6/03/2008

Sex and the City




Director:
Michael Patrick King

The poster says it all—a glamour shot of a contemplative, wised-up, possibly battle scarred Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) against a night background. She’s come a long way from the tutu, wandering through the sunlit streets in a toss between a ballerina’s grace and a tigress on the prowl. That was until cynical reality hit her in the form of a splashed puddle from a bus in the beginning of the television show’s timeless credit sequence that set up the sophisticated, randy, melancholy, witty and beloved award winning HBO series for its astronomically successful six season run. Yet in transferring the tale of single former love and sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw and her three best friends to the big screen, it’s evident fairly early on that the focus has changed considerably.

While it was always fixated on Carrie, there was never a shortage of compelling plots concerning the rest of the Manhattan quartet to elevate the series into a multilayered tapestry of humor, intellectuality and poignant truths. However, that’s quickly forgotten on the big screen as Carrie becomes not only the predictable leading lady but her cohorts are given so little to work with that they become as uninspired and clich├ęd as countless best friends in the romantic comedy genre, just there to offer a shoulder to cry on, try and deliver a well-timed joke, but never forget their place to stand in the background like a bridesmaid, never upstaging the bride on her big day.

Thus it’s only fitting that the film’s bride-like character becomes a bride as we check in with Carrie, five years after she went to Paris and got accidentally slapped by Petrovsky before the dashing, comical Big (Chris Noth) showed up, sold the key line, “I’m clocking this foreigner,” until Carrie tripped him in the hallway and they ended up falling on the floor and for one another (AGAIN) in a terrific series finale that’s quickly become one of the shows’ most memorable episodes. Now happily committed to Big whom we learn is really named John James Preston (after King’s favorite director Preston Sturges, creator of unforgettable comedies and also intriguingly the first kiss-proof lipstick which is no doubt a SATC staple), Carrie and the wealthy playboy decide unceremoniously in a nearly business mindset to wed before moving into their own corner of “real estate heaven,” namely, a breathtaking penthouse where the view is only outdone by the jaw-dropping, flatteringly lit, and highly organized racquetball court sized walk-in closet.

Obviously, Manolo Blahnik loving Carrie seems less intrigued by the prospect of a ring than the closet and before long, her wealthy, prim dark haired Grace Kelly like princess friend Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is lending Carrie her best gay friend Anthony (Mario Cantone) to plan the big day. While Charlotte is just as we left her, living a life of uneventful domestic bliss married to the good-natured Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler) complete with adorable puppies and a cute adopted Chinese daughter who, along with Harry and the puppies seem merely decorative, the tough-as-nails, heart attack waiting to happen, successful law film partner Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) is stretching herself too thin in her married life to her own puppy dog husband Steve Brady (David Eigenberg) and son. When a predictable wrench is thrown into her marriage after the unhappily ignored Steve acts out on his dissatisfaction, Miranda is even less thrilled than we’d expect to be involved with Carrie’s nuptials but it’s Carrie’s maid of honor, the show’s saucy vixen cougar Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) who coupled with countless frogs until she met her far younger, wart free, golden boy prince Smith (the dishy Jason Lewis), who we’re most stunned to see. Now living a largely hapless existence as a miserable stay-at-home manager to her actor lover in Los Angeles, Samantha is tirelessly devoted to her man yet finds her old urges haven’t disappeared with age when she begins obsessing about her lothario manwhore neighbor.

Rushing off to New York every chance she gets, Samantha and the girls pick up where they left off, yet instead of the fast-paced screwball laughs to which we’d grown accustomed, the sour tone of the Sex and the City movie is shockingly melancholic and while they’ve necessarily replaced the sex and single scene obsession of the show given their relationship status and maturity, by filling an exhaustive 145 minutes with endless fashion shows and product placements and using an uninspired Cinderella theme in lieu of the rampant feminism, it’s a more materialistic and less soulful version of Sex than one could possibly imagine. And even when writer/director Michael Patrick King tries to pen the required daring one-liner or raunchy hook-up, the execution feels sexless, clinical, cool and overwhelmingly tired, making me think that if the script itself had been a man, none of the foursome would have let him get past the first date.

With Carrie’s trio relegated to backup singers as Charlotte is prone to shrieking hysteria in virtually every scene, Miranda has grown even less cheerful, and Samantha is in desperate need of a hug, it pales in comparison to the six inventive seasons of the series. Although it was always a chicken soup show, making one feel better after a horrible date, breakup, or day at the office, and as a woman, I’m infinitely grateful for not only its existence but also that Hollywood actually released a film starring four women over the age of forty, in addition to Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, SATC’s dedicated fans deserve something much richer, vital and rewarding than what in the end feels about as deep as one of the latest new age self-help books such as The Secret, that hilariously Samantha Jones throws into the sand. Too bad it couldn’t have been the script! Needless to say, skip this and go back to your bookshelves to dust off the old DVD box sets.