For being centered on the creation of a magazine that runs over 600 pages at its peak, The September Issue feels underworked. Focused on the production of Vogue‘s biggest issue of the year, it never digs too deep into the publishing world – which, at the time of filming, was just before the big journalism collapse of 2008 – nor does it really examine the woman behind the giant sunglasses, editor (or editrix, as she’s been called) Anna Wintour.
“You’re the most powerful woman in the United States,” says one colleague of Wintour’s, but the editor, probably still smarting from 2005’s roman à clef The Devil Wears Prada, remains aloof and cold throughout the movie.
Warmth is shown periodically, most notably in scenes with her daughter, but Wintour has taken great care to humanize herself only slightly. She would not be as powerful or as feared if other people thought she was one of them. The other editors, each powerful in their own right, are almost sycophants in their devotion to Wintour.
The real star of the film is Grace Coddington, Vogue creative director and former model. Coddington, whom Wintour sees as both an adversary and a peer, brings a welcome levity to the film despite seeing her ideas and shoots frequently scrapped.
The most affecting moments involve Coddington subtly battling with Wintour via assistants and other editors; Wintour, for the first time, seems almost human when she discusses her political-activist family’s low opinion of her work in fashion.
The September Issue is not groundbreaking, but for fans of journalism, fashion, or travel narratives, it’s certainly worth the price of admission.
Rating: 2.5/4 stars
Starring: Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, André Leon Talley
Directed By: R.J. Cutler
MPAA Rating: PG-13