Biopic and Documentary Week: The September Issue

This review of The September Issue, by Amber Leab, first appeared at Bitch Flicks on March 7, 2011.

Anna Wintour has Power. She jokes that her siblings find what she does for a living “peculiar,” because maybe editing a fashion magazine doesn’t affect world politics, or cure diseases, or save the world. But high fashion is art, and art is peculiar. Amid the ads for cosmetics (which probably contain ingredients that no one should be putting on her or his skin) and accessories few of us can afford, there are stunning photographs of beautiful clothes. Most of the clothes aren’t really meant to be worn in Real Life, but they are pieces of art, and the people who make this wearable art fall all over themselves hoping that Wintour will notice them. They cater to her every whim, her every pointed critique.
Perhaps Wintour finds her position a bit peculiar, as well. There’s a drive viewers can see in her, and it seems as if she’s blindly plowing ahead, following success after success with little reflection about the why of it all. Her daughter appears to have no interest in the fashion industry, even though there’s a simple, ready-made path for her there. Like her mother, she doesn’t elaborate on her opinions, but knows that the industry isn’t for her. Wintour herself doesn’t really have much to say about what she’s achieved; she’s not the type to wax philosophically. Instead she states–and shows viewers–very plainly that she works hard and that the magazine has earned her a lot of money.
Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour
Fortunately, the movie also features Wintour’s team at Vogue, one of whom emerges to become the real star of The September Issue.
Grace Coddington is a former model and the creative director at Vogue. She even started working there on the same day as Wintour. She is intelligent, reflective, and an artist to Wintour’s manager persona. Coddington isn’t afraid to stand up to Wintour (whose lack of empathy was famously fictionalized by Meryl Streep in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada) either, and flawlessly uses her every resource, including the documentary film crew, to her advantage. Viewers may see her as being cutthroat, but she’s an artist fighting for her vision, her work, and she’s earned it. She’s 68 and has spent her whole life in this industry, working for British Vogue and Calvin Klein before joining Wintour.