Ever since the press about R.J. Cutler's new movie The September Issue began, I've been looking forward to the sneak peek into the making of the September 2007 issue of Vogue that it affords.
I, like every other red blooded American twenty something woman at the time, read The Devil Wears Prada when it came out (and loathed it by the way, I completely sided with the villain in that story) and watched the movie version each and every time HBO played it (I adored the film, but again sided with the villain(s)). I felt that through these fictional accounts I was intimately familiar with the Ice Queen Anna Wintour, and was looking forward to seeing her in action.
Unsurprisingly, I was less familiar with the grande dame than I had anticipated (it is called fiction for a reason after all). And I was almost completely unfamiliar with the inimitable Grace Coddington, Vogue's long time creative director.
The two woman are physical opposites. Ms. Wintour is tiny, perfectly groomed, highly controlled with a wry sense of humor and a shockingly well adjusted daughter. Ms. Coddington is tall, gangly, virtually untouched by makeup (save her trademark deep burgundy lipstick), speaks her mind (always wittily) and allows her shock of red hair to go wild. She may or may not brush it, that's not entirely clear. She's the type of person that you'd want at that classic dinner party that you'd host if you could invite anyone, living or dead.
Ms. Coddington likes a bit of imperfection in her photos (and I suspect, in the world generally), whereas Ms. Wintour abhors it. Ms. Coddington takes on the supportive aunt role with subordinates, whereas Ms. Wintour takes the stance of a demanding professor, and Ms. Coddington seems to be aware of budgets whereas Ms. Wintour prefers to ignore them.
Perhaps due to these apparent differences, much has been made of the supposed power struggles between the two in the movie's press. But although there was some element of that, it seemed more to me that they are two woman who are the best in the industry at their respective roles, who care very much about being excellent at what they do, who often come into conflict over creative issues, and by doing so improve the performance of the other.
There are others in the film...the brief dose the audience gets of Andre Leon Talley provides an ideal bit of comic relief. He gets a few choice quips in (I've heard that his "famine of beauty" phrase has already been made into a ringtone), and the image of him playing virtually sedentary tennis with a Louis Vuitton towel slung over his shoulder is priceless. Mario Testino is utterly charming, Sally Singer seems like she'd be fun to hang out with, and I was quite taken with the soundtrack as well. But really it is all about Grace and Anna.
I came out of this movie smiling. Partially because it is full of beauty...from the clothes to the people to the photos, partially because it is quite funny at times, but also because I find it inspiring to watch people who enjoy what they do and who excel at it. And these two woman do so beautifully.