Sex and the City

Posted on September 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

No spoiler alert is required before disclosing that the very appropriate and deeply satisfying fade-out at the end of this film has its four heroines happily going off into the metaphorical sunset….with each other. That is the great love story of the movie.

The four women in this movie version of the wildly popular and influential HBO series (off the air for four years but now running in expurgated form on broadcast channels in reruns) may think they yearn for romance. But in reality the men in their lives are there primarily as topics of conversation for the relationships that matter most. It is their friends who make them laugh, their friends that they want to call first with good news or bad, their friends whose lives — and clothes — are their primary concern, their friends who are always intensely interested in every detail of each other’s lives, their friends who reflect themselves and all they might be back to them like a dressing room with a magic mirror. In this woman-centered, fashion-drenched world, men are an accessory. sex20and20the20city1.jpg

Indeed, as with stories like, well “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood,” “Steel Magnolias,” and even “Bratz,” the intense connection of those relationships is the essence of the appeal of the series and the movie. While we watch them, we connect to our own reality about the vital role that friends play in our lives and we tap into the deep wish in all of us for people in our lives who are infinitely interested and spaciously accepting of the tiniest details of our lives. It is telling that the biggest falling-out among the four friends in this movie is not about doing something wrong. The real transgression is in not being willing to confess all immediately.

Here we also connect to the fantasy of their ziplessness. The four women eat and drink constantly and never seem to exercise or diet but always look model-thin and glowingly gorgeous, their sexual encounters are almost always steamy and satisfying and when they aren’t they are even more fun to talk about, they almost always recover from unhappy romantic encounters by the next episode, and they manage to buy and look sensational in endless and endlessly fabulous ensembles of high-fashion mixed with impeccably chosen vintage and street goodies. It’s like playing Barbies for grown-ups. The sex scenes are not nearly as titillating as the fantasy of fashion and New York glamour, wrapped in a cozy feather comforter of the perpetually supportive cheering section.

Friendship is at the core, but there is plenty of material about the other great pre-occupations of the movie, like the television series: romance, sex, fabulous clothes and shoes, parties, and plumbing the depths of one’s own desires), plus what may be an all-time record number of on-screen apologies. My husband says that an apology, preferably humiliating and public, is the essence of a chick flick. If he is right, this one goes to the top of the list.

The credit sequence briskly brings us up to date, letting us know that the ladies and the world have moved on since writer Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), married mom Charlotte (Kristen Davis), and publicist/manager Samantha (Kim Cattrall) appeared to be headed for happily-ever-after-ville at the conclusion of the series. The tinkling theme music quickly shifts into hip-hop and we find that everything that seemed neatly tied up four years ago is about to become if not completely untied a little bit tangled. People in their 40’s know themselves better than those in their 30’s, but they are also more aware of their narrowing options and the impact of the choices they are making and the ones they do not make.

Carrie and Mr. Big (Chris Noth as John James Preston) are still happily in love and looking for a place to move in together. An jewelry auction for the collection of a billionaire’s discarded mistress, she begins to worry about what would happen to her if Preston decided to leave her. When she tells him that, they decide to get married. Caught up in the fantasy of the ultimate wedding as fashion statement, helped along by posing for a magazine spread modeling bridal gowns by all the top designers, Carrie loses sight of the meaning of the event and the pressure she is putting on the man we will continue to refer to as Mr. Big. Miranda and her husband Steve (David Eigenberg) struggle with burnout and trust issues. Samantha, in Los Angeles with her boyfriend of five years, the hunky Smith (Jason Lewis), having helped him become a big star , misses New York, her friends, and her polyamorous lifestyle, wonders if she can continue to compromise.

The screenplay is uneven and it tilts too far on the side of retail therapy. That is a function of the realities of modern-day feature film financing — who could have imagined a day that movies would end up more commercial than television? All the more credit for HBO’s commitment to artistic integrity for avoiding the endless recitation of labels and designers, which gets a little intrusive.

But it all goes down as easy as that third Cosmo thanks to the eye candy, our affection for the characters, and the skill of all involved. The slight deepening of the issues and characters works well. As has been remarked before, as in many multi-character sagas, it is intriguing to think of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha as different aspects of one single personality — id, supergo, ego, and libido.

All of the returning stars look sensational and they each know their characters and their fellow performers so well that the chemistry sizzles and the timing purrs. Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) is a welcome addition as Carrie’s new assistant, her warmth and sparkle providing Carrie with a fresh opportunity to show something we almost never saw from her in the series, generosity of spirit and consideration. There are at least three dazzling fashion shows (something of a throwback to old movie classics like The Women, which, in the pre-Internet, pre-television days, served a dual purpose by alerting the women in the audience to the current styles. There are little detail goodies for serious fans (the iconic tutu that gets splashed in the series’ opening sequence and enough going on to entertain casual viewers. It is far from a great movie, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable one and does justice to the aspirations of the series and to its devoted fans.

