Labor Day

I've mentioned before that I have some ground rules when it comes to documentaries. I'm much more attracted to ones about esoteric interests than some polemic about how terrible the world is. And although the world of fashion journalism isn't something that intrigues me out here in the "real" world, a combination of some positive word-of-mouth and curiosity about supposed tyrant Anna Wintour led me to put The September Issue on my queue.

The movie covers the hectic process of putting together the largest issue of Vogue, and if its goal was to portray Wintour in any sort of realistic light, either cruel or misunderstood, it failed. Wintour is clearly aware of the camera at all times, and acts accordingly. None of her interviews seem particularly genuine, save the one where she discusses the eminent members of her family, and the fact that they find her chosen profession "amusing". A flash of insecurity darts across her face, and it's the most humanizing 0.5 seconds in the entire film.

That's not to say the entire movie is a failure, though. This film has got a secret weapon on its hands, named Grace Coddington.

Coddington is a former model, who became the creative director of Vogue, and has been wrangling with Wintour in that role since 1988. While Wintour is a placid shell who gives nothing away, Coddington has no compunction about sharing her frustrations when things go poorly, and patting herself on the back for a job well done. In the back half of this seemingly insular portrayal of life at the magazine, Coddington executes a genius move that draws an unseen documentary crew member into her world, pulling the audience along with him. Thus with one split-second idea, she simultaneous solves a thorny creative issue on her side, and spices up what may have been an otherwise bland movie on ours. The Devil may wear Prada, but it seems the Angel has some wild red hair.

The September Issue: B-


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