Sex and the City (2008) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Running time: 148 min
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, Jennifer Hudson, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone, Candice Bergen
Director: Michael Patrick King
Screenplay: Michael Patrick King
Review published October 4, 2008
HBO's hit series gets the big screen treatment, reuniting one of the more beloved quartets on television for one more regurgitation of a happy ending. Sarah Jessica Parker (Smart People, Failure to Launch) returns as the main character of the four, Carrie Bradshaw, who has made her living and reputation as a journalist and author describing her exploits as a single woman out on the town in New York City's decadent night life.
We catch up with the quartet about four years after we left them on the series finale. Carrie is still with her recurring main squeeze from the show, Mr. Big (Noth, The Perfect Man), now actively looking for that perfect apartment for both of them although she clearly would like to take that final step to consummate their relationship so she isn't left high and dry if things go south. Big offers her what she wants, marriage, though cold feet and the fact that a simple ceremony has blown up to headline-grabbing proportions makes Big get a little antsy, forcing a great deal of soul searching that sees it all come completely undone.
Miranda (Nixon, Little Manhattan) develops problems of her own in her marriage with Steve (Eigenberg, Garfield) when he expresses dismay that they can't seem to continue an active sex life and infidelity issues creep in. Samantha (Cattrall, Ice Princess) is also experiencing a certain restlessness in her relationship with Los Angeles TV celeb Smith (Lewis, Bobby Z), wondering if she can ever be truly happy being a one-man gal. Lastly, Charlotte (Davis, The Shaggy Dog) seems to have it all together, though things get a little more interesting when she finds out she may be due for another addition to the family.
With such a loyal fan base already in place, especially one that is just ecstatic at seeing the characters they feel they may have never had the opportunity to see again, it is safe to say that nothing I can say will keep those viewers from coming away disliking that which they are already heavily invested in. By the same turn, those who are tepid, or who dislike the show altogether, will likely not see anything in this marathon episode to change their opinions. If you have watched each episode over and over, you might even cry. If not, you'll wonder how anyone could like these shallow, materialistic characters enough to sit through two-and-a-half hours of shaky dramedy.
Sex and the City is directed by the TV show's executive producer, Michael Patrick King, and while he might know a thing or two about the characters, he stumbles in crafting a credible show worthy of a final (presumably) go-round for fans. Anyone who has seen their share of the television episodes will already know that one has to lower the bar of logic in order to have fun with the quirky humor and sexy shenanigans. However, one problem with King's script is that it doesn't allow anyone not already in love with the characters at the beginning of the picture to ever come close to actually liking them. In particular, Carrie Bradshaw is infuriatingly shallow (not necessarily unlike her small screen portrayal), but also quite stupid, to the point where we wonder if such a person is indeed worthy of a life of married bliss with a handsome, wealthy, and charismatic beau who seems only to exist in order to wait on her hand and foot. Carrie's only given reason for marriage: she doesn't want to be left with nothing if things go sour. What that tranlates to is that she wants to be fixed up for life in the event of a divorce. Ca-ching.
King's script contrives that Big begins to have doubts once he feels like the marriage has become too much of a spectacle, and he can't get a hold of Carrie in time because she can't find her cell phone. Couldn't he show up at the wedding then call her aside to talk? After all of ten years in acquaintance of one another, especially given the on again/off again relationship, you would think that that they'd know enough about each other's fragile state of sanity to know that not everything works out according to plan. The hole digs deeper when he also has second thoughts about his second thoughts, and when he comes around to talk to Carrie, she not only shuns him, she commits a sort of "damnatio memoriae" on him, refusing to take his myriad of voice messages or emails trying to reconcile. Given how tenacious Big is on getting Carrie back, you wonder why his efforts never extend beyond some token electronic messages.
It makes you want to jump up and down on your chair screaming at Carrie to see how many times she tells her new personal assistant, Louise (Hudson, Dreamgirls), to get rid of any correspondence from Big should he try to get in contact, then claim that he never has tried to get in touch with her, ever. Given that he knows where Carrie's old apartment is, does he knock on her door to get some face-to-face time? Not a chance. Despite the fact that he knows practically everyone who would ever know Carrie's whereabouts, it isn't until a chance run-in with Charlotte that Big even bothers trying to contact anyone still in contact with Carrie. Perhaps these shallow lovebirds belong together after all.
The whole middle hour is morose and sappy, and as bad as it is to have to take these characters as capable of being deep enough to manage despondency, it is further aggravated by King's attempt to force humor in scenes where it doesn't belong. One such scene has Charlotte accidentally swallow a little water in her Mexican shower, only to have a bit of Montezuma's revenge in front on her not-terribly-understanding friends, who guffaw with delight that Charlotte makes sick in her pants in the messiest of ways. At 2.5 hours, scenes like this don't exactly give the impression that King trimmed out the fat as much as he could.
Product placement abounds, along with incessant fashion designer name dropping. One can hardly fault the film for this tactic as, after all, the whole premise of the film is that it is a product itself, a name brand put out there to rake in more money from those who want to identify with the prestigious label of SATC fan.
It should be said that I'm not a "Sex and the City" hater. I liked the TV show. But the movie only succeeds if you already spot the film the momentum generated by the TV show. If you take it as a standalone film, it's a weak effort, touching all of the expected bases without much room for doing anything with the characters except have them spin around in circles only to end up where we felt they would be from the first moments of each respective conflict. if you're a fan, there's no shame in revisiting old friends one more time. If you're expecting a good film, it's just too thinly held together to merit even a hint of critical accolades.
©2008 Vince Leo