We’re first introduced to Nate Cooper, Andy Sach’s boyfriend in The Devil Wears Prada, during the opening credits, when Andy is preparing for an interview at the fashion magazine Runway. He is sitting in bed in their shared apartment, wearing boxer shorts and an old T-shirt while reading the newspaper.
“Good luck!” he says in the vein of a seemingly uninteresting secondary character.
When I witnessed the plot following that interaction on the big screen in 2006, my life cleaved in two: the part before I maintained a teenage-diary’s worth of feelings about Nate Cooper in The Devil Wears Prada, and the part after. Now, 12 years later, I have a strong urge to finally extoll upon these (spoiler alert: mostly indignant) emotions for reasons both cathartic and necessary. Below please find a critical reading of every important Nate Cooper scene and why each one perplexed me to my core.
Scene #1: “What was it, a phone interview?”
This is the scene that changes everything, taking Nate Cooper from seemingly uninteresting secondary character to likely enemy of the people. Andy is sitting among her friend group after-hours at the restaurant where Nate works and shares the news that she got a job at Runway, noted fictionalized fashion magazine. In response, Nate says, “Wait, you got a job at a fashion magazine? What was it, a phone interview?”
I’ll let that sink in for a few seconds.
Okay, time to unpack, and please do pardon the loud decibel at which I’m typing but: EXCUSE ME, GOOD SIR. THAT IS AN OBJECTIVELY UNKIND THING TO SAY TO YOUR MONOGAMOUS LOVER/ROOMMATE, EVEN IF SHE HASN’T EXPRESSED AN INTEREST IN FASHION UP UNTIL NOW!!!!!
I can’t believe I waited 12 years to get that off my chest.
Scene #2: “There’s like $8 of Jarlsberg in there.”
This critical reading is only just getting started and we’ve already arrived at the most important moment in the entire 109 minutes of the movie. Grilled cheeses have a wide range of associations — childhood, late nights in college, that mesmerizing Kraft commercial with the two gooey triangles being pulled perfectly apart — but the one that sticks out like a glistening thumb in my mind is the scene in Devil Wears Prada wherein Nate Cooper flexes his line chef skills at home for his monogamous lover/roommate by concocting what appears to be a grilled cheese of epic proportions: two well-buttered slices of crispy bread that encase a substantial ooze of cheese. Every time I watch him flip it in the frying pan, saliva pools under my tongue right on cue. I’m almost ready to forgive him for the phone interview slight. Almost.
But then! Andy confesses to not being hungry anymore post-rant, and Nate exclaims indignantly, “There’s like $8 of Jarlsburg in there,” which effectively ratchets my Nate Cooper emotional whirlpool back up to the highest setting. To clarify, I don’t begrudge him his outrage at the prospect of this perfect grilled cheese going uneaten (fortunately he takes it upon himself to consume it), but my eyebrows remain arched about the fact that Jarlsberg was his choice of filling for this particular endeavor. Jarlsberg is the Vizzini of cheeses: nutty to the taste, semi-soft to the touch and overall kind of a weirdo in the grand scheme of things. It reminds me of my dad, who can take down a whole block of Jarlsberg in one sitting. It also reminds me of Leandra, who likes to call me “Harlsburg.” Mostly, though, it reminds me that there is so much more to Nate Cooper than meets the eye. (Doesn’t make me like him more because of that, however.)
Scene #3: “Why do women need so many bags?”
Nate poses this question to his crew of twenty-something pals during an otherwise innocent evening out on the town after Andy re-gifts a whole bunch of rejected swag from the Runway offices, including a Marc Jacobs bag that inspires her friend Lily to squeal in delight. He also says, “You have one, you put all your junk in it and that’s it, you’re done!,” but where and how Nate transports his necessities is beside the point. The point is that I have now documented multiple instances in which his questions have rained on the parade of someone else’s glad tidings, and that makes me want to scream bloody cerulean into a pillow. Imagine if someone asked Nate Cooper why he needs so many henleys, or why he needs so much eyeliner? I wouldn’t dream of it! I fully respect his decision to flaunt these things in the exact quantities he desires as a grown man and noted maker of port wine reductions. All I ask is that he extend the same courtesy to his monogamous lover/roommate and her friend Lily, who has the courage to tell Nate what every single one of the movie’s audience members has been dying tell him since 2006: Shut up.
Scene #4: “They charge, like, $5 a strawberry.”
Welcome to the scene in which we confirm Nate is obsessed with grocery costs in Manhattan. (I know, I know, everyone is obsessed with grocery costs in Manhattan — and rightfully so — but the fact that Nate only has so many lines in the movie and two of them center on this topic feels important in the grand scheme of Nate discussion whether or not it has anything to do with his generally infuriating disposition).
