Sunday, June 15, 2008

She Said: Sex and the City

Sex and the City is a mixed Louis Vuitton. I have hesitated reviewing the film version of my beloved television series until I could see it a second time. That second time happened last night, and sadly, it's still a mixed fashion accessory.

It is incredibly difficult for me to say anything negative about a film I was as anxious to see as this one. And, frankly, just seeing Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha one more time was enough to get me in the theater and enough for me to recommend this film to other SATC lovers. The exquisitely spot-on opening montage summary of the television series had fans in the screening room squealing with delight 2 minutes in, and was quite literally one of the movie's highlights. If you love the fabulous four, then you have to see this film, if just to bask in the loveliness and power that is them.

It's hard to complain when we have a film where female friendships mean more than male relationships, where aging is a beautiful sight, and where women's voices are heard. When are movies with these features ever made? Answer: They are not made. And that is one of the most compelling selling points of SATC.

However--and believe me, I am so incredible sorry to say there is a "however"--while SATC starts incredibly strong with a bewitching and dazzling first act, sinks fast and hard with a long, meandering middle act. Moreover, the very people who should see this movie the most--the die-hard fans of the television series--will or should be dissappointed by the unncessary hoops and incredibly wrong-headed decisions writer/director Michael Patrick King creates for the women who would not make said decisions. I am not for spoiling the plot, so I will just hint: there are decisions made by several characters (of both genders) which are not at all in line with their characters.

Simply put, the television series ended magnificiently, with closure that was true to each character. However, in his zeal to bring the show to the big screen, King (also an executive producer on the series) was forced to create tension, stumbling blocks, and outright untrue character "twists" in order to craft a 2-plus-hour narrative. In my mind, the end of the television series IS and will always BE the true ending. It is the most honest representation of who the women were and are. The movie was a dream, with pleasant visions and with sporadic nightmarish spots.

Further, it was disheartening to find the once female-empowering King infusing the screenplay with moments which indict the women for faults which are not theirs to own. To have four such strong characters, and to allow each of them room to breathe (like the series afforded) in a 2-plus-hour feature is a nearly impossible feat. So instead, the women are reduced to their stereotype and worse, some are implicated in the messes that the men create.

Sex and the City: The Movie also becomes more about fashion and the commodity of "stuff" then it is about the women, their relationships, and their power. Sure, as any viewer of the television series knows, fashion and the commodification of women played a monumental role. In fact, the glittery, glamorous, sexy "stuff" is probably what draws in most of the anxious moviegoers. However, in the television series, the accessories, though incredible, were just accessories, accessories which echoed who the women were or wanted to be. A bag, a label, a dress, a shoe would be introduced in order to drive the plot, a plot that the women took over. The film, however, becomes about the "things," and the women are the accessories. Some iconic fashion moments work in the film: the wordless, let-her-clothes speak for themselves; the Vogue shoot because it was an integral element to the Carrie Bradshaw character; and the splendid closet montage homaging trademark outfits of Carrie's past. I have to admit gleefully howling out loud with others at the appearance of her trademark pale pink tu-tu. Elsewhere in the movie, I found myself dumbfounded, marveling at the color of her walls, her plasma tv,  the extended fashion show, the egregious product placements instead of paying attention to the plight of the characters. That is a problem.

The television show was not perfect. First, there are issues I have which Ariel Levy so astutely points out in her marvelous book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, regarding the problem of empowering women through sexualizing and objectifying them, but that issue is seriously complicated and I will take it up soon on my other blog, The iKonoclast. But, the show was also "too white." The idea to introduce a woman of color to the film is admirable and "about time." It's always a delight to see the lovely, real womanly, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, but to an already overwrought plot, it really contributed nothing but extra baggage, even if fine-as-hell baggage.

In short, if you love the series, you have probably already high-tailed it into the theaters and have witnessed what I have said here. If you have not gotten a chance yet, it is worth seeing just to be in the women's company once again. If you have never seen episodes of Sex and the City (and a few from syndication does NOT count), then do not bother with this film. Instead, go out and rent each season of SATC immediately. Then, it will be worth it for you to rent the film, just to re-visit with old friends.


MichaƩle said...

I am a big fan of the series (HBO, not syndication!) and have yet to see the movie. I think I'm okay with what I already know, i.e., how the series ended and I would rather ostrich my way through this one. I prefer to remember the Fab Four the way they were meant to be enjoyed, in a all-too-rapid, 30-minute segment late at night on TIVO when the kids were in bed and it was a guilty pleasure all my own.

K McKiernan said...

Thanks for reading! You nailed it. I, too, was perfectly happy with the way the show ended. Once you have seen it or after you tell me I can spoil some parts, I would love to pinpoint how they go so wrong with the movie.

Stella said...

I confess. This is probably not a Stella movie. If you enjoyed the movie, K, then I'm happy. I think I wrote before that my tastes run towards the rather odd and obscure.

I'm more the "Donnie Darko" and "Jacob's Ladder" type. Sure wish they'd put "Deadwood" on the big screen.

Vigilante said...

How does one derive the acronym, SATC from 'Sex In the City'? Whatever. I currently don't watch any shows since Friday Night Lights went off commercial TV. But, for my money, Kim Cattrall is reason enough to watch this show. If only I could go cold turkey on my blogging habit.

J McKiernan said...


K made what is probably the most common mistake one could make when writing the film's title...she substituted "In" for "And." It's "Sex and the City." You will notice later in the review that the title is correctly written, plus it's in giant-ass letters on that poster.

At any rate, we'll go in and fix those little blips, thereby making this particular comment completely meaningless to future readers.