Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada

I read this book because I enjoyed the movie a great deal and simply wanted to see how different the source material was, since I'd read that major changes had occurred between page and screen.

Now, I'm all for screenwriters making changes when adapting a pre-existing work for film. Things have to be changed. I have little tolerance for people who claim changes to plot or character "ruined" a book or movie. For one thing, a film adaptation doesn't change the book at all, so it can't be ruined. I believe it was John Updike who, when someone complained to him about an adaptation of his work "ruining" it, pulled the novel in question from his shelf and said, "It still looks perfectly fine to me."

The more beloved a book, the more shrill the cries of outrage when changes are made. While I have some minor issues myself with changes to THE LORD OF THE RINGS films where I thought the changes served no purpose (which should always be the defining criteria for such alterations -- are they needed in order to better tell the same story in a different medium?), I thought that overall the films were brilliant in both concept and execution. But the fans! Oh my! You would have thought that Peter Jackson had eaten their mothers and fathers for breakfast with all the gnashing of teeth that occurred online.

But I digress. I was talking about THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA.

This is one of those rare instances where the movie adaptation is actually better than the book. More streamlined, better narrative flow, characters who are more real than the rather caricature-like novel counterparts. I was rather stunned by how much better the movie was.

The book is about a recent college graduate, Andrea, who lands a job at a fictional magazine called RUNWAY working for the world's most powerful fashion editor, Miranda Priestly, who is a hateful, condescending, manipulative tyrant. In the book she is caricature, a creature so over the top that it's sometimes difficult to believe in her.

The movie's major coup is making Miranda just as much a tyrant, while also allowing us to catch glimpses of her as a human being. I was waiting for some of those moments to appear in the novel, but they never did. They were inventions of the screenwriter, Aline Brosh McKenna, and I applaud her decisions.

Perhaps those who read and enjoyed the novel first prefer it to the movie (that's often the case). But I truly do feel in this instance that the adaptation was more than a simple translations from one medium to another -- it transcended its source material, which, as I said earlier, is a rare thing, and one to be commended when it happens.


zara elis said...


I agree with you. The movie was much better than the book.

I recently stopped reading books before I saw movies--well, when I know about the movie first anyway. That way I don't find myself comparing the two and I can actually enjoy the movie for a change. Besides, no likes to sit next to me in the theater when I am constantly commenting on how the movie has strayed from the path layed out in the book. :-)

TS said...

Nice post. I basically did the same thing - with the same book. But I have to admit that I never finished the movie - it just seemed worth it to get up and go to the lu or go out and smoke. Accordingly, getting through the book was tough. Not my kind of writing. Great learning experience, perhaps an academic example.

Cokelatrawkz said...

hmm.. i do agree. movie is better than its own novel. btw, i'm reading, and struggling to finish the novel, i am still now.

it didn't mntion that Alex is a 'chef' in the making in the novel he bought burgers??!! and.. the moment when Emily wanted to pee, had to wait for her to come back - Andrea wa looking for skirts. In the novel, Andrea was picking some other stuff... not skirts!

anyway, the movie is more interesting.