Los Angeles’ blend of midnight movies, cult screenings and historic theaters offers late-night scares and childhood nostalgia back in the theater. Join columnist Nina Young as she attends different cult screenings each week to find out why audiences stay out so late after dark.
Meryl Streep, during a tense scene in “The Devil Wears Prada,” delivers her famous “Cerulean blue sweater” monologue to humiliate Anne Hathaway’s fashion-inept character.
Actor and panel moderator Brendan Scannell – maybe jokingly – dubbed the moment “one of the most iconic pieces of cinema in 30 years” at an interactive screening of the film last week. The crowd cheered in agreement.
The 2018 Vulture Festival LA brought together fans and filmmakers during an intimate showing of the 2006 comedy-drama, with live commentary by director David Frankel and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna. Based on a Lauren Weisberger’s novel of the same name, the film stars Hathaway as a fashion magazine intern who struggles to impress her demanding boss, played by a hilarious and terrifying Streep.
A critical and financial success upon release, “The Devil Wears Prada” may not be categorized as a “cult” film. That said, it has definitely garnered a strong following, which I noticed upon stepping into the screening room at The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Excited attendees of all ages welcomed Brosh McKenna and Frankel as they answered questions about their personal relationships with fashion and fun facts regarding the film’s development. The event included special giveaways, where fans received autographed scripts for being well-versed in film trivia, such as knowing the on-screen cameos made by real fashion industry professionals.
Brosh McKenna said she was surprised by, but appreciative of, the film’s continued fan following, as it still resonates with people 12 years after its release.
“(The film) was honestly very popular at the time, and it seemed to play for people as a coming-of-age movie, but also as a monster movie,” Brosh McKenna said. “So I think it’s both very relatable, and then also it has this aspect of being cathartically scary. … If you watch it with an audience, they will shriek and yell like there’s a shark in the water.”
Categorizing “The Devil Wears Prada” as a monster movie felt way off base as I settled into my seat and heard KT Tunstall’s lighthearted 2000s tune, “Suddenly I See,” open the film. But as the crowd gasped in reaction to Streep’s biting insults and judgmental eyebrows, Brosh McKenna’s words seemed right on mark. For anyone in doubt, I would recommend rewatching Streep’s introductory scene, where she appears dramatically behind opening elevator doors while an ominous score plays – believe me, it is chilling.
The audience’s knowledge of the film’s characters may have been deepened further at the screening when the panelists allowed insight into the writing and casting process. Regarding Streep’s role as Miranda Priestly, Brosh McKenna said Priestly is a professionally-driven woman with little patience for incompetence. Held to a double standard due to her gender, Priestly is often demonized but does a have dimension of humanity, she said. One could argue the nuance is also due to Streep’s performance, which reminds me –
Unofficial cult movie screening rule No. 12: Expect a possible fan following for a particular actor in addition to the movie itself.
During the Q&A portion, a fan asked the panelists about their experiences working with Streep, and a murmur of excitement went through the crowd. The panelists were complimentary of Streep’s involvement in the production, explaining how she picked out details – such as choosing the now-classic “cerulean” from a list of blues – and how she helped streamline her lines to create an intimidating character.
“By the time (the part went to) Meryl, we had some sense that it was going to be something special,” Brosh McKenna said. “She brought this sort of quiet menace to the part. … Once we started to see how audiences reacted before it came out, we had the sense that she might really connect with people.”
For attendee Nick Barbieri, Streep’s performance as Miranda in “The Devil Wears Prada” is his favorite of her career, he said. In addition to learning more about the filming process through the commentary, Barbieri said he enjoyed the energy of the space, one enlivened by the fan community. As for what I personally gained from the interactive screening that brings to mind another screening rule –
Unofficial cult movie screening rule No. 13: Pick up a catchphrase from the film!
Strong fan followings for movies often unite around memorable lines or quippy quotes, and “The Devil Wears Prada” is no exception. In this vein, the screening space encouraged attendees to say lines along with the film, raising their complimentary glasses to repeated phrases such as, “A million girls who would kill for this job.” Brosh McKenna said quotes from the film have even permeated back into the fashion world since 2006.
“The quote that I see the most often is: ‘Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking,’” Brosh McKenna said. “Every year, somebody does an article about florals for spring and quotes that.”
Once “The Devil Wears Prada” came to a heartwarming close, I made my way out of The Hollywood Roosevelt, eagerly scribbling down possible catchphrases. Streep’s devastating and simple, “That’s all,” response to disappointing interactions is a strong quote contender for slipping into daily life.