Sex and the City: The Movie
Far as I can tell, there’s never been a consensus on Sex and the City’s feminist appeal. It shows intimate female relationships, but it’s heteronormative, white, and the characters often talk past each other. The women live (mostly) sexually liberated lives, but they’re nevertheless forever in search of the perfect man to fulfill their emotional needs. The ladies are also all highly successful in their own careers, but their love of expensive shoes and sex toys supports a patriarchal, capitalist model.
I was not an original follower of the show—never had HBO, for one. But over the past two years, thanks to several series-devoted female friends, I suspect I’ve seen every episode at least once or twice. A fan of the individual characters more than their sum total, my expectations for the film felt reasoned. Not skeptical or enthusiastic, I walked in knowing product placement was rampant, it was a sometimes-tedious 2.5 hours in length, and that I was in for a film a bit below its cable-television standards.
After rewriting this review several times, I’ve concluded that the easiest way to explain this film is to expound on its shortcomings, of which there are simply too many. The film opens to a truly unbelievable wedding planning frenzy for Carrie, the forever marriage-phobic writer, and we soon find her on the outs with her commitment-averse fiancé, the phallically named Mr. Big. Gee, when will he show up and make it right again over the next two hours? I was bored and insulted and mostly annoyed. How many times must we watch the same woman make such painfully bad decisions?
(SPOILER ALERT: keep reading this review only if you want key pieces of the plot revealed to you.)
The other characters fared marginally better along the functionality spectrum. Miranda spends the movie separating from a cheating Steve, only to reconcile later. Her choice is perhaps the most complicated, and it also seems to be the one least deserving of feminist scorn, for who hasn’t been there? Samantha finds herself bored and undersexed after five years with Smith Jerrod, and after a few blowups, she leaves for good. For his part, Smith was always a compassionate, sensitive character in the television series, and the movie robs him of this. Or, maybe we forget that the nice guys end up being complacent, selfish assholes too? The message, in whatever way you perceive it, is troubling. We can at least be satisfied that Samantha goes back to single life because her relationship with her authentic self is ultimately the most important to her, superceding her role as business manager and part time girlfriend of a movie star. Charlotte, in her comfortable domestic mothering role, finds herself pregnant and gives birth off-screen. While true to her previous TV-era character, the updated Charlotte feels a little stifled and serves all too often as everyone else’s doormat.
The problems with all of the Sex and the City women stem from the same problems they have always had, only in movie form, they seem larger than life. Why does Charlotte have imperialist tendencies while vacationing in Mexico, only eating pudding from the States because, “It’s Mexico!”? Why is her primary comedic moment a lowly scatological joke? Why is Samantha chastised for her “gut” when the slim fifty-year-old gains fifteen pounds? Why is the only character of color Carrie’s personal assistant? Played well by Jennifer Hudson, her lines nevertheless make her into a one-dimensional, label-loving, yes-woman. This is the diversity of New York City circa 2008? You don’t have to have been in Manhattan recently (or ever) to know this is a movie-made myth.
Maybe my current Sex and the City discomfort would have manifested itself sooner if I’d ever watched four episodes on the TV show in a row. Maybe I did have higher hopes than I thought. I’ve heard plenty of critiques—the children had no character development, the actresses are too self-conscious in revisiting their famed roles—but how much more can be crammed in? The film didn’t drag, but it pushes its genre limits at two and a half hours. In the end, the Sex and the City movie is nothing more than an overinflated romantic comedy with disempowering messages about the depressing state of modern love. Maybe it’s someone’s reality, but it couldn’t be much further from mine or one I would ever desire.
I would recommend seeing the movie if you’re far more devout than I ever was, or, alternately, if you’d like to cement your distaste for the series once and for all. Since seeing the film well over a week ago, I can’t stand to look at or hear any of the characters, let alone watch the show. To immediately swear off a regularly consumed guilty pleasure—a group of intelligent female characters—based on one two-hour sitting has to say something, right? Your money is better spent on a book.