Anyways! For context, he has just arrived home and is unloading groceries purchased from Dean & Deluca for the purpose of celebrating Andy quitting her job at Runway, but after exclaiming about the price of strawberries he notices she is painting her boss’s kids’ science project, which means she HASN’T quit. He pouts. She flashes him her lacy bustier. They embrace.
Scene #5: “I’m going to bed.”
Remember that horrible character in The Devil Wears Prada, a grown man who makes a big deal out of his birthday?
— ScaryKoCo (@MaryKoCo) June 9, 2018
This tweet might very well be the most brilliant cultural commentary I’ve ever read, not to mention the main impetus for me sharing the totality of my feelings about Nate Cooper here today. It stems from the sequence in the film where Andy’s boss Miranda forces her to attend a very important gala at the last minute on the same night as Nate birthday party. She does, obviously, because this is her first job out of college and in that scenario you do what is asked of you (duh). It seems like a no-brainer, but not from the perspective of Nate, a grown man who proceeds to make a big deal out of his birthday. When Andy comes home from the gala, cupcake and lit candle in hand (no small feat), the birthday party is long over and Nate is sulking on the couch watching TV. She says happy birthday and apologizes for missing the festivities. He doesn’t respond. Finally, after what feels like an eternity of seconds, he turns off the TV with what is quite sincerely the most passive aggressive remote control click I’ve ever heard, topped only by what he says next: “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to bed.”
Don’t worry about it????? R U kidding me, Nate? This whole interaction would be ire-inducing if it wasn’t so humorous. Everyone knows adult birthdays are mostly anticlimactic and therefore not worth fussing over. The fact that Nate thinks his is more important than Andy’s career is a real hoot. I commend Adrian Grenier successfully completing this scene without cracking a smile.
Scene #6: “You used to make fun of the Runway girls.”
We have a doozy coming up here, ladies and gentlemen: an honest-to-goodness fight scene featuring Andy and Nate getting into it outside Lily’s art show. Andy is wearing a butterfly-printed chiffon camisole that I remember obsessing over the first time I saw it, but that’s a tangent for another time. Right now it’s all about Nate and the following tirade: “I wouldn’t care if you were out there pole-dancing all night, as long as you did it with a little integrity,” he says. “You used to say this was just a job. You used to make fun of the Runway girls. What happened? Now you’ve become one of them. That’s okay, that’s fine. Just own up to it. Then we can stop pretending we have anything in common anymore.”
BURNNNNNshakalaka. I am not a professional couple’s counselor and therefore do not deign to pretend that I know who’s right and who’s wrong or what’s up and what’s down in this instance, but I do wish Nate recognized that an interest in fashion does not minimize one’s intellect, nor one’s integrity. I also wish Andy proceeded to take up pole-dancing in retaliation. Instead, she does the next best thing and tells Nate they should go on a break.
Scene #7: “I have to be at work in 20 minutes.”
The Devil Wears Prada is a feel-good movie, and it has a mostly feel-food plot arc to match: girl gets job, girl is terrible at job, girl hustles at job and finally gets really good at it, girl realizes that if being good at said job means not feeling like the best version of herself then it’s not the job for her, girl quits and throws phone with torturous ringtone into Parisian fountain, girl interviews with a kindly editor at another news outlet.
It could have ended there and we all would have been happy. But no. Girl also meets up with Nate, conceivably for the first time since they went on a break. He starts the convo off by saying he has to be at work in 20 minutes, which prompts Andy to confess that he was right about everything. (Nooooooo.) She says she turned her back on everything she cares about. “For what?” she asks, a seeming rhetorical question, but Nate jumps in: “For shoes, for shirts, for jackets and belts” (all of which you are wearing in this scene, Nate, but who’s counting!). Andy apologizes. Nate smiles. He then uses this special moment to announce that he just got a new job as the sous chef of the Oak Room in Boston. Andy, being a normal supportive person when it comes to career milestones, says congratulations. Then: “I don’t know what I’m going to do without those late-night grilled cheeses.”
“I’m pretty sure they have bread in Boston,” Nate responds coyly. “They may even have Jarlsberg. We might be able to figure something out.” And thus, girl wins back guy. I’m sure this would be a logical happy ending in most cases. In the case of The Devil Wears Prada, however, it is most assuredly not. Nate is an immature, Jarlsberg-preoccupied egomaniac, and frankly, I think Andy can do better. That being said, The Devil Wears Prada would not be The Devil Wears Prada without him. Given my fondness for Miranda Priestly, I suppose I’m glad I still have at least one devil to root against.
Image by 20th Century Fox Film Corp via Everett Collection.