September Issue, The (DVD Review)1 Mar, 2010 By: Mike Clark
Box Office $3.8 million
Rated ‘PG-13’ for brief strong language.
Vogue editor Anna Wintour has the reputation as the kind of tyrant you wouldn’t want to awaken on a bad day: Just think of the Meryl Streep take-off she inspired in the movie of Lauren Weisberger’s bestseller The Devil Wears Prada.
Even after viewing this not unsympathetic portrait, you probably wouldn’t ask Wintour out on a bowling date, though you might risk bringing her morning coffee on a good day.
It’s a good day indeed when the revenue from Vogue’s September issue gets counted; if such ad sales for every publication could be replicated, print journalism might blast out of its doldrums to become one of those recession-proof businesses like mortuaries and liquor stores. This is the story of how the September 2007 issue came to be, which was financially huge even by seasonal standards.
Or part of the story. You always feel that R.J. Cutler’s breezy documentary is a commissioned work — or at least one that Wintour may be shaping with laser glances. On the other hand, the movie doesn’t shy away from exploring the fascinating tension between this editor supreme and her longtime creative director Grace Coddington, who won’t back down from serving (in her view) the magazine’s history over crass commercial concerns. These are Mad Women to AMC’s (mostly) Mad Men. Coddington also has a fascinating personal history the movie divulges, but no spoilers here.
The result, which I really enjoyed, might be better if it went into more of its subject’s personal history because the parts that do are among its best. In other words, Wintour is physically attractive and has a grown daughter, so life can’t be (or always have been) 24-7 work. The domestic scenes are revealing — mom and daughter really do seem to get along — and the part where Wintour weighs herself against the accomplishment of her own siblings is the one part of the narrative that really does seem to yank off a scab. The DVD extras contain a lot of deletions but few of them amount to much.
Actress Sienna Miller is one of the issue’s major photographic subjects — the cover personality, in fact. Even she’s reduced to someone who is all but punching a time clock in a chronicle that in several ways gives a Devil her due.