The cult of longtime Vogue editor Anna Wintour exploded beyond the incestuous fashion world and into the mainstream when former Wintour assistant Lauren Weisberger published her unspeakably awful roman à clef The Devil Wears Prada. As the feared and respected editor of a Vogue-like fashion bible, Wintour’s literary (and later, cinematic) alter ego would dominate the proceedings with her ice-queen glamour and casual viciousness even if she wasn’t surrounded by a gallery of sentient paper-doll cutouts.
Readers and moviegoers ate up Wintour’s literary doppelgänger, which bodes well for the commercial prospects of The September Issue, a fascinating, frustrating documentary about the real Wintour and the making of the War And Peace-sized September issue of Vogue. The larger-than-life fashionistas documented here immerse themselves in a task roughly as important and labor-intensive as planning D-Day, putting together an issue that will set the tone and establish the trends for the entire fashion year.
Prada readers might wonder why a figure as legendarily image-conscious and remote as Wintour might open herself up to the scrutiny of a documentary, but the fashion/publishing icon makes it through September with her privacy and secrets intact. Director R.J. Cutler maintains a respectful distance from Wintour and similarly compelling subjects, like model turned Vogue creative director Grace Coddington and towering, iconic editor-at-large André Leon Talley. Cutler is in the enviable position of having arguably too many fascinating documentary subjects, but while September is never boring, it’s also superficial. The internal machinations of Vogue might be too much for a single documentary to handle; a multi-part TV documentary series might have given the folks behind the camera more time and space to flesh out these colorful characters and let audiences decide for themselves whether they love or hate Wintour, or fall somewhere in between.