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"The September Issue"

Directed by R.J. Cutler.
Release Year:  2009
Review Date:  10/3/09


Meg and I had wanted to catch the Vogue magazine documentary "The September Issue" before we left for our honeymoon, but that's what happens when you are busy plotting your globetrotting adventures...little things fall by the wayside.

So, this weekend, while catching up on football, sleep and the American cheeseburger, we slipped in a matinee showing of the film.  I'm a half-glass-full guy, but I like to think of myself as a realist so I usually add that I inspect the glass before drinking out of it...and, in the case of "The September Issue", I'll say that the film is okay, but it will be better if you are realistic about your expectations before coming in.

The movie is not really a profile of the people that put the magazine together, and it's not really a profile of how the magazine itself is put together.  Over its 90-minute running time, it's a little bit of both, but never enough of either.  As a result, it's a bit disappointing; director R.J. Cutler has been given access to the top editors at the magazine but we never really get to know the current Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, and we never get to see a large majority of how the magazine is put together.

For example, we get to meet Anna, who by all accounts (even before I saw this movie) is a fashion titan and, as the lead editor at Vogue, has a say in practically all of how the world of fashion moves forward since so much of the top stuff is featured in her magazine.  But, we never really get to see her motivations, or how she thinks, or how she is perceived at even other magazines.  I thought it was shocking that Cutler either didn't get permission or didn't bother to interview the editors at other fashion magazines, women's or men's.  The only people asked to reflect on Anna were Anna's immediate reports, all of whom (naturally) are too scared to really comment on how it is to work for her.  Cutler misses an opportunity by not bothering to interview former employees at Vogue who worked for Anna...again, a mistake.

Then we get to the making of the September 2007 issue of Vogue.  In the fashion world, the September issue is the big daddy, so we get to watch the making of the issue from the six-months-out point forward.  Here's what we do get to see--some nice photo shoots that get included in the final, working with actress Sienna Miller on cover shots in Rome, the Vogue team at fashion shows deciding what clothes to profile in their magazine, and people running around at the Vogue office trying to look busy (whether they are really busy or not!).

But, here's what we don't get--anything about Vogue's writing department (assuming they have one, which I know they do); anything about what it takes to sell ads for the magazine (which topped 800 pages in 2007), even though the movie makes a big deal out of a meeting where Vogue editors talk to the ad sales team about how important their jobs are; anything about the process behind what stories are included versus not included; anything about how it was decided that Miller would go on the cover.  A great example of where "The September Issue" misses on details comes when two Vogue staffers talk about how Anna was a trailblazer in putting celebrities on the cover of the magazine.  It would have been smart by the director at that point to include something, really anything, on which celebrity first appeared on a Vogue cover, or how much sales improved after putting celebrities on covers, or how other magazines copied this trend on their own.

The film doesn't do that, so we're left with this lingering question.  Or, maybe it's "questions."  I really think that in the hands of a more capable filmmaker, "The September Issue" would really have been interesting and I would leave the theater with more knowledge on how hard it must be putting together a monthly magazine.  As it is, you'll be entertained watching all of the Vogue staff running in fear of Anna, or during presentations of the truly great photographs that the magazine puts together for their fashion spreads.  But, you're left holding the bag in the end...what if?

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 11/05/09