Thursday, June 05, 2008

SEX AND THE CITY -- THE MOVIE

Carrie Bradshaw's opening narration in SEX AND THE CITY tells us that women come to New York in search of two things: labels (as in designer) and love. In that order. When I heard that narration, I knew pretty much what I was in for. Evidently the rampant psychotic greed that typified Carrie's adventures was going to be very much front and center. And I wasn't wrong: the labels came fast and furious and faster and furiouser.

What love there is in the film is largely distributed among the four women and their intimate relationships with each other, their bank accounts, their closets, their favorite department stores, their favorite designers, and their dogs, not necessarily in that order. There are some men in there too, but they are completely beside the point. Big and Carrie finally decide to get married, almost as an afterthought after a scene of apartment hunting that nets Carrie her dream apartment (paid for, of course, by Big). The impending nuptials prompts a Nero-esque orgy of wedding dress fittings and preparations that would have shamed Malcolm Forbes. Big feels rather understandably left out of the whole deal, and winds up bolting. Carrie must, with her friends' help, put the pieces of her life back together.

That's the main set up for the film, and it is Carrie's story, after all. As far as the supporting characters go, more questions are raised than are answered, and it gets very frustrating. There's nothing like equal time spent on the lives of the other three characters, and nothing like equal time given to their men, who don't register at all. Samantha's partner Smith has gone from being a hunk with a soul in the series to a mysteriously chilly cipher in the film. Charlotte's husband Harry is only shown so that we can all marvel at how wonderful he is. Miranda's husband Steve fares a bit better, but the only one of the men to get anywhere near the screen time that the ladies get is Carrie's partner Big, evidently named for the really astonishingly huge size of his financial portfolio.

Ultimately, Steve and Miranda's relationship is the only relationship in the film that seems to have any resemblance to life as it is lived by more than one percent of the human population since the beginning of time. It is also the most frustrating, because I kept wanting to know more about what had gone wrong with them, and the motives behind their behavior. But no, this isn't that kind of a movie. The movie sacrifices character development for fashion shows. On at least three occasions, the movie screeches to a halt for a display of some of the ugliest clothing ever, outfits that would only make sense worn by Divine in some abandoned Fellini film. But not as tasteful.

I can't help feeling that way too many of the problems faced by these characters could have been headed off at the pass simply if the people involved ACTED LIKE ADULTS. Yeah, yeah, the show is a sitcom/fairytale, and the movie follows that tradition, but both show and film keep pretending to be more than that, raising some fairly serious issues about relationships while resolutely ignoring others, and it never seems to be aware of the paradox. It wants to be a fabulous frothy cocktail of shopping and sexy punny talk AND a serious comic examination of the lives of women in the Big City. The balance between the triviality of a lot of their pursuits (cosmos and bars and $550 shoes, oh my) and the seriousness of their relationship issues is a precarious one. And occasionally the magic in the series worked. Miranda's often confused feelings for Steve, Samantha's growing attachment to Smith, and Charlotte's attempts to get pregnant were generally very interestingly and movingly handled. But it wasn't long before the scales would tilt back to the trivial: another dress, more shoes, another shopping spree...

My reaction clearly isn't typical. I just have a hard time relating significantly to the lives of people who spend $300 on a single throw pillow. A pillow, I might add, that winds up as a sex partner for a dog that doesn't realize she's been neutered, which seems like something of a metaphor for at least one of the female lead characters. At least Jennifer Saunders' ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS made a point of the thick-headedness of its heroine who steadfastly refuses to learn anything at all, while SATC, in general, wants us to applaud and admire these women who so often behave so badly while dressing so fabulously.

To be fair, the film seems to address some of the uglier issues of the series. Carrie's pathological self-centeredness, for example: it is to her credit that she finally does recognize her own selfishness regarding the whole outlandish wedding fiasco. But like all of the lessons learned by these characters, it vanishes in a shrieking orgy of self-congratulation and a dinner at a surprisingly unfabulous restaurant near City Hall, the only time I can think of where all of the characters appear onscreen together. The narration even tells us that we have to look past the labels to find the love, in what we're supposed to see as a reversal of the opening line. That little message is flatly contradicted by the film's final moments: the ladies are shown, without their men, disappearing into a fabulous nightclub, velvet rope lifted to accommodate their fabulousness, all attired in clothes so resolutely hideous that they can only be designer originals.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Roscoe,

Your recent blog entry on "Sex and the City: The Movie" has come to our attention.

Given the content of said blog entry, we immediately demand the relinquishment of your membership card along with all inherent rights and privileges (including, without limitation, the right to shop at any retail outlet which sells men's clothing with the exception of K-Mart, go to a gym, and to ever drink a Cosmopolitan). Further, you are hereby directed to cease and desist from using the term "gay" with respect to your person, your blog, or any aspect of your life.

Very truly yours,

Society for the Preservation of Fabulousness, Standards and Practices Committee

Anonymous said...

P. S. Finally, in recompense, you shall not be allowed admission to any theater (cinema, drama, musical, or otherwise) unless accompanied by an infirm senior citizen of no less than seventy-five (75) years of age, preferably with emphysema, carrying no less than three (3) plastic shopping bags, at least one (1) of which contains a bag of potato chips.

Very truly yours,

Society for the Preservation of Fabulousness, Standards and Practices Committee

Pooji said...

Stanford, is that you?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr./Ms. Pooji,

We apologize, but we have no record of you in our membership files, although your name did show up in a cross-referenced data base with our sister organization, Citizens United for Nonpareil Taste (CUNT).

Should you wish to participate in our organization, please submit proof of your fabulousness, including no less than four (4) letters of recommendation from our current members.

Yours in unyielding good taste,

Society for the Preservation of Fabulousness,
Standards and Practices Committee

Roscoe said...

I absolutely refuse to relinquish my membership in said Society until such time as a proper disciplinary hearing can be held.

Until such time, as a member in good standing, I will personally vouch for Pooji's fabulousness. Though a practicing heterosexual, Mr. Pooji has displayed levels of fabulousness that would astonish even the most hardcore fabulists. Anyone who shouts out obscene lyrics from Derek & Clive while being spun out of control on a particularly torturous roller coaster hits levels of fabulousness that most mortals can only dream of.

Sincerely,

Roscoe
SPF, member #72963/A

Pooji said...

Face of Beaver Cleaver; body of Ignatius J. Reilly. How could I not be fabulous?

"Wally, my pyloric valve has been acting up. Gee whiz, Fortuna really has spun my wheel downward!"

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Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!

Cheers
Christian, iwspo.net

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