HOLLYWOOD — The clothes! The shoes! The magical depiction of Manhattan and the promise of finally finding true romance!
It’s like porn for women. And we haven’t even gotten to the sex part of the “Sex and the City” movie yet.
Fans will be thrilled to see their old friends — Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha — back together and on the big screen, which makes it easier to ogle what they’re wearing, of course. Everyone else? Well, they never watched the HBO series and if they did, they didn’t get it. Or they’re heterosexual men.
But writer/director Michael Patrick King and producer/star Sarah Jessica Parker certainly know their audience: the devotees who’ve already reserved group tickets for opening weekend, which they’ll celebrate in high style, complete with the requisite Cosmopolitan consumption and needless shopping sprees.
In that regard, this hotly awaited follow-up to the hit TV show, which ended in 2004, is a success. This is one of those movies you have assess in terms of whom it’s aiming to please, not unlike the 3-D Hannah Montana concert film: The audience has very specific tastes and needs.
Surprisingly, despite its obsession with all things Manolo Blahnik, “Sex and the City” also has its share of tearjerker moments. Parker has become such a fashion icon over the past decade that you forget she really can act, and is capable of visceral, heart-tugging vulnerability. And not to say too much, but she does get plenty of opportunities to display that side of her talent — especially with a running time that’s well past two hours.
It’s all really soapy, though, with only some smidgens of substance. Co-star Cynthia Nixon’s story line is meaty, but more often than not our heroines are defined solely by the partners in their beds and the clothes on their backs, as if to suggest that the right wardrobe and a big enough closet to put it all in are the keys to ultimate happiness. The movie (and the series that inspired it) perpetuate stereotypes of female superficiality, but then again, these women do stick by each other no matter what, which makes it somewhat easier to stick around for the conclusion.
This critic, by the way, never saw the artistic need for a “Sex and the City” movie. Why not just let the series finale be the end and look back on the whole experience as a wonderful memory, shining in the distance like the top of the Chrysler Building on a perfect spring day? (Sorry — it’s tough not to get all Carrie Bradshaw when talking about this flick.)
It is indeed a giddy, fizzy kick at the top, with Parker’s Carrie breathlessly catching us up on what’s been going on with the four girlfriends over the past four years. Carrie, of course, ended up with Mr. Big (Chris Noth). Now that she’s grown up and moved on from writing columns to books, the two are scouring New York for the perfect apartment (i.e. one with sufficient closet space) — even though they’re not officially engaged.
Nixon’s Miranda is still stuck in Brooklyn (it’s hard to extricate yourself once you’ve moved there) with her mensch of a husband, Steve (David Eigenberg), and their son. Like so many women, she’s struggling to juggle marriage, motherhood and her career.
Former shiksa goddess Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is living in the idyllic bliss of the Upper East Side with hubby Harry (Evan Handler) and the little girl they adopted from China. (King had promised to give each character a full story arc, but we see too little of the adorable, ever-optimistic Charlotte. Her subplot involving an embarrassing case of Montezuma’s Revenge during an all-girl trip to Mexico doesn’t count.)
And even Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has settled down — across the country in a Malibu beach house with her boy-toy lover/client, actor Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis). Naturally, this cougar still finds time to salivate over the hot surfer next door, who likes to slip out of his wet suit and into his outdoor shower when he isn’t bedding random women in full view of the neighbors. And Cattrall, the oldest of the foursome at 51, looks the best of all, especially in a nude scene that requires her to find creative uses for sushi.
They all come together when Carrie announces that she and Big finally plan to tie the knot ... and divulging much more would be positively criminal. Suffice it to say that the trying-on-wedding-gowns montage is a dazzler. (Also back for the movie is the show’s legendary costume designer, Patricia Field, with all the obligatory luxe labels in tow.)
Yes, marriage matters now to these women who were primarily on the prowl for satisfying romps when “Sex and the City” entered the cultural consciousness a decade ago. But the characters were younger then — and so were the actresses playing them. Perhaps it’s only inevitable that their priorities would shift, but the sexual liberation the TV show introduced certainly still lingers.
(As for the ethnic diversity that was promised in the film version following complaints that the series was too white, it basically consists of Jennifer Hudson appearing in a few scenes as Carrie’s personal assistant — sort of a high-tech housekeeper, one with an eye for designer handbags. It feels like too little, too late.)
Sitting through this extravaganza of extravagance, though, I couldn’t help but wonder ... is this movie ever going to end? It takes about as much time as watching five episodes of the series all in a row, which you can do for free on TBS, albeit in a form that’s cleaned up for basic cable — the city sans the sex.
Then again, one girl’s slog is another girl’s celebration.
“Sex and the City,” a New Line Cinema release, is rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. Running time: 142 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G — General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.