R.J. Cutler's The September Issue is a doc that's more interesting than great. Chronicling the months-long preparation and execution of the Vogue September issue, which pushes 850 pages, it's also an inside-look at the real 'devil' who wears Prada, Anna Wintour -- head honcho, not only of American Vogue, but of the international world of high fashion.
She's depicted as a transcendent, almost precognitive trend-setter who is, yes, not very warm and cuddly inside the walls of the 12th floor Vogue suite. She's not inhumanly cruel or anything, but more of a no frills, no fun, business-first lady with a my-way-or-the-highway demeanor. She's also not the star of The September Issue, which is curiously both the strength and the weakness of the film.
It's a very free-forming and scatter shoot narrative that runs through the intense, high-stress months leading up to the most important month in high fashion. In between photo shoots, clothes racks, board meetings and fashion weeks, we see glimpses of Anna's home life and her background, but Ms. Wintour is honestly upstaged by her inferiors and not to mention, featured far less prominently.
Grace Coddington, a former model-turned-editor, wears her years in the industry on her worn-down features and frizzled red hair more reminiscent of a brushfire. She's described, even by Anna herself, "as brilliant" -- a perpetrator of indelible images and understanding -- some of her photo shoots, including a 1920's homage, are indeed, brilliant.
Seeing her work go through the wringer and then the cutting block is part of the high drama that seethes from The September Issue. It's a slight affair, but captivating nonetheless.