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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Sex and the City: The Movie (review)

Shopping and Fucking

I felt like some sort of alien anthropologist watching this movie, as if I were being presented with the strangest and most inexplicable creatures imaginable, and was being asked, out of all reason, to understand them. I mean, sure, I go out (or stay in) drinking with female friends and we talk about sex and do lots of other things that, on the surface, appear to be the same things that Carrie Bradshaw and her posse do… and yet, I don’t see myself or the women that I know in them. Not at all. Not in the tiniest degree.
And it’s not about the bizarre and ridiculously expensive clothes, either. I realize this is a fantasy, even if it’s not about anything I personally fantasize about. (If I had the kind of money Carrie Bradshaw spends on shoes, I’d be traveling all over the world all the time, not wasting it on footwear that would kill me if I tried to walk in it.) It’s about, well… Look: it’s hard to imagine that Carrie Bradshaw is interested in anything beyond what we see her doing here, which is hanging out with her friends and bitching about men, and shopping, and thinking about things she wants to shop for. Because when she’s not doing those things, she’s writing about them. And apparently she does nothing else. That’s what I cannot comprehend: a woman whose entire life revolves around buying clothes and worrying about romance.

Fans of Sex and the City, the TV show — I am not a fan — rave about how it’s about “real” women and “real” concerns that women have. But I don’t see a real woman in Carrie Bradshaw. I see a very narrow, very stereotypical idea of what women are. Maybe that’s just me — I have no doubt that I am not the average woman. But I guarantee you that I am real. And here, I see a woman who is a caricature of “women,” not someone who is a human being first and a woman second, like we all actually are. Does she read a fucking book once in a while? (One might expect that a writer would also be a reader.) What does she think about the state of the world? Does she, oh, I dunno, balance her checkbook or does she trust the bank? I’m not saying a movie needs to delve into absolutely everything a character thinks about everything — that would not, of course, work, particularly in a story like this one — but you want a sense that a character has an existence beyond the narrow confines of the story we find her in. Particularly when, as is obviously the case with Carrie, she is not stupid. But if even smart women are only “real” when they’re fretting over their orgasms, then what hope is there for any of us?

This movie is not directed at me — this is perfectly plain. Fans of the show will likely find it lovely: certainly, there are moments of intense drama that will make far more sense to those who have a previous emotional investment in these characters. I’m not writing for those people — I can’t possibly do that. I would have liked, though, if there were something in Sex and the City: The Movie that would have spoken to those who were not already fans. It’s not here, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing: not every movie has to appeal to everyone. But it’s not here.

What is here feels like a season’s worth of a TV show crammed into two and a half hours. Yes, two and a half hours. It’s torture for nonfans. God, I was bored.

Okay: I cannot honestly confess that there weren’t individual moments that did not bore me — I kinda like Kim Cattrall’s (Ice Princess, Crossroads) Samantha, because even if she isn’t any more “real,” on the whole, than her gal pals, she’s at least dramatically interesting, with her more stereotypically male sexual agenda, which at least acknowledges that not all women adhere to stereotypes. And I don’t hate that Cynthia Nixon’s (Igby Goes Down, The Out-of-Towners) Miranda at least has a life outside of the whole shopping-and-fucking thing, even if she is horribly unfair to her husband here, which the film does acknowledge. (Kristin Davis’s Charlotte, though, doesn’t seem to have anything on the ball that does not involve her husband and child, both of whom seem perfectly nice but how can that possibly be enough for anyone with a brain?) And I don’t hate that, in the meta reality, Sarah Jessica Parker (Failure to Launch, The Family Stone) has worked her way into quite a powerful position in the entertainment industry not just as the star of this enterprise but as a producer of it as well.

But Sex and the City: The Movie is all about Carrie, and whether she will marry Big or not, and all the wedding porn that surrounds that. Not marriage porn: it’s not about fantasizing being married to some particular man that you’re crazy about — and, let’s be honest, Chris Noth (Cast Away) is totally hot, and would be even if he weren’t the uber wealthy Mr. Big. It’s about the wedding, the fairy-tale event that every woman is supposed to want, never mind whom a gal is marrying. And, to be fair, Sex: The Movie doesn’t ignore that irony, either. It’s just that, in getting there, it seems to miss the point that a women who is 40 fucking years old might have realized this at some point sooner. I mean, Christ. Are you a child, Carrie, or are you a grownup?

Maybe it’s a blow for gender equality that women are now allowed to extend adolescence into the years once considered “middle-aged.” Carrie’s cell phone is covered in pink glitter, after all…

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MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb

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