A documentary by R. J. Cutler. Featuring Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, and Oscar de la Renta. Rated PG. Opens Friday, October 23, at the Cinemark Tinseltown
This breezy documentary from R. J. Cutler, who made the American High series, is fascinating not just for following famously imperious Vogue editor Anna Wintour (“the most powerful person in fashion”, we are repeatedly told) in full force but because it captures a moment, before the big economic crash, when publishing still meant something. Vogue’s September issue this year was down in size by one-quarter from the 2007 800-pager being meticulously assembled here by staffers who quiver at Wintour’s every whim, and no doubt still do.
Watch the trailer for The September Issue.
If you are not convinced that this is the woman who inspired Meryl Streep’s demonic Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, just check out the way top designers like Oscar de la Renta and Jean-Paul Gaultier cower before her bobbed hair, fur-rimmed floral outfits, and oversized sunglasses. (She won’t wear black, by the way.) Wintour, however, isn’t likely to eviscerate anyone—not while cameras are rolling, anyway. A curled lip or look of casual boredom is terror enough.
The only courtier not entirely cowed by the Ice Queen is veteran employee Grace Coddington—like her boss, born in the U.K. and a former model who worked her way up at British Vogue before hitting the New York office. (They even started on the same day.) In flats and frizzy red hair, Coddington is the anti-Wintour and one of the top stylists in fashion, creating spectacular photo spreads, sometimes out of nothing. When her best pictures get cut, she fumes but takes it. Fashion is a harsh mistress, and for now there is still a single master.
There aren’t many cracks in the ice curtain, but we do get some biography: Wintour’s father was a famously stern Fleet Street editor, and she has siblings who are all social activists. They find her work “quite trivial”, she admits, and the observation rates a rare smile.