Friday, June 13, 2008


Review: Sex and the City: The Movie
3.5 stars (out of 5)
by R. Kurt Osenlund

Pour the Cosmos and get out the Manolo Blahniks, because the ladies of Sex and the City are back, finally making their long-awaited leap to the big screen after four years of rumored cast catfights and development standstills. Just like the hugely successful HBO series on which it's based, this surefire hit is filled with friendships, fashion, and fun. And while some of the chic panache that kept the show running for six seasons (from 1998 to 2004) has been lost in translation, the millions of adoring fans who will - and should - flock to the fabulous summer confection will be happy to find that SATC's sassy spirit has remained intact.

Written and directed by longtime SATC writer/producer/director Michael Patrick King, the movie also picks up four years after the series finale, which saw Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) finally end up in the arms of the enigmatic Mr. Big (Chris Noth, the original “McDreamy”), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) beat breast cancer and settle in with her considerably younger boyfriend Smith (Jason Lewis), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) realize her dream of motherhood by adopting a baby from China with husband Harry (Evan Handler), and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) embrace family life in Brooklyn with son Brady and husband Steve (David Eigenberg). Viewers are given all that, and more, via a Cliff Notes-style opening credit sequence in which Carrie's trademark narration gets everyone up to speed. The writer/shoe aficionado's witty play-by-play also reveals that she's published two more books in the interim, and that a third is in the works. Charlotte and Miranda are both still enjoying domestic bliss, while continuing to meet their beloved girlfriend for lunches, cocktails, and shopping trips. Samantha has moved to L.A., where she's now using her PR skills to manage Smith's modeling/acting career, but still makes frequent visits to her home in the Big Apple.

Soon, it looks like wedding bells for Carrie and Big, the only logical next step and unanswered question in the story of SATC. But a premarital catastrophe throws the plot into a tailspin, which gives way to so many other plot lines that the film needs a running time of 148 minutes just to fit them all in. All is not well on the Hobbes home front, as Miranda finds herself possibly facing the single life once again. Charlotte announces that she'll finally be giving birth to a child of her own. Samantha is unhappy with monogamy, and has the food-as-sex-substitute pounds to show for it. The girls even head off to Mexico for a short while, and there's enough apartment-swapping to keep even the savviest New York real estate agent busy for weeks. Some may argue that a movie like this should “go big, or go home,” but to quote Carrie, it's often “bigger than Big,” and as they say in fashion, sometimes less is more.

One narrative thread - one that could use a little more development - introduces a new character in the form of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who plays Carrie's personal assistant, Louise. Bright-eyed and hopeful, Louise represents not only the black female demographic, but also the next generation of the modern American woman, which Sex and the City singlehandedly redefined.

Not to mention the fashion of the modern American woman, which this film takes no shame in giving top billing among its four leads. In the opening, Carrie concedes that “young women come to New York in search of the two L's: labels and love.” Such are the two most prominent themes of SATC, but here, the labels are so abundant and gratuitous that the love just barely sneaks through. Costume designer extraordinaire Patricia Field - fresh from her Oscar nomination for 2006's The Devil Wears Prada - is back to outfit the fab four, placing Carrie and company in some of the finest garments from across the world. It's great to look at, but big names like Vivienne Westwood, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Dior seem to have more screen time than Steve, Harry, Smith, and even Big himself, who's absent for most of the story. The result is an unnecessarily lightweight and overly materialistic tone; and the movie too often depicts Carrie as more of a mindless fashion junkie than a passionate thinker, a level to which the show never stooped. While seeing her shell out obscene amounts of money on designer shoes never ceased to thrill, the iconic character's ponderings, not her purchases, were what kept loyal, intelligent devotees coming back for more.

As always, the strongest moments are the ones that take place within the well-dressed quartet of friends, be them intimate or uproarious. Ever the authority on the importance of gal pals, SATC has long been as much about female camaraderie as it has about romance columns and couture. A hilarious sequence involving Charlotte and Mexico's undrinkable water supply will have audiences giddy with laughter, while another concerning a dispute between Carrie and Miranda may just bring them to tears. Much of that sisterhood's realism comes from the fact that Parker, Cattrall, Davis and Nixon seem to have these characters pumping through their bloodstreams. On-set quarrel rumors be damned: these four actresses appear so comfortable in the skin of their counterparts and among one another that it's hard to imagine any of them not thoroughly enjoying themselves. And if it is all an act, then all the more reason to applaud their talents. Together (again), they make Sex and the City: The Movie a delectable cherry on top of Sex and the City: The Series's smart and stylish sundae, despite its shortcomings.

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