Those outside the fashion industry may not know her name, but Meryl Streep played a deliciously cold character loosely based on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada. In The September Issue, a documentary by filmmaker R.J. Cutler, the real Wintour is examined and the work that goes into the most important fashion magazine issue of the year revealed.
I'm not a fashion fan; I find the entire industry pretty weird and semi-pointless. Most people, to some degree or another, probably share this sentiment. Funny enough, Wintour's college-aged daughter, who wants to become a lawyer, says the exact same thing. Still, seeing what goes into the preparation of the phone book-sized September issue is an intriguing concept.
Unfortunately, reputation preceded Anna Wintour, and at least what is shown in the documentary indicates she is nowhere near the "ice queen" character I was expecting and hoping for. Sure, it's not fair to assume that she would be anywhere near as wicked as the character devised by Streep, but the documentary doesn't do a good job of depicting her as the hard ass she's supposed to be. There are plenty of interviews and footage of her staff talking about her in such a light, but Cutler simply portrays her as an extremely blunt boss. Maybe that is what she is, but what is shown and what is said about her doesn't match up.
In all fairness, The September Issue is a well-made documentary that does a good job of depicting its subject matter in a fair and balanced light. Cutler appears to get a certain degree of honesty from his "stars," who talk candidly about the positives and negatives of working under Wintour and the pressure placed upon them to get the September issue just right.
Still, there's nothing captivating about the movie. If it is a challenge for the staff to get everything right for the September issue, Cutler doesn't exude that to the audience. The staff talks about the dilemmas they face, but there isn't a comprehensive narrative to guide the audience from point A to point B. In other words, Cutler never reveals why we should care about these people and their job.
The September Issue is a good documentary, but Anna Wintour isn't as insidious as expected. Without a villainous to enjoy, the topic isn't particularly interesting; and, more importantly, Cutler struggles to make the topic interesting.
The two-disc DVD set includes audio commentary by Cutler, behind-the-scenes photographs and over an hour's worth of deleted scenes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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