May 29, 2008

Sex and the City

Question: What is the combined age
of the stars of "Sex and the City"?

Grade: C +
Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, and Jennifer Hudson
MPAA Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes

As a celebration of levity, labels, and libido, Sex and the City is a communal phenomenon for women (single or not) in the same way Harry Potter and Star Wars are for their respective target audiences. In that way, the film extension of the HBO series is virtually critic-proof: fans of this post-modern fairy tale will continue to gasp at the sight of Louis Vutton handbags and cavernous walk-in closets no matter the script housing them.

Happiness was the buzzword when we last glimpsed the SATC foursome at the end of their television run, all set to leave behind their chronically single lives and finally cross the threshold of domestic tranquility. The pivot, of course, was 40-year-old ultimate single girl Carrie’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) umpteenth reunification with the notorious Big (Chris Noth), which quickly evolves early in the film into a marriage proposal.

It spoils nothing to anyone who has glimpsed three seconds of the movie’s trailer to reveal that the lavish, Vogue-sponsored wedding is eventually called off when Mr. Big gets cold feet. While forgiveness is the film’s de facto theme, this is a subcult in which leaving your fiancĂ©e (and her Vivienne Westwood haute couture) at the alter and keeping secrets from your friends is higher up the cardinal sin scale than adultery. About the time Carrie begins wallowing in self-pity, Sex and the City begins to wallow in the wilderness of a meandering screenplay that lacks scope and depth before returning its protagonists largely to the same position they started. Writer-director Michael Patrick King fails – or perhaps does not even try – to translate the series’ episodic construct for the big-screen. The consequence is a halting, fractured narrative that feels like five half-hour episodes spliced together.

Case in point is Carrie’s new personal assistant, Louise (Jennifer Hudson), who shows up one-third into the film. Louise’s inclusion might flow from the long-standing criticism that the television show lacked enough “color.” If so, the answer is almost more offensive, hurling an ill-prepared Hudson into this august milieu for a superfluous lackey role that calls for her to wax poetic with Carrie about "booty calls" before swiftly exiting without being given the chance to impact anything. Indeed, so throwaway is Hudson’s character that she never even meets the other three friends, almost as if she was brought in late in the production to tack on some scenes with Parker.

Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda deals with spousal infidelity, Kim Cattrall’s Samantha copes with advancing age and a bicoastal homesickness that prompts her to jet east at least a half-dozen times throughout the movie, and, as princess Charlotte, Kristin Davis continues her struggle with an inability to act. With the exception of Cattrall, who remains the saucy life-blood of this party of four, gone is much of the television series’ edginess and ribald humor – two of the film’s principal sight gags involve a poop joke and Samantha’s sex-obsessed pet dog repeatedly humping the nearest inanimate object. In its place is a powder-puff, self-indulgent storyline that plays more like a reunion show devoted to the dual purposes of product placement and advancing the Sex and the City iconography.

Consider it a victory for the fashionistas – just don’t expect everyone to be waving the flag.

1 comment:

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