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Sex and the City is the Ladies’ Phantom Menace

Sex and the City
Written and directed by Michael Patrick King
New Line Cinema, 2008

Yep, the ladies get their own personal geek-fest out of the way this weekend. Sex and the City is their Star Wars. They are already selling out shows in advance. When a woman sitting next to me pointed out what kinds of shoes Carrie was wearing, it was like a nerd deconstructiing the blueprints of the Millennium Falcon.

During its run, the HBO series Sex and the City was filled with great wit and observation about the dating scene and deservedly became a huge hit. Although aimed towards women and generally considered kryptonite among men, really and truly any adult could enjoy it. Men could zone out during the odes to fashion but stay around to see what women thought of us. And what they had to say was interesting and many times funny.

So after six seasons, the women of the show were more or less settling down. It wasn’t the roller coaster ride of men and doomed relationships and the full report at lunch the next day by the end of its run. By rule, the movie had to be about the drama of forty-something relationships. Could the film come up with something pointed and witty to say about settling down?

The movie picks up where the series left off: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is moving in with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) into a sweet penthouse, and soon after, they get engaged. So the wedding planning commences. Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) is still out in L.A. living with hot TV doctor boyfriend Jerry (Jason Lewis), but she flies out to New York whenever possible. Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) has her adopted daughter Lily (played by twins Alexandra and Parker Fong) with husband Harry (Evan Handler) and is living the fairy tale married life. And Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) is living under shaky circumstances with husband Steve (David Eigenberg) and their son Brady (Joseph Pupo).

The problems between Miranda and Steve lead to some uncertainty for Big about marrying Carrie. After all, it’s his pending third marriage. So he picks the perfect time to vocalize those uncertainties by not showing up at the wedding. This puts Carrie into a deep depression. After going to her honeymoon destination in Mexico anyway, along with her three gal pals, she returns to New York, back to her apartment. She hires Louise (Jennifer Hudson) to be her assistant. Side stories abound: Samantha is finding committed relationships hard, especially when her boyfriend is never there and some stud that bangs a new girl every night is swinging his dick next door; Charlotte, whose problem was that she couldn’t get pregnant and thus the adoption, has become pregnant; and the ongoing battle for love between Miranda and Steve continues. Meanwhile, Miranda has a secret that she’s too afraid to tell Carrie.

The movie is terribly, awfully long (2 hours and 20 minutes minus previews), with none of that aforementioned wit or observation. Occasionally, the show’s caustic savior Samantha will say something in which is worth listening. But let me break this down: the movie stops for fashion shows several times. Carrie trying on wedding dresses from a bunch of important designers. Carrie trying on eighties outfits while her friends give her the thumbs up or thumbs down. Then literally, a fashion show. The movie stops dead when Carrie goes into her depression, sucking the film of life: Terms of Endearment’s ending was less depressing and someone dies at the end of that picture (Of course, later when Carrie is told, “It’s not like someone died,” she answers, “Didn’t they?”).

Then you have the meaningless Jennifer Hudson character, except for just one little deus ex machina thing. There is no reason to care about Louise other than the fact that she’s thoughtful. The movie also stops at a standstill (again) when Miranda finally unleashes her secret to Carrie, leading to the two not speaking to each other and adding the film with some more (much needed) depression.

The point is, when you rob a show like Sex and the City of its wit and observation, it becomes depressing, and like flipping through all the ads in Vogue. And while many women might be able to appreciate the other things the movie has to offer (fashion, fashion, fashion), I wonder if very much else will be taken out of this movie. I remember looking at the standee for Clueless back in 1995 and thinking that it was just going to be a big teen fashion parade with nothing to say. It ended up being one of my favorite comedies of all time, filled with quotable dialogue and likable characters. Sex and the City is exactly what I thought Clueless was going to be. It’s just plain awful.

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