I read the book several years ago when everyone was talking about it, and then I just recently saw the movie, which I had been avoiding like the plague, and I can't tell you how disappointed I was.
I mean, I'm used to the book being better (unless it's by Frances Hodgson Burnett, JRR Tolkein, or Jane Austen), and I'm even used to characters being compressed into one, or Harry Potter suddenly having blue eyes instead of green. What I wasn't prepared for was for a role that clearly had Kate Hudson's name on it to go to someone as vanilla as Anne Hathaway.
I'm sorry, Anne is very pretty, and she seems nice and I love the fact that her love life is a quiet mess and that she just stays to herself. I like that she's not a size zero and has dark hair and eyes and a set of knockers made for porn, but uses them for "art." She is not, however, a Jewish upstate New Yorker. That's why the film writers had to make her from the Midwest. No one would have believed it otherwise. Anne makes a great princess, and even a pretty good rodeo queen, but she was not a convincing Andrea Sachs. And it was so sad to me, because Kate Hudson would have done a great job. I mean, she was born for this role.
Andrea Sachs is a very unsympathetic character in the book. She's not a horrible person or anything, she's just not incredibly likable. She's one of those people who hates her job, and makes everyone else miserable because of it. For instance: she takes cabs instead of ordering a car service so that she can charge the magazine for the cab. If she had just taken the car service, it would have been billed directly to the company to be paid at the end of the month. Since she took the cab, though, she has to go to Petty Cash to be reimbursed, which takes the time of the person in charge of Petty Cash, takes her time, and takes everyone else's time, too, which she feels vindictively good about, despite the fact that she is inconveniencing everyone except the boss that she hates, which renders the whole thing pointless.
Andrea is also in charge of getting the coffee in the morning, which she takes her sweet precious time doing, leaving all of the office work to Miranda's secretary and all the other players in the novel who are pretty decent people, and who don't deserve the pressure Andrea puts them under by disappearing for so long.
Andrea's last holdout at the magazine is her wardrobe. She works in fashion, but doesn't care about it, so she feels no shame at showing up in Ann Taylor shoes or Levi's Jeans instead of Louboutin's and Se7en's. When Jeffy, the guy who is in charge of the closet at the magazine, finally notices that Andrea is doing her best to stand out, he pulls her aside and says, "Do you really want to lose your job, idiot?" (I paraphrase.)
I knew that this scene in the movie was going to warrant a makeover montage, and I was not (well, I was) disappointed, Anne Hathaway got her makeover, but Andrea just sort of quietly began adding to her wardrobe and making herself available to designers when they wanted to give her stuff instead of blowing it all off like it's just stupid. Andrea also takes really great pieces that don't fit her (she's in the 4-6 range instead of a zero, the fattie) and sells them to a second hand shop in Manhattan to augment her income, which as an intern, isn't much. I didn't notice Anne Hathaway doing this, because that may have made her unlikable (questionable stealing), but it was one of the few smart things that I think Andrea did.
BTW, she's called Andrea through most of the book. She's Andy in the movie. Because, you know, likability.
Andrea's best friend Lily (who is black in the movie, which is great, but why could they make the best friend black, but not make Andrea Jewish?) is a Russian Literature student, I think working on her doctorate? anyway, she's becoming an alcoholic, which is something Andrea really doesn't have time for because she's at the 24-7 beck and call of a crazy woman, so for a good part of the book, you're upset with her that she's putting her own interests ahead of her friend's illness, but isn't that what people do? I love my friends, but if they're addicted to something, I can't help them until the want help. Lily is a huge bone of contention between herself and her boyfriend, because he thinks she should be there for Lily, and he's right, but in what capacity? I wish the author hadn't made Andrea sort of shallow in this area, and I really even more wish the movie hadn't glossed over this plot point. In the book, it's one of the huge reasons why Andrea breaks up with her stupid boyfriend (didn't like him much, either), but in the movie, it looks like he just is too selfish to deal with Andrea's budding career. In the book, you marvel at how he hung around for so long.
Emily is Miranda's secretary, and she is very much into the fashion scene. She loves her job, and even though Miranda bothers her at times, she does what she can to shake it off because she has a passion for this stuff. She has dreams, but Andrea considers them to be shallow since they revolve around fashion. In the movie, Emily is played by a red-headed Emily Blunt, and she's just some anorexic sjlubh that Andrea has to put up with in order to do her job. In the book, Emily wants Andrea's year to be up so that Andrea can get a job she'll actually like, leaving the assistant spot open for someone who actually wants to work at a fashion magazine and doesn't think she's just too good for all this crap. In the book, Andrea had been running ragged to get something done for Miranda, I can't remember what. I think it was getting her lunch just right or something, only to have Miranda be like, "What is your problem? This isn't what I asked for" (which is usually Miranda's response once Andrea turns the world over to deliver something to her) and Emily loses it and calls Miranda a bitch, but then redacts and turns on the Stockholm Syndrome to Andrea, which is a great scene in the book because it shows how cleverly Miranda dangles the carrot over her underlings to string them along.
Miranda herself was portrayed excellently by Meryl Streep, but that's like saying a Van Gogh painting is a piece of art. Streep will always play her part well, except for that Mama Mia thing we won't talk about (ever). Miranda is a mean, vindictive, horrible human being who enjoys sending people on extreme errands, interrupting Andrea during her gynecology appointment, requesting books that aren't in print yet, running her assistants ragged planning some great event and then taking all of the credit, and blaming everyone for every mistake whether it was their fault or not. In the movie, Anne Hathaway decides to leave Meryl Streep after a little heart-to-heart reveals that Miranda expects Andrea can one day surpass herself, and that she reminds her of herself a lot. In the book, Miranda berates Andrea for not checking to make sure her twins have passports when the twins have a mother, father, and nanny to look after all that crap. I don't know why that was the last straw, but it was. And then Andrea tells Miranda just what she thinks about her in front of a huge crowd, and heads back to the USA, waiting for Miranda to send the police after her or something.
In the end, Andrea decides that she has a pretty good story on her hands, and she finds herself back at her old building going for an interview for a position at another magazine, and she feels a sense of nostalgia.
The book is pretty good, but I can see why no one really liked the movie too much. There was just so much that wasn't explained, which is usual in adaptations, but it felt even more absent here. Anne Hathaway just didn't have the right sarcasm to play Andrea, and Kate Hudson just could have knocked it out of the park. When Anne rolls her eyes, she looks petulant and childish. Kate could have conveyed so much with that look.
Oh well. Maybe someone else will remake it some other time with a better-suited actress.