Big screen version of SATC is mostly a success

Sex and the City

on May 30, 2008 by Sara Schieron

From the film’s opening remarks, Sex and the City makes a clear and present effort to keep everyone, even the uninitiated viewer, on the inside of the action. This does, however, result in some forgivable redundancies, but it’s these redundancies that contribute to the film’s TV-quality feel. This isn’t wholly inappropriate and won’t likely wound public opinion, but for a film that’s had ages to pull it together, some dissatisfaction is only inevitable. Ultimately, the film’s one big love bite with a 1,001 other love bites in tow. At this point, it’d be a miracle if it didn’t rake it in at the box office.

The film takes up with the principals three years after the end of the titular series. Charlotte’s (Kristin Davis) adopted daughter is now a well-dressed toddler, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is business-managing her model lover in Los Angeles, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is grumpily struggling through her full-time job and family and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is writing books and happily courting Mr. Big (Chris Noth), who finally has a name, since he’s no longer an anonymous character in a newspaper column.

In a context that seemed beyond taboos, SATC built its niche from couture and sexual politics. The dialogue about anal sex in the back of the cab in Season One provided its audience next-day water cooler chat, but more noticeably addressed the fact that sex, especially in the context of budding relationships, is lousy with strategy. Though the “fab four” (I hate this phrase, but it’s convenient) never necessarily grappled with traditional models of morality, their ongoing dialogues about sex and power were played for laughs, emphasizing the ironies and indignities present in such crucial (if absurd) machinations. Though there’s plenty to criticize in the series, it did maintain a sense of identity that seems lacking in the feature.

The film is founded on a series of products (the show, the Mercedes GLK, Louis Vuitton handbags, Manolo Blahnik shoes) and as such generally lacks a center. The characters have already been suitably established, they’re simple to remember and costume-coded for easy recall. And since they themselves have been transformed into their own appropriate products, there’s little need for the film to delve into them much further, which is odd because they endure some dire circumstances, and that’s generally the time the screenwriter pulls out his Deleuze and starts the head scratching.

In terms of narrative, nothing is too out of place (except for Jennifer Hudson, who’s great but a somehow unnecessary diversion) and the film moves at a consistently breezy clip. The only truly objectionable part of the film is the music. It lacks place, is overly dramatic and misses out on the comical dry notes that the music often provided the show. Props should go to Kristen Davis, who seriously outperforms her peers. Two scenes involving her and Big are absolutely memorable, and rife with the sort of offhand humor that were hallmark for the series.

I can’t help but wonder with the film’s over-commodification, its high-end hype, its excessive PR, what the entity of Sex and the City has become. In its way, it was a tricky property, but now the messy controversy it wielded to potentially meaningful ends is lost amidst the trappings of consumer culture. This is not to say that within the film there’s no spark of humanity: I actually think there is, it’s just swimming beneath some conspicuously high-end drag.

Still, you won’t be sad you bought a ticket. It’s the fashion Olympics. Think of it that way, and what’s not to like?

Distributor: New Line
Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, Candice Bergen, Jennifer Hudson, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Jason Lewis, Mario Cantone, Lynn Cohen andWillie Garson
Writer/Director: Michael Patrick King
Producers: Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Star and John Melfi
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Running time: 145 min.
Release date: May 30

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