The Devil Wears Prada (2006), written by Aline Brosh McKenna, is a classic female-centered film that takes a close look at the high-stakes world of fashion. Let’s analyze the script.
- Draft Read: March 10, 2005
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 117
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): NYC, Paris, France
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning multiple months
- Genre(s): Comedy, Satire
- Theme(s): Loyalty, Professionalism, Career aspirations, Intimidation, Abuse, Love
- Protagonist Change: Significant
Before I dive into this script, it’s worth noting that the Wikipedia article on the movie is really well put together – The best I have seen for a film. While it doesn’t dive too heavily into some script elements like theme, it does explore certain behind-the-scenes decisions made in the overall film production. Give it a read.
It’s an all-around fun script in the high-stakes world of fashion. Who even knew that fashion could be high-stakes? That shouldn’t be surprising as a Uniqlo devotee myself.
There are some great running gags, such as Andy’s lack of fashion understanding; including her bad-looking pair of shoes. Some of the bits are a bit overblown (approaching satire), but that’s what adds to the screenplay’s unique style.
No neutrals no note.
Does The Devil Wear Prada suffer from the opposite flaw that almost every male-centered screenplay has? That is, does The Devil Wear Prada have underdeveloped male characters. I would say yes. There’s Nigel, the stereotypical gay-man fashion assistant, Doug, the manly but again effeminate (odd juxtaposition) friend and Nate, the chef who just isn’t interesting. And then of course there is Christian, who is cheeky and sly, but again, one-dimensional.
The plot follows Andy, a young woman who is hired as second assistant to Miranda, a business executive in the fashion industry. The plot comes full circle, with Andy eventually quitting and a new girl taking her place. Another film that goes full circle is Arrival (2016); and if I recall correctly coming full circle is a core aspect of women-led stories according to John Truby.
As one might expect, Miranda Priestly is the most interesting character. She’s cold, brutal and cut-throat, like any business CEO in the 21st century. She reminds me of Lydia Tár from Tár (2022). Unlike Tár though, our perspective is from the outside, but we more or less feel the same mix empathy and disgust with the powerful woman.
Dialogue & Pacing
No notes on dialogue.
Pacing is relatively straightforward and formulaic (builds to a climax), but it’s a little tricky to break it down nonetheless. Sure, we learn early on (Page 17) that Paris Fashion Week is the end all be all of this story:
Paris is fabulous. You wear couture, go to all the shows. Its the best thing that could ever happen to a person.
And this time, that person is me.
And the stakes increase as the story moves on. For example, on page 60 (52% of the way through the script), Miranda tells Andy:
Oh, and one more thing…. There will be no more second changes.
But there’s a problem here. Paris is only a week; and Andy’s goal is to remain employed for at least a year or so; so in reality, Paris shouldn’t matter. So the writers build up the stakes by adding various subplots, such as Andy’s dad having a heart attack or her boyfriend getting a job offer in San Francisco. And the ultimate climax, Andy quitting, isn’t really expected as it counters her past behavior. So in reality, this may be more of a story issue than a pacing issue.
If you found Whiplash (2014) thrilling, you are sure to connect with The Devil Wears Prada. The batshit crazy mentor/boss/leader seems to be a pretty loved trope with a certain type of writer and it’s no surprise that it’s popular; after all, who hasn’t had a overly demanding boss?
It’s also worth noting that this is a female-oriented story about fashion, a feminine-led industry. Generally and perhaps dangerously speaking, I would expect it to have a larger impact on women.
Best Part of The Script
The story opens (flash-forward) in France, which is also the climax. The setup reminds me of another movie that also involves a woman hustling in the professional world: All About Eve (1950). With that said, I would suggest reading the first few pages to see how Miranda is introduced. It’s great fun screenwriting.
The job interview on Page 114-115 is fantastic. We think Andy is going to get the job, only to be backstabbed by Miranda, only… Well, read it to find out!