Sex and the City: The Movie - our review
WARNING: Here be spoilers! Not many and not in detail but if you want to stay unspoiled, you might want to steer clear.
I have a confession to make - I have never watched the television series of Sex and the City. I don’t know why, it just passed me by when it started and I wasn’t really interested in picking it up half way through. I think I saw about five minutes of an episode in 2001 or something but that’s it.
I obviously know quite a lot about it and about all the characters from doing this job for two years (but particularly over the last few months) but I don’t know them like a lot of people do.
That, you might think, would put me at a disadvantage for reviewing the big screen adaptation but in another way it gives me a somewhat unique perspective: does it work as a stand-alone movie or is it just one for the fangirls?
There were certainly a number of fangirls in the audience with me when I saw the film: it might have been a random Wednesday afternoon and there had already been several showings so it wasn’t like it was the first glimpse of it but the cinema was as busy as it would be on a Friday night and there were more than a couple of women wearing flower clips in their hair. When the trailers came to an end, I heard someone behind me whisper “It’s time!” and others gasp when the BBFC title card came up with the film’s name on it. People were excited.
The Movie kicks off with a whirlwind recap of how we got to where we are - ideal for a newbie like me - then we’re straight into the Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) apartment hunting and proposal episode (the whole thing was very episodic so it makes sense to describe it like that). That though is, of course, just the preamble to the Wedding episode which is the main focus, one way or another, of the story. Trailers have already revealed that Big backs out at the last minute (in fact, the trailers give away the whole story bar the very end, there are no huge surprises) but I liked how it was played out. It felt realistic that he would be torn over the issue and should serve as a warning to Bridezillas: remember to focus on why you’re doing it, not how.
After the wedding falls apart, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and a visiting-from-LA Samantha (Kim Cattrall) whisk away heartbroken Carrie on a holiday that would have been her honeymoon in Mexico and kudos for SJP for being willing to look so comparatively rough - she did look like she’d spent the previous 72 hours crying non-stop. I liked how the women used their own skills to help start pulling Carrie’s life back together: Samantha and Miranda get organising while Charlotte unintentionally makes everyone laugh.
Speaking of laughter, because of the excited audience of fans, I was expecting a full-on reaction when the film got into its stride but that didn’t really happen. Perhaps the style of humour didn’t translate particularly well from the small to the big screen but even though it was clearly a comedy, with frequent definite punchlines to scenes, the audience reaction was closer to titters than to guffaws. Amusement rather than hilarity. FYI: the poop gag got the biggest laugh and not just on-screen. The next biggest laugh was perhaps less intentional: Charlotte’s angry face when they confront Big coming away from the wedding - not the best bit of acting ever (or did I miss something?).
Back in New York, Carrie hires “Louise from St Louis” (Jennifer Hudson) to be her assistant and starts to pull her life back onto track - but of course, when she does, it starts to fall down again: first with Miranda’s confession that she might have provoked Big’s doubts then with the reappearance of Big himself - but that’s getting ahead of ourselves because of course mixed in with all the Carrie stuff are three other storylines: Miranda and Steve’s separation, Charlotte’s pregnancy and Samantha’s doubts about Smith (Jason Lewis).
To start with the one which is alluded to in the trailer but perhaps the most spoilerific: Miranda and Steve (David Eigenberg) separate after he confesses to having slept with another woman. I didn’t really feel for this storyline because I thought Miranda was acting irrationally in her horror at the situation. I’m not condoning infidelity in a relationship but there is a big difference to a regretted one night stand which is confessed to, presumably, soon afterwards than a long-standing affair involving months of subterfuge and lying. If it had been the latter, I’d have been more supportive of her unwillingness to forgive him - although I’d be less forgiving of her final decision ;)
Ditto with Samantha & Smith re: the not buying it. Maybe if I’d watched the show and bought into her character more, I’d have felt differently but I thought she was acting irrationally. The stuff about worrying that she said his name too many times in a day was, at a guess, more to do with her job as his manager than the fact they were a couple - perhaps if she’d found a different job, it would have stopped her focusing on their relationship so much and distracted her from the sexy neighbour, food and stressing about Smith. They also managed to score the film’s costume low point: matching black sequin robes at New Year? ick.
But at least Miranda & Samantha had their own proper storylines: Charlotte’s pregnancy was pretty much just a blip that the writers occasionally remembered about from time to time. There was the short scene about her running but that was about it - there seemed to be a whole lot more that could be done with it but wasn’t because a lack of time. If the show had still been running, the baby bump would have grown over a whole season and the stories would have rounded out like the bump itself; in the film, it was pregnant, boom, baby shower, boom, baby. (The same thing applies to “Louise from St Louis”, who drops in as a fairy godmother and plot device but is barely touched as a character: the casting of Hudson made the role seem like it was a more important, secondary character when really it could have just been a very small background role.)
Of course the baby - and Louise’s method of hiding not deleting Big’s messages - are key to the conclusion of the Carrie story and without trying to give to much away, could it have ended in any other way? As an original, standalone movie, I’d have liked it to just to avoid the cliché but with some many people having such investment in it, I don’t think it could have done.
So does it work as a film in its own right? Parts of it do. The Carrie storyline is standard rom-com material but while I’m sure it adds to it, I didn’t need six years of back story to appreciate that their relationship had never been straight-forward - the comments were enough - and as much as I didn’t particularly like it, Miranda & Steve’s story links in and parallels well (if rather heavily) with that one. But overall, the film’s too rushed even though it’s already pretty long (2hrs 15mins) for a commercial release. It felt like they had a series-worth of storylines to jam into a four episode timeslot. If I understand correctly, the pleasure in the show was the discussion of the minutae of love, sex and friendship but the film has to gloss over the everyday and just feature the dramatic moments, which made the characters come across as somewhat irrational (eg, Samantha’s sushi flinging) and some scenes overly random (eg, the fur protestors at the fashion show).
Would I recommend it? Fangirls (and boys) don’t need the recommendation - they’re already there with flowers in their hair - but it’s not a completely no-no for the Lucy Come Latelys like me. Even though I’m on the cynical side of the stands when it comes to romance, there was enough in the film to absorb me into their universe and suspend disbelief. If I’d gone to see it as a comedy, expecting belly laughs, then I would have been disappointed. If I’d gone to pass a wet Wednesday afternoon and be gently amused, then it hit the mark.
- Have you been to see it? What did you think? What were your favourite bits? What would you have liked to have seen different? Leave your thoughts below.