It seems like all I’ve been reviewing lately are beloved characters. Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and now Carrie Bradshaw. And pretty soon, I’ll be talking about Batman and Maxwell Smart. Aren’t there any new characters in Hollywood anymore?
Whether she’s new or not, Carrie Bradshaw has arrived on the big screen, after dominating the small screen for six seasons on the HBO series Sex and the City, which ran from 1998 to 2004. When the show ended, it, for my money, left a gaping hole that has yet to be filled in the television landscape. What made the television series work (and I’ve seen every episode at least 10 times), is its unique blend of humor, honesty, story, dialogue, and style. It covered all the angles of looking for love, all the perspectives, wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is (being on HBO helped a lot), and, despite perception, had a HUGE heart. I am the biggest sap you could find, and I love Sex and the City. If you’ve never seen an episode, trust me, it’s about a lot more than sex and shoes.
Taking such a beloved, and critically acclaimed series to the big screen was both ambitious and risky. Other immensely popular television series, like Friends and Seinfeld, overstayed their welcomes on the air, so they literally ran out of things to say. Sex and the City, however, found such a sweet and perfect way to end and went out on such a high note that it almost seemed to come back would have been like following a gourmet five-course meal with a cheeseburger.
On the other hand, since it did bow out while it still had more to say, it left room for more exploration of the characters, and, more important of all, left its voracious audience wanting more. Unlike Seinfeld and Friends, where we grew tired of the characters and were ready to say goodbye, when Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha faded to black four years ago, we weren’t ready to see them go.
So, the best thing the film-makers could have done was let Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall just bring back their beloved characters. Unlike the other massive films of the summer that involve great world-saving plots, this film is a slice-of-life, just as the series was. Yes, it tackles big issues of the heart, but it never weighs itself down too far. It always knew when to lighten things up and found the perfect balance between heartache and laughter. The film does the same, mostly.
More important than balance was the connection, emotionally, we found in these characters. We find bits of ourselves in each of them, or find parts of them we wish were in ourselves. We are amused at their fashion sense, we relate to their camaraderie and we bask in their foibles. But, mainly, we LIKE them. Carrie gets on our nerves, but the other three make up for her narcissism and the show just works. The writing is crisp and witty and real. I knew that if they could just make the movie into, essentially, a two-hour episode, it would work.
And that’s what they do. For the most part.
Sex and the City, the movie, is pretty much four episodes of Sex and the City the TV Series, back to back to back to back. Except without the small moments. What I miss are the sweet, intimate small moments, between friends, between lovers. These are now replaced by big events, big moments, grand scale scenes, all of which are wonderful, but they just take the tenderness out that was in the series. Strangely enough, the tender moments come from a newcomer, recent Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who plays Carrie’s newly-hired assistant. Her sweet and sassy worldliness fits here and she complements Sarah Jessica Parker’s arrogance perfectly and puts her in her place gently but firmly. Great casting. She’s not the best actress in the world, but she plays off Parker well and fits in nicely.
What’s also missing, oddly enough, is the sex. Who would have ever thought you’d see more sex on tv than in the movie, but it’s true. What we do see is pretty racy, but there’s so little of it (at least by Sex and the City standards) that if you’re really expecting an even ratio of four Sex and the City episodes, you’ll be sorely disappointed.
And the film is surprisingly weighty as well. Perhaps I should have expected that, it being a movie, and a finale to boot, but it does have much more weight to it than a usual Sex and the City episode. I do miss the humor, which is one of the series’ best features.
Still, it works. There are a few scenes so dazzling and gorgeous they just pop out of the screen. There are a few real-life moments that make your stomach turn and your heart ache, and a few that make your heart sing. And there are a few (too few) laugh-out-loud moments. This is what Sex and the City is all about. And, for the most part, the film does not disappoint.
Even if you’ve never seen an episode of the series, you will be won over by the charm, humor, and heart of these characters and their relationships. And if it makes you want to run out and buy/rent the series on DVD (so you can see the REAL series, not the sadly-edited versions running on basic cable that take out all the good stuff), then all the better.