CEO Charles Townsend‘s happiness campaign. Trying to boost morale after 2009’s turmoil and layoffs, he recently did a coast-to-coast tour to give a corporate pep talk and encourage staffers to “get their mojo back.”
Conde Nast, named for the man who founded the publishing empire in 1909 by acquiring Vogue, is legendary in Manhattan publishing circles for its elite worldview. The 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada”, starring Meryl Streep, is said to be based on Anna Wintour, long-time Vogue editor.
I interviewed at Conde Nast a few times, but never got hired there. It’s a great place to have on your resume, but maybe — now — not such a cosy place to crank out copy.
I know, films are meant to be fantasies, but this one — so deliciously lubricious in its parade of the pleasures older white women arguably crave — takes the cake. It even merited a New York Times Magazine cover story, written with a distinct wistfulness by its mid-life author, Daphne Merkin.
In it, the central character, Jane, played by Meryl Streep, lives in a house that’s about 3,000+ square feet, with a red-tiled roof, exquisite landscaping, a huge, immaculate jardin potager and a kitchen bigger than my living room. But (no recession here!), she wants an even bigger kitchen, the kitchen of her dreams. Oy.
She’s been divorced for a decade from her lawyer husband, Jake, who left her for a hard-bodied young’un (that part I believe) with whom he is now unhappy, (not quite clear why), who suddenly, ardently and insistently begins declaring he never lost his love for Jane (distinctly not clear why.)
It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy that the rejecting hubby comes crawling back. Gloss this with eyeball-rolling sex with him (good for her) and her memory of how to make his favorite meal (good for him) and the scene where they smoke a joint together; I guess this passes for deeply transgressive mid-life behavior somewhere since it won the movie an R rating.
Jane hires Adam, an architect, to design and create an addition (?!) to her gazillion-dollar home — the money coming from…?
Jane runs a bakery.
I wonder how many women: 1) snag and hang onto such a great house post-divorce, especially after their lawyer husband bails; 2) start and run a business so effectively they can afford such pricey real estate, let alone an addition; this film is set in Santa Barbara, home to such mega-celebs as Oprah herself; 3) raise three apparently solid kids, now 20, 22 and 27 alone yet 4) who still pronounce themselves shattered, a decade later, by their parents’ divorce.
It’s a pretty gauzy, Vaseline-on-the-lens vision of late middle age. Jane’s wardrobe is nothing but silk, linen and cashmere, the sort that’s always hard to find outside of pricey boutiques and fab gold jewelry; I admit it, I really want the necklace she wears in almost every scene and those yummy Pomellato amethyst earrings. No Target for her!
Now she’s fending off two guys at once, one of whom — sorry, I spluttered at this one — says “Your age is one of the things I find attractive about you.” If she’s so tough a businesswoman it wrecked her marriage, as Jake tells us it did, surely she might ask, “Really, why?” Instead, she melts with relief and gratitude that a guy with white hair and a fancy job is paying attention to her.
The sadder reality is that so many divorced women Jane’s age don’t run their own thriving business but instead are are scrapping out there in a crappy job market, also fighting age discrimination, can’t find a guy who isn’t looking at women 20 years their junior and usually plunge post-divorce into a much-reduced lifestyle (lawyer husbands tend to fight hard and well in this respect.) Many kids do actually find their feet young and quickly, as they must, when Dad splits for the much-younger woman, not pouting about it even after graduating college.
The movie has many terrific laugh-out-loud moments, but its central premise is as sweet and thin on sustenance as one of Jane’s chocolate croissants. She frets about never having sex, as though taking care of things herself wasn’t an option. And hasn’t she heard of match.com or EHarmony?
Her girlfriends in the film, all in their 50s, it appears, would have come of age in the 1970s at the height of feminism. They’ve somehow gotten all the material goodies.
I watched the film “Julie & Julia” again last night, the film about a young New York blogger Julie Powell and her quixotic quest to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in one year. Meryl Streep, once more disappearing into character, was perfect and many say she’ll win an Oscar for her role.
What struck me powerfully watching the film again was one of its underlying themes: eating is pleasure! Cooking delicious food for someone you love is a gift, a great and intimate joy to be savored and remembered and anticipated as much as that other thing couples do to cement their union. Watching the characters of Julie and Julia cook, eat and feed their husbands, each of them groaning and sighing with joy, is a fun reminder that food need not always be a subject of embattled misery.
Yes, obesity is a problem. But seeing food as the enemy is no solution. I once watched Oprah, whose battles of the bulge are legendary, telling Mireille Giuliano, the author of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” how she was so good on a visit to Paris, every single day there denying herself that most Parisian of pleasures — eating a croissant. Finally, Oprah confessed, she broke down and had one.
You could see Giuliano struggling to maintain her politesse in the face of this typical fetishtization/demonization of fat/butter/calories — pleasure. Nonplussed in the face of this tortured relationship to a pastry, she asked: “Why didn’t you just eat one when you wanted it?”
