June 5, 2008

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Sex and the City (R)
Carrie Bradshaw and her gals return to wrap up HBO’s high-heeled fairy tale in Sex and the City, the longish-awaited movie putting a cherry on top of the series.

It’s been four years since the show went off the air and four years in the lives of the characters. Not that anyone who hasn’t seen the show is likely to wander into the theater for the movie, but, just in case, the credits sum up everyone’s status. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is married and lives with her husband Steve (David Eigenberg) and their son Brady (Joseph Pupo) and Brady’s longtime nanny Magda (Lynn Cohen) in Brooklyn, a domestic transition she’s still rather bitter about. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has moved to Los Angeles with Smith (Jason Lewis), the boyfriend whose career she manages but who is taking over too much of her life for comfort. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is blissfully married to Harry (Evan Handler) and blissfully raising Lily (Alexandra and Parker Fong), the daughter whose adoption was the answer to Charlotte’s prayers.

And then there’s Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), still writing in her apartment window but otherwise spending her time with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), who is actually given the name John James Preston but is still mostly referred to as “Big.” The not-quite-there-ness of this almost-partnership starts to gnaw on Carrie when the couple looks at an apartment that Big will buy and they both will live in. Between that and the woeful story of another girlfriend who found herself on the curb with no legal right to money or property, Carrie decides to poke around the subject of marriage.

By now you’ve either seen the trailers (and the many many photo spreads) or you don’t care that much about this movie anyway, so I don’t think it’s much of a SPOILER ALERT-requiring bit of news to say that Big lets himself get pushed into an “OK, let’s get married”-type arrangement. Thus ensues a parade of wedding dresses and giddiness bringing us to the shot of Carrie in the Mini Cooper-sized Vivienne Westwood dress with a bird pinned to the side of her head (yes, a bird, as Carrie later informs us). I leave it to your knowledge of the extended trailers to guess what happens next, except to say that, yes, Jennifer Hudson shows up and, no, we shouldn’t talk about it. (It’s not totally her fault; it is really way too late for Sex and the City to start worrying about diversity.)

This movie is two hours and 25 minutes long. Longer, I heard one film critic remark, than Letters from Iwo Jima. (You can fill in your own joke about the comparative amounts of suffering.) That’s a whole lot of sex puns from Samantha, big-eyed reaction shots from Charlotte and bitter side-of-the-mouth comments from Samantha. But if you’ve been waiting four years for this movie, I doubt the halfway-to-New-York-City-by-car length of it will even slightly dampen the joy of your experience watching this.

In fact, if you’ve been genuinely, eagerly waiting for four years for this movie, I’ll bet this whole movie is nothing but joy — giddy, happy, warm, two-cosmos-like joy. I say this because watching the movie reminded me of all the things I felt watching the show. And if I, a basically anti-fan who nonetheless tuned in, can remember my aggravation and occasional disgust (a writer simply can not afford those shoes), I’m sure the real fans will renew their sense of fantasy-fueled glee.

The same things that aggravated me about the show — the surprising unlikeability of Mr. Big, the excessive materialism, the extremely prolonged adolescence, the sense of entitlement — exist here. The same things that fascinated me are here too — the same crazy, artistic approach to fashion, the refreshingly honest relationship between the four women, the have-fun approach to sex. Complain, defend, examine, discuss, but you can’t say the movie doesn’t bascially deliver; it does, perfectly and without (Hudson’s jammed-in role excepted) striking too many notes that aren’t true to the show.

So, while I don’t have the “I’m a Charlotte” shirt and big flower pin in my closet, I liked the silly fairy tale story (and the fairy subplots starring each of the three non-Carries), I liked the almost-a-commercial wedding dress fashion show (Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Westwood — oh, would that the wedding stores I went to had had such delights), I liked the ways that the former-girls-now-women seem to be slowly becoming honest-to-God adults. I liked enough that I’d bet a fan will love it. B

Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King (from characters from the book by Candace Bushnell), Sex and the City is two hours and 25 minutes long and is distributed by New Line Cinema.