Film review: 'September' offers inside peek at Vogue

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, watches fashion show in the documentary "The September Issue." Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, watches fashion show in the documentary "The September Issue."

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THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE — ★★★ — Documentary feature about Vogue magazine's annual fall-fashion issue; rated PG-13 (profanity, slurs, nude artwork); Broadway Centre

As terrific as Meryl Streep was playing a caricature of Anna Wintour in the movie version of "The Devil Wears Prada," she still might not have done the Vogue magazine editor-in-chief justice.

As the documentary "The September Issue" shows, the real Wintour is much more complex. She really is capable of striking fear into anyone, with either a withering glance or one terse, sarcastic comment.

But some of those people have it coming to them. Wintour is, after all, dealing with people on a daily basis who have similarly prickly personalities — including various fashion designers, photographers, celebrities, advertisers and magazine contributors.

By showing that side of Wintour, this film doesn't make us hate her. Not totally, at least. She's interesting, and so is this fashion-centric feature.

"The September Issue" focuses on Wintour and her staff's efforts to produce the 2007 fall-fashion issue, which is being touted months out as the biggest in the magazine's history. (One insider jokes that they're going to publish a "phone book.")

But doing that creates a series of headaches and frustrations. Not the least of which are the demands of the magazine's advertisers.

Much of the film also revolves around the push-and-pull between Wintour and Grace Coddington, Vogue's creative director. She has her own ideas about what should be in the issue. And not to spoil anything, but Coddington is surprisingly successful in that regard.

For some, fashion might not seem like exciting material, but director R.J. Cutler ("A Perfect Candidate") is able to create some genuine suspense and tension, as the days and hours count down to the "close" of the issue.

Also, sequences that profile both Wintour and Coddington are very well done.

There are a few extraneous, superfluous bits, though, such as scenes showing a young designer's attempts to create a seasonal campaign for a national clothing chain store. (It was clearly included to balance out the depiction of the usually frosty Wintour, who is mentoring the designer. She is shown as having little tolerance for his eccentricities and needs, however.)

"The September Issue" is rated PG-13 and features scattered strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), derogatory language and slurs, and brief glimpses of nude art (statues). Running time: 88 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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