Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sex and the Blockbuster

As corny as this might sound, seeing Sex and the City: The Movie was like reuniting with old, cherished friends. At the first glimpses of our four girls in the opening credits recaps, time just melted away, a smile lit up my face, and a warm sensation of familiarity washed over me. Had it really been four years since the show ended? Boy, did I miss them.

The film picks up three years after the series left off. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) are still dating (of course, not married yet - typical Big - and no, I can't call him by his real name, it's too weird), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Steve (David Eigenberg) are raising their son Brady in Brooklyn, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Harry (Evan Handler) are raising their darling adopted daughter Lily, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), in undoubtedly her longest relationship, is living in LA, thousands of miles from her best friends in NYC, representing her beau, Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis), in his acting career.

*Now, there will be spoilers. You've been warned.*

Carrie and Big decide, in a pretty unromantic fashion, to get married. They even find a lush apartment complete with Carrie's dream closet (first time I ever heard people gasp at a closet in a movie theater). The girls have not been keeping in touch as often, and so whenever they get back together, I almost wept with joy at their sheer euphoria. Samantha makes frequent trips to NYC. She isn't happy in LA, despite a tasty morsel of a neighbor who likes to shower outside naked and have wild sex in front of open windows (Samantha and Smith have hit a rut, so she, ever the eager voyeur, gets her thrills vicariously). The wedding plans ensue, and Carrie poses in a bunch of fab designer gowns for an issue of Vogue in which she's proving that women can still work it in their 40s. Meanwhile, Steve tells Miranda that he cheated on her. At the rehearsal dinner, Miranda makes some drunken, bitter comment to Big about how stupid he and Carrie are to go through with it. Big, ever-impressionable and flaky, lets his doubts consume him. He tries to call Carrie all the next morning, but her phone has been misplaced. Still, not the best way to tell her the news. The girls show up at the huge, lavish wedding, all decked out, and Big cowers in a limo outside. Carrie finally confronts him, and surprise, he calls it off, which leads to a really powerful, moving moment when Charlotte attacks him, viciously telling him to leave her alone.

The foursome goes to Mexico on what would have been the honeymoon. Carrie mopes, understandably, and the other three provide comfort and support and try to cheer her up. While there, Charlotte reveals that she's pregnant, which is huge because they thought she was infertile, hence the adoption. Okay, I'm going to try to wrap up the plot, because I have a lot to say about this film. Let me oversimplify: Miranda and Carrie are both holding grudges against their men (the men are groveling, Big through e-mails, lamely) and trying to figure out whether to forgive, Jennifer Hudson randomly shows up as Carrie's personal assistant and offers sage advice, Samantha gets a horny female dog that likes to hump everything in her path, Samantha's depressed because she feels like she's lost herself and overeats to compensate, she gets a little chubby, more significantly, she decides that she doesn't want her life to center around a man and declares her grand single independence (you go, girl!), Charlotte runs into Big and gets to confront him with her long-prepared "I curse the day you were born!" (it got one of the biggest laughs), her water breaks, Big takes her to the hospital, she gives birth to a baby girl that they name Rose, Carrie and Big meet up there, they get back together, she wears a frumpy, non-designer white suit-outfit to their unceremonious court wedding, and the whole gang celebrates with a reception at a diner. And I win for writing the longest sentence ever.

Before I delve into analysis, I will say that the film is really well-made. It sparkles visually, and Michael Patrick King, resident series genius, establishes a nice, sleek style and does a great job writing and directing. I'm glad they didn't hand it off to someone unrelated to the show. I think he did the best job he could.

I wish I thought this was the perfect film, but I don't. I have major issues with how it all turned out. So, I'm going to start with my negative reactions. Jennifer Hudson was pointless. It was nice that she was helping Carrie, but that's a job for Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda. They can take care of her just fine.

