IT'S NOT JUST about Anna. Though The September Issue, the all-access documentary directed by R.J. Cutler (The War Room) follows the making of the largest magazine of all time (Vogue's September 2007 issue), and though it can thank Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour for most of its hype, the film neglects many of the questions surrounding her. For one thing, it's unclear why the notoriously aloof Wintour agreed to do the film (a question that appears even hazier now, when, two years after filming, Vogue's world appears very different in the face of waning ad pages, not to mention increasing speculation that Wintour's 20-plus-year run at its helm will soon end).
Wintour's decision to take part is a bit of a face-saver, for sure: Following The Devil Wears Prada, the editor, as the primary inspiration for that film's venomous titular character, faced unprecedented public scrutiny. In September, Wintour's legendary iciness seems like the unremarkable product of natural decisiveness and an incredibly heavy schedule. She's irreverent, yes, but someone has to be, even at the highest echelon. When she does rarely communicate an emotion in this film, it's a borderline vulnerability, describing her family's "amusement" with her occupation, or showing a motherly turn in the lips as her daughter talks of plans to attend law school in lieu of following in her mother's footsteps.
But far more interesting revelations come from the rest of Vogue's staff—particularly the warm, funny Grace Coddington, who joined Vogue at the same time Wintour did, and who not only doesn't fear her but acts as a buffer between her and the magazine's hilariously frantic staff. Coddington's fantastical inspiration as a stylist, and her indignation at Wintour's merciless editorial cuts is the real and unexpectedly relatable story here. Wintour and Coddington's combative-yet-codependent working symbiosis—and by extension, the whole Vogue machine—is what's being studied here. The rest is for another day, and another documentary.