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19 Replies to “Sex and the City”

  1. I saw the movie with my girlfriends last night. It was a girls night out for us along with the rest of the cities. It seemed there were females wherever we turned…. at theater, at bar across the street…:)
    A lot of fun. Our boyfriends came to join us after movie because they rather not have to get bored in the movie and that was fine by us. It’s true the movie was not the greatest comparing to tv series but we were really entertained by it last night. It’s also carried on a wonderful night of my own. Yeah!!!

  2. Thanks for posting, Charlenet! I think you described exactly the situation that is going to make this a blockbuster. The movie is not great but it is fun to share with friends. I am even going back to see it again so I can see it with my friends!

  3. i am a mom and i thought it was appropriate for my thirteen year old daughter to see-i loved it

  4. I am glad that women are happy to have a movie that they enjoy. However, I continue to be displeased with the double standard towards men in reference to the male frontal nudity only. When will it ever stop ? Seemingly every “R” rated show features it. It is not that men want it removed from shows but rather to have an equal amount of female frontal nudity as well. I also find it very interesting that females, who have always been concerned with equality, have not made any favorable comments in that there is an injustice. So, I wonder, is it that females are hypocrites now that frontal nudity has been in their favor for quite awhile ? If not, then why are they not voicing the same opinion towards a change in this double standard ? So, women, I ask are you interested in equality or hypocrisy ?

  5. lol OK so I need a little work with learning how to post. Guilty as charged.

  6. Thanks for posting, Tim, and I’ve removed your duplicate comments. I am not sure what you think of as a double standard or “in their favor” though, as full frontal Playboy-centerfold-style nudity has been pretty standard in R films for more than 25 years while male frontal nudity in R-rated films has been very rare until the last year or so.
    Hollywood will happily produce whatever anyone will pay to see. In the past, that has meant that well over 95 percent of the nudity in films was female, including in this film, which, as you say, is primarily directed toward a female audience. Even this film has more female nudity than male. There is also a flourishing industry that produces nothing but films featuring more hard-core nudity, again, primarily female, and while I have not checked, I believe that is also true of the multitude of images available online.

  7. Are you kidding me?
    Movie “mom”
    Mom is a family term.
    There is nothing family about this movie, their behavior, or your reviews.

  8. Michael, I am not sure I understand your point. “Family” encompasses a lot of variety, and I review all kinds of movies here, from those intended for toddlers to those teenagers are likely to nag their parents to be allowed to see and those intended for adults only. And I try to give parents the information they need to make an informed decision based on their own values and priorities and the individual characteristics of each child.
    As you can see above, I recommended this movie for adults only. But I do not agree that “there is nothing family about this movie.” The movie’s message is strongly (if not exclusively) in favor of committed, monogamous relationships and dedication to spouses and children. I would not have brought a 13-year-old to this film, as one of the commenters did, but I recognize that some parents will use this film to initiate discussions that are very important and might not happen any other way.
    I appreciate your taking the time to write and will respond to any additional questions or concerns you want to raise.

  9. First, thank you Nell for saving me some embarrassment for deleting all the duplicates. Second, I have to again express my point. I know that in general there has been more overall movie nudity by females because of the exposed breasts and behinds. But guys have been showing their behinds for ages as well. But my definition of double standars deals with frontal nudity(genitals). There seems to be only male frontal nudity that is seen lately in movies, plays, and almost every new HBO series. My question is why ??? Men have grown very tired of this practice. We are not saying to do away with male frontal nudity but instead add an equal amount of female frontal nudity for us as well. Now for the double standard in “Sex and the City.” There are two people who are showering and they only show male frontal nudity. Why ? When you make a decision to do one without the other it becomes a double standard. Now it is true this movie is more intended for a female audience. So then why, for example, a show that is more intended for a male audience like “Any Given Sunday,” also only includes male frontal nudity ? Why? A double standard. And when I speak of female frontal nudity I am talking about seeing the labia. Yes, it can be done and why isn’t it if they feel ok with showing the penis? I feel women have always wanted equality so why hasn’t anyone said that yes maybe it is time for equal amounts of male and female frontal nudity for both sexes? Let me pose some scenes that have appeared lately and substitute female parts for what has actually been seen. Would you enjoy having two sorority sisters wrestling and fooling around and have one heavier set female put her labia in the face of another female just for laughs ? (ala “Borat”) ? How about for no purpose whatsoever to have a shaved labia in the upper right hand corner of the screen just for laughs ? (ala “Walk Hard”) How about an intense physical struggle where a woman is escaping a rapist and we see her from behind while she struggles with her pursuer and we see her labia? (ala “Eastern Promises”) How about showing a labia and a woman bent over a bucket urinating and seeing the stream of urine ? (ala HBO’s “OZ”) Now I ask if this were actually true for women how would you feel ? I assume very much like most men. Disgusted. Unfortunately there seems to be many more examples of this male frontal nudity where is absolutely no female frontal nudity at all. To me this is a double standard. So Nell I am hoping that somewhere and some time a female will see this as being an injustice and stand by men. Let’s have equality nudity !!!! Thanks for taking time to read through my comment Nell, it is appreciated.

