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Theatrical Review: THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE

GATW Guest Writer

by: GATW Guest Writer
September 11th, 2009


Rating: 7/10

Director: R.J. Cutler
Cast: Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington

I’m a sucker for documentaries. I’ll admit it. Even the most mundane topic becomes interesting to me under the guise of being a documentary. You could say they’re the birthplace of reality television. It’s fascinating to watch crews attempt to be unobtrusive as they document a scene or lifestyle. It’s even more fascinating to watch the people onscreen respond to being filmed.

So take the documentary formula and apply it to one of the most private figures in the fashion world, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, and you’ve got docudrama gold.

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE follows the Vogue team as they prepare the infamous September issue that fashionistas clamor for every August. I personally wouldn’t know, but I hear the issue defines trends and can make or break careers. The 2007 issue was the biggest ever, read by 13 million people and weighing in at four pounds.

I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal, but even I know about Anna Wintour. I know that she’s had the job for 20 years, wears sunglasses, and has a reputation for being an ice queen at best. Much of my knowledge has been gleaned from the 2006 film THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, which stars Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, a Wintour doppelganger.

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE is kind of like a real-life version of DEVIL WEARS PRADA, except that, thankfully, it’s not. If the film had focused on a charming young intern wanting to work her way up the ranks only to be shot down by Wintour, I would have felt like I was watching "The Hills." No, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE largely focuses on Wintour as a person and as a foil to Vogue creative director Grace Coddington.

Wintour and Coddington, though both geniuses and decidedly British, couldn’t be more different. Anna always looks glamorous, while Grace always looks like death warmed over, as though she’s spent all night laboring over something that Anna is likely to turn down. Anna is cool and collected, while Grace gets hot under the collar when her ideas are scrapped. Yet, somehow, the duo makes it work. Grace is the artist, the creative genius. We see her hard at work, setting up photo shoots, dressing models herself, and creating gorgeous works of art – all for a fashion magazine. Anna clearly has that creative eye as well, but as more of a critic than a creator. She decides what’s in and what’s out, both in her magazine and in fashion.

The real charm of the film lies in the character studies of these women who have been colleagues for decades. When interviews with Anna reveal that her family generally scoffs at her profession, you almost feel sorry for her. But then you watch her cut another photo spread that cost thousands of dollars to produce and you don’t much care. Huge laughs come as you watch everyone around Anna react to her decisions and bold confidence. Her employees seem to hate her, yet they crave her approval.

Grace, however, is more of a joy to watch as she flaunts her devil-may-care attitude when Anna’s not in the room. The movie largely belongs to Grace – she’s warmer and more open, making it easy to identify and sympathize with her. The movie also exposes just how much Grace does for Vogue and will leave you wishing more people knew her name.

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE is certainly a must-see for fashion junkies. But it’s also fun for the rest of us, if only because it provides an entertaining inside look at an often bizarre world ruled by one woman.

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