Perhaps it's the fault of 2006's “The Devil Wears Prada,” but the real Anna Wintour is given the wrong kind of approach in “The September Issue,” a behind-the-scenes look at Vogue magazine, its longtime editor in chief and the gargantuan fashion Bible they produce every fall. The camera holds on Wintour's face as if studying ancient runes for signs of churlishness, but the notoriously brusque and impatient editor is far too cagey to be caught looking anything but steely.
The film was directed by noted political documentarian R.J. Cutler, who tracks Wintour and her retinue of editors as they produce the September 2007 fall fashion issue, a memorable one that included a lavish 1920s-inspired photo spread alongside many equally glamorous shoots captured around the world.
The movie offers some biographical information on Wintour and a few of her closest associates as it observes their interaction at the magazine. Episodes are of varying quality, ranging from an insightful look at the bridge Vogue editors create between designers and retail giants, to a playful but unnecessary moment with outspoken editor AndrAc Leon Talley as he exercises (head to toe in Louis Vuitton of course).
Vogue's September issue can run 800 pages, takes five months to produce and requires much sublimating of egos, all points made by the film after noting the irony in an off-the-cuff comment by Wintour that “less is more.” What Cutler inadvertently captures (but doesn't appear to notice), however, is that there is surprisingly less going on behind the scenes than one would expect for such an extravagant fabrication of beauty.
The woman most responsible might be Grace Coddington, Wintour's right hand, an immensely gifted creative director and stylist responsible for most of the issue's visual heft. Fumbling around for something controversial or at least juicy, Cutler tries to set up a confrontational dynamic between these two, but you've seen more memorable spats on “Project Runway.”
The movie altogether misses the larger question: How has such an amazingly tight-knit group held the fashion industry by the purse strings for so long? (PG-13) 88 min. HHIII