Baseball Toaster Western Homes
Long Night of Sex
2008-06-04 15:05
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Yes, I went to see the Sex and the City movie. I didn't have to be dragged to it, either. I'm sure I wouldn't have gone if it weren't for my girlfriend, but it's not as if she had to beg and plead. I was curious in an academic sense about how the show would translate to film, and at least a little interested in the continuing storylines of Carrie and her cohorts. I don't have any memory of ever deliberately setting out to watch the whole "Sex and the City" TV series, but between my sisters, those surprisingly ubiquitous basic-cable reruns, and the research department (one of the series' biggest straight male fans), I seem to have more detailed memories of the show's plotlines than many who have.

In that very fact might lay the key to the whole reason that the Sex and the City movie doesn't work. The TV show was never very much for plot; it was girl meets boy, girl loses boy, again and again and again. It was always blatantly obvious whom the ideal matches for each of the girls were, even if these supposedly successful New York businesswomen were completely unable to figure it out for themselves. The heart of the show wasn't getting from Point A to Point B, it was the breezy dialogue, titilating sex talk, and the painstakingly chosen wardrobe choices.

All of those things make their way into Sex and the City, the movie. Speaking as someone who pretty much wears a baseball cap, a T-shirt, and dilapidated khakis every time he leaves the house, I absolutely loved the pretty outfits the girls model. I totally got in touch with my feminine side, or my gay side, or whichever, seeing all of the bright colors and bold designs up on a huge screen. For the first time, I started to understand why whole books of "Sex and the City" fashion choices have been published. I don't have great eyesight, and on TV it was less obvious to me how carefully the costume designers worked to make sure that each outfit was perfect for the setting and content of each scene. It's impossible to ignore in the film, where each scene featuring the four women together practically begs you to get the DVD, pause it, and see just how marvelously everything works in harmony. Or even better, Blu-Ray! That's right, the film that's going to get me to upgrade to Blu-Ray is the Sex and the City movie.

The banter and the sex talk are out in full force, as well. Indeed, too much, as any time the four girls are around a table director/screenwriter Michael Patrick King feels obliged to throw in some stuff that doesn't advance the plot any. The movie is sitcom-paced the whole way through, and while it stays snappy for an impressive hour and fifteen minutes or so, it keeps going for another hour after that. Wonderful fan service, I suppose, and keeping the spirit of the TV show alive, but as far as providing a good time in the movie theater for someone who's more of an admirer of the original series than a diehard fan, it fails. The conflicts for Samantha, Carrie, and Miranda have resolutions that are all obvious the minute they're introduced, and poor Charlotte doesn't even get an arc.

The movie does make a certain degree of a concession to the changed scale by giving the male foils a bit more to do. David Eigenberg, always good on the series as Miranda's long-suffering Steve, stays more sympathetic than Cynthia Nixon does, even though it's he who cheats on her. Chris Noth at first seems a little uncertain as to how to create a full-blooded human out of the once-ephemeral Mr. Big, but his concerns about his marriage to Carrie play as the only three-dimensional conflict in the film. Unfortunately, he disappears for nearly two hours. Jennifer Hudson's personal assistant character serves absolutely no function whatsoever other than to needlessly extend the picture another fifteen or minutes or so -- and saddling Hudson with an underwritten part that amounts to a kid-sister impression of Sarah Jessica Parker is a waste of her talents.

The "movie" feels for all the world like a straight-to-DVD release of five episodes. That's how it should have come out, but that would have deprived the "Sex" machine from charging their fans once to see the film in the theater and then again for the home release. Rather than packaging that home video version as a single film, they ought to just go ahead and chop it up into episodes, using deleted footage to make the lengths uniform. They could even add them right into the syndication cycle! Only then would this "movie" really play as the true successor to the TV series and not a massive craven cash grab.

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