Sunday, June 22, 2008

Review – Sex and the City

June 23, 2008

Sex and the City – U.S., 2008

When I first heard that Sex and the City was being made into a movie, my first response was, “Why?” When the show ended its six-year run, the show’s central characters were all in envious positions: Carrie had been reunited with Big, Charlotte and her husband had been approved to adopt a child from China, Miranda had married Steve, and Samantha had found her one true love, Smith. There were no loose ends to tie up, so was a movie really necessary? A movie, I reasoned, could only do one of two things. It could show the women’s continued happiness, or it could break up this euphoria. The screen adaptation of Sex and the City actually does both, to differing degrees of success.

The first half of Sex and the City is masterfully done. Big and Carrie are still together and are seeking an apartment for the two of them, which only seems natural considering how long they’ve been together. As the film opens, they are looking at apartment number thirty-three. They stop at thirty-four. As for Miranda and Steve, they are still married but are having problems, an understandable development considering their history. However, asking Steve to “get it over with” when they are in the middle of love-making is definitely not going to help matters. For her part, Samantha is living in Los Angeles with Smith and dedicating much of her time – perhaps a little too much of it - to promoting his career. Only Charlotte seems to be in a place that could be described as perfectly blissful, a problem that the film later tries to rectify by manufacturing odd quips for her to have to overcome.

As the preview makes clear, Carrie and Big decide to get married in a scene whose dialogue seems entirely realistic. Carrie is worried about having an insecure future; Big just wants to be with her, and if marriage will provide her the security she is looking for, he is all for it. Yet as the wedding approaches and the guest list skyrockets, Big’s own insecurities are evoked, so much so that on the day of the wedding, he is so paralyzed with doubt that he cannot get out of the car. It is a tragic scene that never seems forced or out of character, especially given Big’s previous experience with marriage and his status in society.

It is after this scene that the film begins to go awry. Only in movies would two people involved in a case of cold feet and a subsequent break-up not speak to each other for over half a year. Only in movies would one person not give another person the chance to explain his actions. The effect of this unrealistic plot point is that Big is almost completely absent in the second half of the film, a fact that the film struggles to overcome. Perhaps because of this, characters begin to do things that certainly add to the drama but that are not necessarily consistent with their established personalities. In Big’s place, the film introduces a completely unnecessary character, Carrie’s assistant Louise (played by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson), who explains her decision to go to New York with a romantic but preposterous answer – to find love. Too much of the second half of the film is devoted to their friendship, which ultimately has little bearing on any of the other more important – and more interesting - plot points.

As the film progresses, it becomes clear how each character’s story will end, and the film’s finale is therefore not surprising. Still, the film is continuously humorous and the dialogue between the central characters never loses its poignancy or uniqueness. The weakness of the second act prevents Sex and the City from truly becoming the event that producers obviously intended it to be. It will certainly please die-hard fans of the show, but for others, me included, it will be viewed as a bit of a missed opportunity. (in theaters)

2 and a half stars

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