Okay, I'm just going to say this: I don't like how Carrie's "fairytale" ends. I don't like Big. I never got the appeal. Certainly Carrie could do better than a guy who takes her for granted, walks all over her, and treats her like crap. But, there are women who like that. I guess Carrie's a bit of a love sadist. Does that make me love or respect her any less? No. She's a real human being with real flaws. That makes her stronger to me. Still, I want more for her in the love department. Big calling off the wedding was inexcusable. Carrie taking responsibility for it by saying "I let the wedding get bigger than Big" is pathetic and just the kind of thing society would want a woman to think. It's not her fault. She should have her dream wedding if she damn well wants to, and he should be understanding and loving enough to give it to her, especially after all the grief he caused her over ten years.

And then, how Big grovels is to send her e-mails containing love poems written by other people. He didn't even find them himself; he only knew of these poems because Carrie was dreamily reading them to him one night in bed. The e-mail that seals the deal for Carrie isn't more than a couple lines. I can't remember exactly what it says, just something about him screwing up, and then, from a poem, the words, "Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours." Please. He should be writing her the most gushing love letters ever, in his OWN words. I do believe that Carrie is happy and that she loves him, so can I really fault her? Well, yes, I can, and I will. But on the other hand, I support her decisions as if she was my best friend. I mean, despite their happy exteriors, I know Charlotte, Samantha, and especially Miranda were biting their tongues. And Carrie getting married in court, not wearing a label? That's just not Carrie. I feel like she's compromising too much of herself for the dud that is Big. And if anyone tries to compare him to Cary Grant, I will personally hunt you down. But, given how the show set it up, I guess there wasn't any way she could end up with anyone else. And, as Carrie says, "It wasn't logic, it was love."

Now, on to the overwhelming positives. Even if Carrie's choices are questionable and her feminist integrity is a bit shaky, she's still a pretty amazing heroine - smart, successful, comfortable with her femininity and sexuality, and resilient. All four women are successful, self-sufficient, and strong, and I know that scares men. As for the other men in the group, Harry and Steve are great guys, so they kind of make up for Big. Steve did cheat on Miranda, but he actually has feelings and was always totally devoted to Miranda, so her forgiveness not only makes sense, we demand it.

And then there's Ms. Samantha Jones, a true pillar of feminism. I worship her. I had honestly forgotten how wonderful she is. Samantha breaks up with Smith because she refuses to let her life revolve around a man. She rightly asks, "Is a relationship saying his name fifty times more a day than my own?" Samantha is selfish, yes, but she's not ashamed of it. She loves herself more than any man, and I think that's a great message. We should all love ourselves that much. We don't need men, no matter what anyone says. Women are completely capable of being self-dependent. Samantha is an inspiration.

By the way, the acting is astounding. It's great to see Sarah Jessica Parker in a movie worthy of her talent. She hasn't lost one iota of that Carrie magic. She makes us root for Carrie with her touching, funny, and subtly beautiful performance. Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon are back in top form, but the real stand-out for me is Cattrall. She just rocks this movie. Every line she said brought down the house. She's such a scrumptious delight. And she still looks amazing. They all do.

Without question, though, the best part of the show is the best part of the film: the camaraderie between the four women. The film was satisfying because I got to spend two and a half hours with them again. In fact, my biggest problem with the film was that it ended. I instantly missed them again. Their friendship is so empowering. They're always there for each other. In fact, they've referred to each other as soul mates, and I agree with that assessment. You know, when it comes down to it, the men are rather incidental. It almost doesn't matter who they end up with, because the love that matters is the love that Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha share. Nothing can ever break them up. That's the real fairytale ending.

The midnight screening of Sex and the City that I attended was exhilarating. The place was swarming with women. I was practically moved to tears by the sight of women of all ethnicities (seriously, all ethnicities - it was the U.N.) and backgrounds banding together and collectively celebrating our gender and this remarkable show that itself has given us so much to celebrate and be proud of over the years. It was truly inspiring.

Sex and the City is the first female blockbuster, and as such, it deserves respect. This is such an important milestone in feminist history. I'm honored to be a part of this phenomenon. Step back, men. It's our moment. And you know what? That's just fabulous.

Rating: ****1/2 (out of 5)

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