One of the reasons I love visiting Paris is I eat myself silly there: Berthillon ice cream, croissants, 4-course meals, yet always come home significantly thinner. Because I walk for 4-7 hours a day! Not, as I do in my horrible suburban life, eat-drive-repeat.
We went out for a great lunch yesterday: fritto misto, mozarella and tomato salad, pasta, a shared dessert, a glass of red wine each. Cereal for dinner at 9:00 p.m., we were so full. My partner and I love to cook and to eat and to choose and plan recipes and have friends over to eat with us as well. I was delighted when our last guests, one of them half-French, sighed with delight; “Is that a clafouti?” when she saw it on the counter. It was, and we ate it — eggs, sugar, fruit and all — with gusto.
1. Alien, and its later versions, with Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, who got to say some of the best lines ever in her calm, patrician way, even as a clone. “I thought you were dead!”, says one. “I get that a lot,” she coolly replies. Whether wielding a big-ass flamethrower or her compassion, Ripley remains one of my favorites: the definition of sangfroid amid unimaginable terror, droll in the face of acid-spewing monsters.
2. Doctor Zhivago, 1965, Julie Christie as Lara, a complicated, tough woman who starts out selling her body as a desperate teenager to the creepy Komarovsky and ends up living with her doctor and lover Yuri in the wilds of Varykyno. She’s forever the adaptable survivor, cool enough at 17 to stash a pistol in her fur muff and shoot the man who controls her. Heady stuff for the times.
3. Queen Christina, 1933, with Greta Garbo in the lead role. It’s not easy being Queen.
4. Terminator, 1984 Linda Hamilton, big guns, serious biceps.
5. An Education, 2009, Carey Mulligan. This fantastic new film about a young British girl — based on a true story — who falls for a handsome older con man is as much about her education as that of her parents, eager to marry her off, out and up.
6. Brick Lane, 2007, Tannishta Chatterjee, from the terrific book by Monica Ali. The choices made by the protagonist defy conventional wisdom about docile, male-ruled South Asian lower-class immigrant women.
7. Water,2005, Lisa Ray. A film so controversial that filming in India was shut down by protestors and moved to Sri Lanka. Directed by Canadian woman director Deepa Mehta, it’s a powerful look at the lives of widowed Indian women. An exquisitely beautiful film with a haunting soundtrack, it’s both joyful and despairing about women’s lives within the most restrictive constraints.
8. Whale Rider, 2002, Keisha Castle-Hughes. I love this New Zealand film about a feisty 11-year-old Maori girl, Pai, who desperately wants to be accepted into the male-only rituals of her people. She is so touchingly, stubbornly insistent and persuasive. Haunting visuals and a great performance.
9. Erin Brockovich, 2000, Julia Roberts. One of the few films in which she doesn’t play a ditz but a tough, funny, compassionate woman, a real-life heroine.
10. Norma Rae, 1979, Sally Field. Who can ever forget her standing on a table in that deafening textile mill, holding up a sign saying “Union”?Based on the real life of union organizer Crystal Lee Sutton.
11. Silkwood, 1983, Meryl Streep. Another profile of a real-life fighter, killed while trying to reveal information about an unsafe nuclear powerplant; one of Nora Ephron’s earliest screenplays.
12. Notorious, 1946, Ingmar Bergman. Alicia Huberman moves into a mansion and marries a Nazi in Rio while secretly spying on him. The scene where she is rescued does me in.
13. Million Dollar Baby, 2005, Hilary Swank. Not an easy film to watch, and the ending was deeply controversial. I love how this film shows the incredible power a coach can have on a female athlete, for better or worse.
14. Silence of The Lambs, 1990, Jody Foster. Another difficult film to watch. OK, terrifying!Clarice Starling is a compelling character, a young woman in a man’s world as a novice FBI agent chasing a serial killer. Her relationship with her boss is as powerfully revealing of her own vulnerabilities.
15. The Piano, 1993, Holly Hunter. A woman married to a brute breaks free in colonial-era New Zealand.
16. Out Of Africa, 1985, Meryl Streep. Writer Isak Dinesen had it all, on paper — a coffee plantation, a farm in the Ngong Hills of Kenya, an aristocratic Danish husband and a dashing British lover. A powerful portrait of love, independence and compromise.
17. Juno, 2007, Ellen Page. Many people found this film nauseatingly anti-abortion. I loved the character of Juno, joking her way through the physical and emotional madness of bearing a baby while still in high school.
18. Rachel Getting Married, 2008, Anne Hathaway. She totally should have won the Oscar for this searing role of Kym, the narcisisstic, needy little sister. It takes guts to play a character so annoying and memorable.
19. Cabaret, 1972, Liza Minelli. “Divinely decadent,” darling!” As a lonely American cabaret singer, Sally flashes her dark green fingernails and blusters her way through life and love in pre-war Germany.
20. Charlotte Gray, 2001, Cate Blanchett. No one seems to recall this film, about a British woman who goes behind enemy lines in France to work with the French Resistance and falls in love there. I loved it.
20a. The Reader, 2008, Kate Winslet. Based on a best-selling German novel, she plays a female you can’t ever forget, tough and vulnerable and terrifying.