THE POPCORN REEL FILM REVIEW/"Sex And The
City: The Movie"
Whether It's Labels Or Love, Charlatans And Cinderellas
Alike Seek Them In This Sexy Big Apple Fairy Tale
Omar P.L. Moore/May
"My name is Carrie Bradshaw." Fans of the immensely successful
television series need not know more, because with these four words they are
instantly sold. And though it takes a little more time for the film version of
the HBO series "Sex And The City" to make its case to non-fans -- just after the
one-hour mark to be precise -- the glitzy glamour campaign is a success, as
Michael Patrick King's "Sex And The City: The Movie", which has special midnight
screenings tonight in New York and Los Angeles before opening wide across North
America tomorrow, takes off as a witty comedy but improves and succeeds more
impressively as sincere adult drama. There is little however, to justify its
two hour and 25 minute length if only to show the many fashions, shoes, dresses
and other costume changes courtesy of famed designer Patricia Field. Still,
"Sex" is joyous adventure and entertainment, with a reunion of Gotham's Gal
Power Quartet as they share their hopes, fears, dreams, heartbreaks and glories
The film gets off to a flying start and much of what one needs to know to catch
up over the four intervening years since the end of the seventh season on HBO
are contained in a breezy, energetic opening credit sequence that is smartly
edited by Michael Berenbaum. The earmarks of the television series' structure
are imprinted on the big screen and its lead star Sarah Jessica Parker is in her
element as Carrie Bradshaw, the 40-year-old single lady next door, who writes
books (like Menhattan and The Single Life) and constantly suffers
the slings and arrows of Carrie-jilting lovers. Carrie just wants true love, as
we all do. Is that a crime? Ms. Parker is one of those talents who
is born to play the lovelorn Carrie, who shines as much in her chameleon moments
in a montage of gowns and dresses, sparkling in Vivienne Westwood, among other
designers. (Ms. Parker, a mother in real life, also sports the dress she
famously donned in the opening sequence of the popular hit television series.)
In other films like April's "Smart People" or 2006's "Failure To Launch" Ms.
Parker appears to lack a certain je ne sais quoi -- but she is so much a fixture
in the "Sex" television series and film as Carrie that not a soul would accept
even the world's best actress Cate Blanchett in the Carrie role.
For those not accustomed to the fabulous and fashionable foursome, Carrie is the
lead lady of this band of nouveau Butterflies (not Beatles), with a perky and
exacting Charlotte (a hilarious turn by Kristin Davis), the cynical and
truculent Miranda, a Brooklyn career attorney (New York stage actress Cynthia
Nixon), and the vamp-like Samantha (a vibrant Kim Cattrall, a native
Liverpudlian), who at 50 hasn't lost her appetite for all things manly. Somehow
Samantha has maintained a five-year relationship with Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis)
a semi-vainglorious buff-meister and workaholic, and has been living with him in
Los Angeles in a Malibu beachfront house, 3000 miles away from her closest
friends. But Samantha can't resist trips back to the Big Apple, for it (and her
drama-plagued friends) keep calling her name.
For Carrie, who clearly spent the bulk of her time in the weight room over the
last four years, the heart of the matter is still Mr. Big (a more nuanced Chris
Noth), the businessman extraordinaire who has money to burn and lots of closet
space to give. Through it all, they still have eyes on each other.
In this regard and almost all others, "Sex And The City: The Movie" is hardly a
radical departure from its small screen sister. It is written and directed
by Michael Patrick King, who directed and wrote many of the HBO television
episodes, and produced by Mr. King, Mr. Starr, John Melfi and Ms. Parker.
Candace Bushnell's original characters remain intact, with the addition of a new
face: Louise ("Dreamgirls" Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson), a fresh-faced
idealistic assistant from St. Louis whom Carrie hires to keep her life in order.
