Try and imagine this: It’s a Saturday night, the NCAA tournament has reached the Elite Eight and you just picked up three six packs of beers (Stone IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Miller Lite) when out of the blue you read on Twitter that you’ve been sacrificed to the Sex and the City She-Devils and have to watch a chick flick. The September Issue was the film on-hand, a “documentary” of Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s job to help put together the magazine’s largest annual issue. After scrambling to find other alternatives (“Isn’t there a new House Hunters on? Maybe Netflix On Demand will have something else that won’t suck? I think my appendix just burst!!!”), my wife popped the DVD into her laptop, plugged it into the 50″ plasma screen TV and hit “play”. The evening would go south from there.
Having worked in public relations it was pretty apparent that this movie was made as a response to “The Devil Wears Prada”. I haven’t seen TDWP, nor will I ever, so I can’t comment on how accurate it is, but I can tell this movie was made to provide some balance to the accusations that Ms. Wintour is an insane, heartless bitch. The September Issue is called a documentary because it literally follows her and her supporting staff around as they prep for the big September issue of Vogue, loosely showing the production process and decisions made to get to a final product. Companies and designers kiss her ass through the movie to be graced with being on the cover, her staff acquiesces to her like she’s Mommy Dearest and ultimately they celebrate a big magazine hitting the newsstands, circa Fall 2007.
In the movie they claim that the cover of Vogue is what sets the fashion trend for the upcoming year. At one point in the film they pointed to a 1990’s cover that featured fur which they claim prompted everyone to want to wear fur again. I recall the era distinctly because this was about the time that PETA stepped up their efforts by throwing red paint on people and even dropped a dead raccoon carcass on Ms. Wintour’s restaurant table. I have no doubt that Vogue wields this sort of influence over its readers, however I don’t think it’s anything to necessarily be proud of. After all, women’s magazines have been dishing out horrible sex advice and making women feel fat and ugly for decades, so while influential I’d hardly call it positive.
There is very little insight into how she makes her decisions throughout the process and it’s the exact sort of guesswork and snobbery that I imagined the high fashion society runs on – a hierarchy of pompous former models using their longevity and power to maintain a status quo. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few folks in the movie that bring a sort of reality to the screen. In particular, Anna’s lead creative/photographer, Grace Coddington, has a ton of talent and patience and is really the star of the movie (and magazine). She’s a former model as well (shocker!) but her eye for creating beautiful imagery is what ends up, aside from a worthless celebrity cover shot, making the issue come to life. (Side note: “Celebrity” is a term that used to define those with some talent, whether it’s acting, modeling or musical ability. Today’s “celebrity” – with a lowercase C – is anyone who’s flashed themselves on YouTube or appeared on a reality show)
There is one other star of the movie who has a minor role but shows that there’s hope for humanity. See, Anna’s daughter, Katherine (aka “Bee”), could have been “one of those” daughters – spoiled, bitchy, arrogant and entitled. Bee is remarkably grounded and actually doesn’t care for the fashion industry. She came off as being articulate, personable and as real as the other personalities in the movie do phony. I wish they would have focused more on her dislike of her mother’s profession, however that would have provided some real drama and substance to the movie’s apparent whitewashing of Anna’s tarnished image.
The rest of the cast is a veritable who’s who of people I would never recognize in real life but whose names on clothes would make your wife wet. And unfortunately for the ladies, I have a better chance of hooking up with all of them. Case in point is the egregiously, over the top personality that is André Leon Talley. The guy is not only the stereotypical gay fashion personality but is so flaming that he makes Richard Simmons look straight. Case in point is when he decides to haul several Louis Vuitton bags and matching blanket to his tennis “exercise”. I use that term loosely, because he’s neither exercising nor is he actually playing tennis as much as he baby steps back and forth, slapping the racket at the ball. It was actually painful to watch and I even noticed my wife rolling her eyes at the scene.
There were a few other moments in the movie that showed a lighter side to Ms. Wintour, like when she gives a young designer an opportunity via the Vogue Fashion Fund to showcase his work, however it’s pretty apparent that she’s an introvert who’s obsessed with appearances. Between the side-shots of her face and the straight away, “look at me pout” shots, it’s clear that her direction to the film crew was to make her look attractive. The reality is that she’s old, however I’m sure Curtis et al would undoubtedly shack up with her after a few High Lifes.
Overall I found the movie to be boring (I mean, we’re talking models and photo shoots and not even one side boob? Nothing?) and nothing more than the glossing over of someone obsessed with image. One other observation is that all of the people in this movie were gay, old, or gay and old. So take note, young ladies who move to New York to work in beauty and fashion – you can make it too, provided you outlive your colleagues or are actually a gay guy. 😛
I would have found this film to be more refreshing if she actually was a bitch or justified her behavior through sheer genius – instead it only glamorized a dying profession and an aged, stodgy industry.
Final verdict: 1.5 out of 5 beers. Drink a few beers, watch the old ladies work to make a magazine and enjoy the post-movie sex with your wife because you made it through this chick flick.