Meryl Streep gives an all-time classic comedy performance as the most fearsome boss in New York in this uneven new farce. The scenes with her, and with Emily Blunt as her fiercely neurotic "first assistant," are consistently hilarious and delightful. Stanley Tucci is also slyly charming and funny as the gay art director who comments on the action while serving as wise, sweetly cynical confidant to all the straight women at the fashion magazine offices where most of the movie is set.
However, the movie is not nominally about any of these three characters…it’s instead the story of the non-fashionista (Anne Hathaway) who becomes the "second assistant" and is the source of, first, ridicule, then admiration as she learns the ropes. Virtually everything about this main plot is unconvincing and fake, and this is especially true of the interminable, dull scenes involving our heroine’s personal life. It’s almost, but not quite, enough to drag the whole movie down. Hathaway tries gamely, but she’s miscast as an ugly duckling (I hope that's a compliment!), and the writing of the role is hopeless. As directed by David Frankel, a veteran of TV's Sex and the City, the film occasionally resembles an episode of that great HBO sitcom — but without the four superlative actresses that made it a must-see.
Still, do catch this for the three sterling comic performances by Tucci, Blunt, and especially Streep, who may reach her biggest audience ever with this role, and deservedly so. She underplays to devastating effect. The sellout crowd the day I saw it practically cheered her every eyebrow-raise. She's magnificent.