"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,
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?
Comments? Drop me a line at
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
"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 bad...man, 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
"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