SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE (2008)
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, Jennifer Hudson, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone, Lynn Cohen, Willie Garson, Candace Bergen and Joanna Gleason.
Screenplay by Michael Patrick King.
Directed by Michael Patrick King.
Distributed by New Line Cinema. 146 minutes. Rated R.
In the movie version of the popular long-running HBO series about the very complicated love lives of four fabulous Manhattan women, the sex part takes a bit of a back seat. The most palpable passion in this film is for clothing. Okay, men always seemed to take a back seat in the series to a perfect pair of Jimmy Choos as well. This is even more noticeable now. In fact, the new film could be much more accurately titled Shoes and the City.
The singleton lifestyles of the ladies are mostly behind them. It has been four years since the series ended with a whimper, wasting an extended trip to scenic (and tres haute couture) Paris on a hackneyed and clichéd finale. (Well at least it was the finale until now). During that extended hiatus, Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda have entered their 40s (and Samantha her 50s) and all have essentially settled into committed relationships and safer lifestyles – for better or worse. Even sex-crazy commitment-phobe Samantha has become willingly monogamous.
The seeds for this whole new, more mature Sex and the City were actually sown in the final season of the series, which was exactly the moment that the show jumped the shark. Truth is I always liked the show up until the last season. Sure, the characters were shallow, superficial, selfish and sex mad. Oh, let’s face it, they were gay men in the ultimate drag – the real bodies of women. But that made the characters intriguing and different than most of what you could see on TV.
Sadly, the movie is even more somber and even harder to sit through. The film seems to have forgotten that the show was a comedy. There are some periodic minor laughs and screenwriter Michael Patrick King still has a way with a pithy line, but rather than the fizzy fun the show used to have, the movie feels like a long whine-fest. Cue up way too many episodes of our heroines morosely moping around. Most of the characters have at least one scene where they snap out in anger for reasons which are poorly set up and make little sense to their characters.
Unfortunately – and I will openly acknowledge that I am not the target audience – but watching as a straight man I have to say that not a single action by a male character makes any sense in the story. In fact, several: including an affair, a case of cold feet and an anticlimactic breakup, are almost impossible to believe as plot points. They just seem like rote excuses for a screenwriter to give the stars to complain about men when they weren’t talking obsessively about designer clothing.
Therefore, the film – which is an insanely long two hours and twenty-six minutes – is essentially the equivalent of five of the series’ more maudlin episodes run back-to-back in a marathon.
Sex and the City catches us up with these ladies’ lives in 2008. Four years later, Carrie is still dating Mr. Big – but they haven’t gotten married. Charlotte is happily nesting with Harry and their adopted Chinese daughter. Miranda is still living in Brooklyn with Steve and their son – and they are still having marital problems. In fact, the only character who seems to have had any kind of reinvention is Samantha, who has relocated to Malibu to manage the career of her boy toy Smith – though she seems to regularly return to Manhattan at the drop of a hat.
Lots of things and yet not much happens in the movie. We have weddings, babies, affairs, moving, traveling, lots of fights and very occasional sex.
There is only one new major character – (poorly) played by Dreamgirls Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson. I suppose writer/director King felt the need to add her character to address the long-time complaint that the Sex series had almost no black characters. However, if you are trying to have a token black, it’s probably not the most politically correct idea to make her in a subservient role – officially Carrie’s assistant, but essentially her gopher. And Hudson’s poor acting is almost stunning here – without the overblown song stylings of her previous role to distract an audience she seems awkward and stilted in every scene. It makes me doubt what I thought that I had seen in her in her earlier role – though not enough to actually watch Dreamgirls again. Then again, it seems to be a tradition for supporting Oscar winners to follow up their big win with an inexplicable stinker.
I suppose it is nice and brave of the filmmakers to try to keep the movie somewhat faithful to the basic format of the show. I’m sure that is what the real hardcore fans are looking for. However, there is nothing in Sex and the City which could not have made for an HBO miniseries. Not that they should have gone to the big screen and added special effects – but if you’re going to make a movie you should add something the viewer couldn’t get by watching the reruns.
Instead, there is the inevitable realization that as they have become more mature, the girlfriends have become undeniably less interesting. There is scene where the women are moving things from Carrie’s apartment of twenty years – an Upper East Side apartment she would have never been able to afford on a writer’s salary, by the way – cherry picking through her outdated fashions and Duran Duran vinyl LPs. They are all enjoying themselves; reminiscing, giggling, and rolling around on the ground – and it all has the desperate air of an oldies act.
At the beginning of the film, Carrie is doing one of her patented monologues about how every year new 20-year-olds are landing in New York in search of love and designer labels. She walks around a corner in a rather hideous dress with a huge bow and runs into a group of these exuberant newbies, who check Carrie out and complement her hot dress. Despite the fact that these new girls obviously have horrible taste in fashion, it still seems like their stories would probably be more intriguing than the soggy soap opera stuff we get here.
Interestingly, the whole problem with Sex and the City as a movie is encapsulated in a rather throwaway line. The friends are in one of their tres stylish clubs (which get much less play in the film than they did in the series – because they are serious about life and love now.) For Auld Lang Syne they all decide to order Metropolitans, the mixed drink they were famous for sipping on the show, but apparently hadn’t had in a while. One of them notes that they are still very tasty. “Why did we stop drinking these?” she asks.
Carrie immediately pipes in with, “Everyone else started.”
Sometimes in the furor to be trendsetting, hip, and edgy, superficial people – and superficial movies – forget what was so good in the first place.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 1, 2008.