The “Sex and the City” movie represents a kind of paradigm shift: It seems to be the first major motion picture produced with the TV series box-set purchaser in mind. If you curl up with your DVD player and watch seven or eight episodes of “Lost” or “The Sopranos” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in one go, then spending 135 minutes (or, if you prefer, five episodes) in the theater with Carrie and the gang won’t seem unusual at all.Writer-director Michael Patrick King, one of the driving forces behind the original series, has cannily avoided trying to open up the material too much in taking it to the big screen. Samantha doesn’t go into outer space, Miranda doesn’t start talking to dead people, and Charlotte doesn’t break into a musical number. It’s simply an extension of the groundwork that the show already laid down, and for “Sex” fans who have waited four years for another fix, that’s all it has to be.
If you’re not into the show, of course, the movie’s probably not going to win you over. But if you spent Sunday nights glued to the hit series on HBO — or caught up with it later in its DVD or scrubbed-up TBS incarnations — then watching the movie will be as comfortable and as decadent as sitting on the sofa with a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough.
"Sex and the City" can't rightly be called a romantic comedy in the dismal, contemporary sense, though it is at times romantic and is consistently very funny. It's also emotionally realistic, even brutal. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), now in their 40s and 50s, continue to navigate the choppy waters of urban life, negotiating relationships, work, fertility and friendship, only now the stakes are higher, the risks are bigger and decisions feel more permanent.
For a film that delights in indulging in frivolity at every possible turn, it examines subjects that most movies don't dare graze for their terrifying seriousness. And when it does, the movie handles them with surprising grace, wit and maturity. In other words, it's a movie for grown-ups of all ages. The press and industry screening I attended was uncharacteristically packed with women in their 20s, and my guess is that their interest had zero to do with the inclusion of Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's personal assistant -- though her character, Louise, is likable and allows the writer to expand the scope of the film from a story about four friends living in New York into a tale about the contemporary lives of urban women from early adulthood to maturity.
One of the best things about the movie is how it manages to confound expectations while satisfying them, an achievement for a movie based on material that had already plumbed every aspect of its characters' lives and tied up its narrative loose ends. But some, of course, remained, and that's where the movie takes off -- will Carrie and Big get married, will Charlotte have a baby, will Miranda and Steve live happily ever after, will Samantha be satisfied with just one man?
King answers all of these with unexpected twists, posing a good deal of bigger, more interesting questions along the way. How should women live their lives in a society that constantly limits them while pretending not to? What is the function of forgiveness, and why is it necessary for living?
The clothes, the restaurants, the apartments, the shoes -- they're also all there, of course, but then, even on the show, they were always the fantasy element, the sugar that helped the sometimes harsh emotional reality go down. The movie is no different, except that the personal upheavals are bigger, more life-altering and take on nearly tragic dimensions. Carrie's trajectory throughout the movie is surprisingly difficult, playing out on a much grander scale (at almost 2 1/2 hours), like a 19th century novel with occasional flights into blatant frivolity and lots of designer brand names.
Sarah Jessica Parker @ ‘Sex and the City’ Premiere in New York
Kim Cattrall @ ‘Sex and the City’ Premiere in New York
Kristin Davis @ ‘Sex and the City’ Premiere in New York
Cynthia Nixon @ ‘Sex and the City’ Premiere in New York
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