Totally sick of hearing about Sex and the City: The Movie by now? Heard all the plot points? Read all the spoilers? Does actually watching the movie seem almost pointless? Still want to see it anyway? Yeah. And the reviews from some of the biggest news sources are in. And they're mixed. The movie is "fitfully enjoyable" but "earnest, often aimless" and "trivial and disposable" and "visually bland." Sarah Jessica Parker is "a nimble performer" but Carrie looks like a "witchy, old drag queen." Wait, what? The last of the reviews (thank god), after the jump.
The production captures the way TV used to be — before cable, alas, and before the advent of groundbreaking shows, like SATC, that pushed, ripped and shredded the envelope of episodic entertainment. It's fitfully enjoyable, and maybe better than that for those who loved the series and have been waiting eagerly for more. But in contrast to the series, which was quick-witted, fast-paced and self-ironic — oh, and sexy — the movie is earnest, often aimless (couldn't anyone cook up a plot?), visually bland (except for the fashion shows) and, at two minutes short of 2½ hours, a decreasingly amiable meander. Here's one helping of more that manages to be less.
Not a drop of the forthcoming plot had been leaked in advance, but I took a wild guess. "Apparently," I said to the woman behind me in line, "some of the girls have problems with their men, break up for a while, and then get back together again." "Oh, my God!" she cried. "How do you know?"...I was never sure how funny the TV series was meant to be. It kept lapsing into a straight face, even a weepy one, as the characters' contentment came under serious threat. This uncertainty survives into the movie, which made me laugh precisely once, as a magazine editor let fly with a Diane Arbus gag. It is no coincidence that she is played by Candice Bergen, who gets just the one scene, but who is nonetheless the only bona-fide movie star on show. You cannot simply shift a load of television actors onto a movie screen and expect them to command its greater expanse; only one in a thousand will be able to summon that mysterious confluence of presence and reserve on which stardom relies-the will both to offer oneself to the camera and yet to keep back the hidden, unguessable sources of that self. We should not be surprised, therefore, that Kim Cattrall's come-ons wilt in the transition; but who would have guessed that Sarah Jessica Parker, a nimble performer who has had a career in movies aside from the TV show, should also seem diminished and ill at ease?
There was something seductive about the bubble world that the show created back in 1998, in the fantasy that all you needed to make it through the rough patches were good friends and throwdown heels. That was a beautiful lie, as the show acknowledged in its gently melancholic return in the wake of Sept. 11. Back in Season 3 Carrie asked, "Are we getting wiser, or just older?" The ideal, of course, is to do both. There is something depressingly stunted about this movie; something desperate too. It isn't that Carrie has grown older or overly familiar. It's that awash in materialism and narcissism, a cloth flower pinned to her dress where cool chicks wear their Obama buttons, this It Girl has become totally Ick.
The movie's initially brisk pacing slackens when the girls spend a holiday in Mexico that's long enough for them to cycle through an entire resort-wear collection. Samantha disappears entirely for stretches, and her story arc contains some of the movie's most painfully unfeminist jokes (in which we learn, for example, that vigilant pubic grooming and toned abs are essential to female self-esteem). And an attempt to address the series' endemic whiteness by adding a subaltern black character-Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's designer-bag-toting Girl Friday-is a major misfire that only underscores our heroine's oblivious entitlement. But if you bear even a grudging affection for the show's utopic vision of female bonding as the greatest love of all, you may get choked up when Carrie appears at Miranda's door one shitty New Year's Eve (clad only in pajamas, a sequined cloche, a full-length fur, and what appear to be patent-leather spats) and reassures her friend, "You're not alone."
For a film that delights in indulging in frivolity at every possible turn, it examines subjects that most movies don't dare graze for their terrifying seriousness. And when it does, the movie handles them with surprising grace, wit and maturity. In other words, it's a movie for grown-ups of all ages. The press and industry screening I attended was uncharacteristically packed with women in their 20s, and my guess is that their interest had zero to do with the inclusion of Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's personal assistant — though her character, Louise, is likable and allows the writer to expand the scope of the film from a story about four friends living in New York into a tale about the contemporary lives of urban women from early adulthood to maturity.
Admittedly, it's harder to get away with lapses like that when you're dealing with characters that a large part of your potential audience feel they already know. Then again, why mangle perfectly good characters for the sake of your plot? The psychodrama between Carrie and Big, which looms over the movie like an oppressive mushroom cloud, does play out in a way that's true to both their characters. But King takes far too long to get to the point. What's more, the movie's second and third bananas — played by appealing actors like Willie Garson, Mario Cantone and the aforementioned Handler — have almost nothing to do. King rustles together a quickie romance for two of his minor characters, but the thing is so amateurly taped together (and so minor) that you wonder why he even bothered.
It certainly has its faults, from the superficial – Carrie looks like a witchy, old drag queen when she dyes her hair dark, and Samantha wears too much fur – to the serious. I seriously hated the ending. But this is not a real film, in the sense of Oscar-worthy performances or scriptwriters. It's just a big, blown-up, brash version of the show, like watching five of the soppier episodes back-to-back. But as anyone who has ever spent a day snuggled up on the sofa with a box set will know, that's no bad thing.
In years to come, I suspect - and hope - that people will watch this movie, laugh at the naivety of its faux sophistication, and find its assumptions as quaint, bigoted and unconsciously racist as those of Gone With The Wind. Horribly, but typically, the four leading women end up believing, I kid you not, that their biggest fault is not loving themselves enough. One of them actually leaves her lover with the gob- smacking line: 'I love you, but I love me more.'
It is all very trivial and disposable, and yet for all its contrivances, its brand-name silliness and its amplified problems afflicting the comfortably-off metropolitan classes, I can't help thinking this is still a cut above the sinister romcom slush that we are fed, week in, week out. It is still unusual to see a film that features women as the leading characters of their own lives, and which attempts to imagine life after marriage. Like something glutinous from the pudding menu, Sex and the City isn't exactly wholesome, but it won't do you much harm this once.
Some dudes say they'd rather light their dicks on fire than endure this movie version of the ultimate in TV chickcoms. Snap out of it, guys, you just might learn something. If the film didn't go on for a punishing two and a half hours, including two fashion shows and countless designer name-checks, I might call it must-viewing for men who are clueless about the female psyche. Come on, what men aren't?
Sex and the City: The Movie opens today.