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Sex and the City

  • 2008-06-09
  • Whit Bernard

Admit it: if you are planning on going tosee this movie, no negative review is going to stop you. Sex and the City, now syndicated around the world and long atop-seller on DVD, is tantamount to religion among a huge swath of globalconsumers. A recent trip to the Forum Cinemas in Riga, where all theSaturday night showings were sold out, indicates that the Baltic is noexception. You're going to go because, well, it's Sex and the City, and as embarrassed as you might be to admit it,you're an addict.

Who could blame you? Not only was thetelevision series smart, witty, and oh-so-apropos, it delivered a predictableweekly escape into another world 's one where cash and cosmos flow freely,glamour is effortless, and juicy gossip abounds. Even when you couldn't helpbut question the shallow, morally vapid universe in which the four maincharacters seemed to live, you slurped up that voyeuristic vantage point abovethe lunch table with a private smile, and more than a little lust to join inthe fray.

The currency the show traded in was desire,and the exchanges typically took place at that magical place where all goodthings begin and end: the body. No, not just sex… also fashion, and anaddiction to consumption that would be problematic were it not for theinexplicable wealth of all four characters (the only show with a more laughablesocioeconomic premise was Friends, whichfeatured gorgeous Upper West Side apartments despite the fact that, as far as Icould tell, only two of the main characters were ever employed). And then therewas the potentially debilitating fear of getting fat 's another issue that wouldundoubtedly lead to darker places were it not for a tendency among the show'swriters to block out all but the most frivolous of concerns.

That said, many fans rightly acknowledgethat despite its uncritical embrace of all that Mammon has to offer, the showdid take on some difficult issues (cancer, starting families, dealing withinfidelity and erectile disfunction, etc.). It demonstrated the importance ofstrong friendships and provided models of female independence, serving as akind of bastion of Third Wave Feminism for the independently wealthy.

But the movie spurns these poignant andperiodically socially relevant themes in favor of that much more Dior. Thebrilliantly developed characters, the faint glimmers of ironic realism amidstthe glitter, and the moments of emotional depth narrated by a sometimesarticulate Carrie, are all forgotten in a 145-minute haze of sex, shopping,stupid alliterations ("The two L's: Labels and Love…") and sappy, disingenuousmoments of lukewarm tenderness.

In other words, the writers seem to havesuccessfully thrown out the baby and kept every drop the bathwater. Carrie, Charlotte,Miranda and Samantha are shallower, even indistinguishable at times, and allefforts are spared in developing them. Meanwhile the narrative, which is hardlyas arresting as the tight plots of the shorter-format shows, seems to subvertevery possible emotionally significant moment with a superficial purchase.Carrie marks her friendship with her new assistant, who has helped her get backon track after a rough break-up, with the presentation of a Louis Vuitton bag(the assistant, an African-American from St. Louis, hadpreviously been relegated to the inhumane practice of renting designer accessories). Samantha comes to grips with herdesire to reclaim her sexual freedom by buying a pillow-humping terrier. Mr.Big demonstrates his commitment to sharing his life with Carrie by building hera bowling alley-sized walk-in closet. The list goes on. And on. One is remindedof George W. Bush's rejoinder to a shocked, grieving populace after the 9/11terrorist attacks: "go out and support your local retailer."

The only real reason to see this film is tohave the chance to inhabit the superficial fairytale of an imagined, idealized New York for onehundred and forty-five minutes. Perhaps that is reason enough to go. You'llalso receive some fairly sophisticated instruction in how best to support theAmerican economy with the bare minimum of effort. But don't expect anythingmore or less than a half-witted slog through the mostly petty lives of fourcharacters who aren't quite what they once were. Hardly a fitting elegy for theshow that so many of us came (openly or not) to love.

 

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