SEX AND THE CITYR
The long wait is over for the ladies, gay men and those five heterosexual guys just dying to see the film version of “Sex and the City.” During its six-season run on HBO, it always fit squarely into the Guilty Pleasure category, even if it did—along with Giuliani and Disneyfication—bring an onslaught of clueless tourists into Manhattan, where foreigners once feared to tread, all of them avid for Cosmopolitans, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and designer shopping. A slightly older woman friend of mine once decried the show’s writing as “some gay man’s idea of how women talk,” and swore she never had such conversations with her gal pals. Well, by now an entire generation who grew up during the show’s tenure can be heard on any Greenwich Village street, talking just like Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis), all thanks to the show’s creator Michael Patrick King, something for which, as a resident of the nabe, I can truly vouch.
The sheer accumulated anticipatory goodwill of the audience is almost enough to carry the first hour of the film, and King has sated appetites with come-hither shots of Manhattan at its creamiest, funny cameos by some of Broadway’s most employed thespians, and a plethora of fashion parades—the hundreds of outfits sported by the four leads make this the most couture-heavy movie since the great days of Norma Shearer in Riptide and The Women. Shearer also brings to mind star/producer Parker, who, with her similarly unconventional looks and limitless drive, has transformed her unlikely self into not only a fashion icon, but a desirable babe and female model of aspiration. There’s a breezily poignant charm as the movie takes up four years after the last televised episode, showing Carrie walking city streets, still clad in outré Patricia Field-devised ensembles, smilingly encountering excited gaggles of younger girls who’ve come to NYC in search of “love and labels,” just as she and her friends did so many years ago.
However, once the rush of the set-up is over, things begin to lag somewhat in this 148-minute movie, which feels more like one overextended episode than a real film. The actresses all look terrific, glowing with health and re-energized verve, but King has not bothered to come up with anything new for them to do. Miranda is still bickering with true-blue, salt-of-the-earth husband Steve (David Eigenberg); Charlotte is forever dealing with the call of motherhood (now with the requisite Chinese adoptee); Samantha is worldly, all-knowing and horny; and damned if Carrie isn’t still mooning over the ever-elusive Mr. Big (Chris Noth, still smirking with Alpha entitlement), who finally stands her up one time too many. Now, didn’t we all think by the series’ end that that relationship, at least, was finally neatly tied up, after all those episodes of interminable break-ups and oh-so-predictable chance encounters?
Wouldn’t it at least have been refreshing to see Carrie actually working on her new fourth, undoubtedly blindingly successful, book, instead of inconsolably lying in a fetal position for half the movie? Things start playing out very rotely here, and then a new character, Louise (Jennifer Hudson), Carrie’s brusquely honest, take-charge new assistant, is introduced. But there’s little surprise there, either, for she turns out to be Hollywood’s latest version of the sympathetic black maid, fully equipped with a politically correct, inclusive (and very contrived) happy ending of her own. She, at least, has more screen time than those lovable “hag fags,” Stanford (Willie Garson) and Anthony (Mario Cantone), whose few pitiful lines have a whiff of afterthought desperation about them, or Charlotte’s husband, Harry (Evan Handler), who maybe gets one simpering close-up.
Men, men, men is really all that concerns the ladies and, all of them being seriously attached in some way, the sexual precocity which fired the show’s original success is tamped way down, apart from some eye candy in the form of Samantha’s hunky Lothario of a Malibu neighbor. Her storyline and character’s progression is actually the film’s most original—she was always the most diverting character, anyway—but it’s given short shrift in favor of Carrie’s woes.
It’s a pity that King didn’t take more of a chance with his fanatically devoted audience and give them something they may not have quite expected or even really wanted—more scenes, say, of the ladies actually working at the jobs they love. After all, if he was able to change the way young women think and speak—even on a glossy, superficial level—imagine what an influence to the good he could be in terms of female self-determination, even without—God forbid—a guy on the side?