Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada, Tucci’s good in Gucci

The Devil Wears Prada, Tucci’s good in Gucci

David and I went to see The Devil Wears Prada at the Verona last night - EXCELLENT. I havent laughed so much in months. The script, the cast, the fashion!

The Devil Wears Prada Stanley Tucci Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci

Nigel, played by the talented Stanley Tucci, is yet another gay man living in Manhattan and working in fashion. Hollywood films are filled with secondary gay characters like Nigel, usually there solely for the sake of diversity and too often for comic relief.

Think Carson Kressley in The Perfect Man. Think creepy gay brother in Wedding Crashers. And especially think over-the-top gay couple in The Producers.

Yet Tucci, to his credit, plays the role without any of the stereotypical queen-like flamboyance that so often seems the obvious choice to play such characters. His Nigel, an employee for the high end fashion magazine Runway, is the one character smart and efficient enough to regularly please Runway’s ruthless, high priestess of fashion, Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep). Even that, however, is done without the usual toadying that comes along with being the antagonist’s favorite.

It is also refreshing that the jokes in Devil do not come at Nigel’s expense or because of his sexuality. Not once did the audience chuckle because Nigel wore over-the-top outfits (Sanford Blatch on Sex and the City being a prime example), nor does he ever deliver a “You go, girl!” followed by two snaps up.

Nigel does serve as the film’s Henry Higgins to Andy Sach’s (Anne Hathaway, Brokeback Mountain) Eliza Doolittle. It is a role that gay’s are more than used to seeing themselves portray on screen. Again, think gay cousin in American Dreamz, or gay hairdresser in She’s the Man, each of the latter instrumental in an ugly-duck-to-swan make-over of another character.

Thankfully, Devil spares us the entire magic make-over montage. Instead, Nigel performs his wizardry on Andy merely by giving her a comp designer dress, designer shoes, designer coat, designer bag, designer underwear, and a swift trip to the beauty salon.

Nigel also gets to deliver the “Buck up, stop whining, and go out and conquer the world” speech that inspires Andy to get her act together and propels her into the second half of the film. The part Nigel plays may be small, but it is important for he is both wise and the only one to reach out to help Andy.

It’s somewhat of a surprise that Tucci, not exactly an unknown in the acting world, would have taken on such a small role that affords him comparatively little screen time. Of course, it’s always nice to see any actor, big or small, no longer fearing ostracism and professional ruin by going gay on screen.

Nonetheless, his role comes off as small potatoes. In fact, it could as easily been played by just about anyone, male or female, gay or straight. Nigel’s seemingly main function, performing the aforementioned speechifying and fashion make-over of Andy, is considerably less groundbreaking than Richard Dreyfuss’ gay role in Poseidon which at least gave gay filmgoers a gay character rarely seen in a big budget action movie–namely a brave one.

In fact, it’s definitely the women who come out the winners in Devil, by way of coveted juicy roles. Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Runway’s fashion maven, Miranda, is a genuine marvel. That she can manage to take on such a role–one that would have most actresses undoubtedly seeming to be merely an unadulterated witch–and imbue that potentially unsavory woman with complexities and nuances of character, even vulnerability, is pure acting craftsmanship.

For Streep then to make Miranda amusing, without making her laughable, is an example of the comedic genius that was hinted at in Prime but not nearly as well-realized.

The rest of the supporting cast provides great backup, including Fashion (with a capital “F”). Seldom, if ever has designer clothing played such an important part in a movie (or at least not since American Gigolo’s Richard Gere strutted around in his Armani wardrobe).

In Devil, Armani is forced to share billing with so many others in the fashion industry, appearing and disappearing in quick cameos, it’s hard to keep track. Heidi Klum, of Bravo’s runaway-success reality fashion series Project Runway, model Bridget Hall, and designer Valentino Garavani all make brief appearances.

As for the film’s somewhat shop-worn story line–sweet idealistic innocent confronts and copes with jaded big-city people and big-city living (think The Princess Diaries)–this incarnation is different enough and fun enough to entertain on its very own.

If there are some who may find the ending a tad Pollyannaish in its messages that idealism can win out over materialism and greed, that even villains aren’t nasty to the core 24/7, remember that this is billed as a comedy/drama not vice-versa. As mainly a comedy, its main objective is to make you feel good, especially at the end. Objective achieved!
Digg italso published at Techstickle Gay News and Views from and for Queer Aussies

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