Oprah and Angelina may jockey for top spots on the annual Forbes list, but make no mistake, Vogue editor Anna Wintour is the most powerful woman in the world. And if you doubt it, The September Issue will tell you so. A lot. With the pack of camera dogs flashbulbing her every move, experts singing her praises, and even the head of Neiman Marcus begging her for shipping assistance, there is no shortage of back-patting going on here. But the reasons for Wintour’s agreement to do this doc are sorta suspect. Did one-time assistant Lauren Weisberger’s thinly veiled vivisection of a novel (The Devil Wears Prada) piss her off that much she just had to tell her side of the story? Is the Internet squeezing magazine media dollars so brutally, she needed to cast herself in what is, basically, a 90-minute corporate video on the relevance of mag ads? Or, even weirder, is this Mother Wintour’s desperate attempt to convince her level-headed daughter to ditch charitable legal aspirations and instead sail into the sunset, hoisting the mast(head) of the most influential fashion document on the planet?
Who cares. The doc by acclaimed filmmaker R.J. Cutler is go size-2 figure, flat-out hilarious. Essentially a calendar countdown of the creation and publication of the yearly fashion bible, September’s Vogue, on paper the concept sounds about as hilarious as a Ken Burns PBS doc on the slave trade. Wrong. It’s a riot, thanks to an intriguing array of real-life characters, especially editor-at-large André (the giant and gigantically flaming) Leon Talley, longsuffering creative director Grace Coddington, and various other Voguers who get shushed, shoved aside, and schooled by Wintour herself. Some, like the idiotic French photog who phucked up a photo shoot and the sniveling suck-up in a designer suit, deserve worse.
The real surprise of the show is the moral Rorschach that Anna Wintour becomes. Sure, some can view her as a cruel, cold, fashion-obsessed diva with some severe daddy issues. But the case can also be argued that this is, for all ignoble intents and dubious purposes, simply a titan of industry just doing her goddamn job, and having little time or tolerance to school the stupid. Is The September Issue a testament to the dizzying business of fashion, or a vaguely veiled image makeover? It’s a valid question. And it’s a winning film.
The September Issue is now showing at Landmark River Oaks Theatre (2009 W. Gray), Edwards Houston Marq*E (7600 Katy Freeway), and AMC Studio 30 (2949 Dunvale).