Ms. Hudson's appearance offers a welcome infusion of additional energy to a film
that threatens to sag a little -- although her character is glimpsed only
briefly and in the second half of the film. For the relatively few minutes
she has on screen Ms. Hudson is lively, elegant, endearing and charismatic in
her second big screen role, but Mr. King's film seems to view her more as a
splash of inspiration than a person to get to know. Though Ms. Hudson and
Ms. Parker have a natural chemistry on screen, when a film is almost two and a
half hours long, one would think that it would have an opportunity to flesh out
a key character in more detail.
Because of the film's length though,
giving one more time to ponder situations, viewers will feel some events in this
new "Sex" pang at their hearts more deeply. The audience's solar plexus is
stirred vigorously in several moments. And all those Internet rumors of a
certain character's demise are -- and here's no spoiler -- untrue. Lest
one forget, other characters that dotted the "Sex" television landscape are back
for this entertaining big screen Cinderella fairy tale in the Big Apple; Candace
Bergen shines in a cameo as subtly condescending Vogue magazine editor
Enid Frick, and Charlotte's candid and exacting wedding planner Anthony
Marentino is back. As played by Mario Cantone, the character of Anthony
has a lot of choice words offering some well-timed laughs, and Mr. Cantone seems
to be enjoying himself, as does Willie Garson, who plays Anthony's boyfriend
Stanford Blatch. A confidante and good friend of Carrie in the television
series, Mr. Garson's Stanford is relegated considerably here on the big screen
to observer and resident cheerleader, with his flamboyance oddly toned down.
Stanford has na'ary a word with Carrie for the most part, during the entire
film. Evan Handler is back as Charlotte's loving husband Harry.
Miranda's boyfriend Steve, played well here by David Eisenberg, is probably the
most authentic man in the film. Mr. Eisenberg perfectly captures a real
man, someone prone to error yet also willing to look deep within himself and be
vulnerable. Miranda and Steve's relationship is the least caricatured of
all the film's relationships and the emotion that springs forth from their
predicaments is genuine both on screen and in the audience.
Dry eyes are optional in some parts of the film, which pulses against the Big
Apple's aura, yet ironically New York City is less a character here than the
trailer for the film suggests. One other note: real-life Vogue
editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley gets his cameo in the sun in a non-speaking
sunglasses-wearing moment during the Carrie montage, onscreen for even less time
than George C. Wolfe was in "The Devil Wears Prada", a film which might be an
odd but completely compatible and relatable cousin (or prequel) to this new
film, which has an inescapably predictable air to it.
"Sex"'s second half once again though, is the jewel of the entire event
experience as the four ladies mature and life north of 40 becomes more real to
them. The acting here is also better, with the film's situations becoming
less cartoonish and more serious. Mr. King's screenplay is sharper -- even
though much of the juice has been squeezed out of some of the characters'
situations -- with some great lines for Ms. Nixon and Ms. Davis in particular.
Ms. Davis just about steals the show overall, but for sheer exertion and
audience engagement Ms. Cattrall wins out as the voracious Samantha who wins the
best one-liners title. The film's soundtrack isn't half bad either, though
not every song on the CD turns up in the film (India.Arie's terrific and
introspective "The Heart of The Matter" is a virtual no-show, although it is
prominent in the film's trailer), while more pulsating dance beats and melodies
like the triumphant "All Dressed In Love", by Jennifer Hudson appears near the
end of the film and Fergie's Madonna-sound-alike vocals punctuate a pugnacious
"Labels For Love", which shows up during the end credits and not earlier, where
it should be.
But at the end of the day, "Sex And The City: The Movie" reaches its core
audience: the ladies, who will be looking at and enjoying with relish the
intimacies and open talk between the celluloid members of their sex. And
though a fair amount of men -- both fans (this writer confesses to being among
them) and the curious -- will turn up to watch Samantha and see a few of the
steamier sex scenes in the film, it is the women of the audience who have the
last look, and laugh.
"Sex And The City: The Movie" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of
America for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. The film's
duration is two hours and 25 minutes. Prepare to be Carried away.
The film has midnight screening tonight in New York City and Los Angeles and
will open across the rest of the U.S. and in Canada tomorrow.
Copyright The Popcorn Reel. PopcornReel.com. 2008. All Rights