  10. As I said before, Hollywood will produce whatever people will buy tickets to see. And at this point there does not seem to be enough basis for including female nudity that explicit except in pornography but the movies and television shows you mentioned have been very popular — with men more than women. What you call unequal treatment has nothing to do with fairness or double standards; it has to do with market demand. That may be influenced by cultural norms that assign to different genders and body parts different levels of privacy, but it is still the determining factor.

  11. Well Nell, to me since men would like to see it and there certainly is a demand by men for it, then I consider it a double standard. It is a shame that no females support the injustice. Sadly then I guess it is hyprocrisy for women and not equality.

  12. Sorry, one final point Nell. You mentioned at this point there doesn’t seem to be a basis for seeing women as I mentioned but there have certainly shown the men. And, since men want to see women this way as well, it is a double standard! I have heard that word many times in the past from women when breasts and bare bottoms were shown many times and not as much of the man. We will have to continue to agree to disagree with this issue.

  13. Nell, with all due respect, your statement that it is based upon market demand is the same evasive ploy that misogynist men had used regarding unequal treatment of women when the feminist movement began. The irony is women have reached equality but are now tipping the scales toward unequal and sexist treatment toward men without even realizing the tables have turned and they are degrading men. It is not an issue of “market demand,” it is a sociatal issue that would be raved about if the exploited individuals were women or another “minority” group.
    Gender bias against men is actually rampant in society, but it has been overlooked and treated with apathy for so long that it is no longer even recognized. That is dangerous.
    There is blatant bias in Hollywood and film. The amazing thing is most feminist will argue that women are the objectified gender when the opposite is true.
    Inequality is easily seen. Although I could go into a tirade about how much full-frontal male exposure is present on virtually every HBO and discuss the way male rear exposure is acceptable on comedy central, MTV, FX channel, and many more; the point is better illustrated by a simple litmus test for comparison – replace the male lead with a female lead and logically conclude whether such a visual would then be accepted.
    Examine the recent films of Hostel 2, Walk Hard, and Eastern Promises. Hostel 2 shows, in graphic detail, the male member being severed and fed to a dog. What if the gender were reversed here and it were graphic female mutilation? There would be a definite outcry. Then there is the prolonged scene of male frontal exposure in Walk Hard for “comedic” effect. What if it were graphic exposure of a female sitting down on full display? Would that be allowed? Finally, consider Eastern Promises with a graphic steam sauna fight, exposing the male lead to an extent that nothing is left to the imagination, but deemed acceptable for its “dramatic effect”. Can anyone imagine if that scene were changed with a woman spin-kicking and sprawled about? The movie would be considered exploitive trash.
    Replacing the man in each of these roles with a woman allows the casual viewer to see just how blatant and gratuitous these scenes are. The contrast is laughable. These types of depictions should not be allowed at all. In fact, they are not allowed by the MPAA when the graphic depiction concerns a women.
    A little art film from Britain came out awhile back about an artist that could freeze time and used this ability to disrobe the women who were shopping at his grocery store in order to draw them. It was quite popular at Cannes and Toronto Film festival and was a hit with the critics. The buzz led to its transformation into a full length feature film called Cashback. In order to be released with an R rating, the female figures were digitally altered to cover some of the more revealing areas. Having watched the original film short, the amount of female flesh on display was far less than that currently shown by men in current film and cable television. Why was the prominent display of the men in the above listed films allowed while the women’s privacy was kept sacrosanct?
    This discussion is relevant because it shows, again, how women are protected and respected while men are flaunted. Keep it analogous; women enjoy a nice looking male chest as much as men enjoy a nice looking female chest. Please do not compare a female upper body to a man’s lower. Neither genders genitalia should be shown, but if it is, it should be equal.
    Bare flesh always leads to vibrant discussion, but more disturbing than the disproportionate amount of male flesh displayed on cable and movies is the general depiction of men on television. On the average sitcom, take a look at the male figures and compare them to their female counterparts. How often is the man a bumbling, unintelligent buffoon who requires the saving grace of his well rounded wife in order to make it through the episode? Now imagine we had a show where the man knew what was best and the woman was a moron. Imagine the feminist outcry! Yet, it is perfectly acceptable for male bashing to occur without so much as a batted eyelash – it is business as usual.
    Be careful of what this may teach the future generations of men in our society.

  14. How diluted are you people? Honestly if you want to see labia in a movie then go look at pornography on the internet.

  15. Then JD if you want to see the penis and scrotum then why don’t you go look at pornography on the internet ? Yours is an excellent example of the double standard and basis towards men in regards to full frontal nudity in movies.

  16. Thanks for the interesting and provocative comments, everyone. I appreciate your willingness to explain your perspective. I believe it is tempting to simplify an extremely complex set of issues that really transcend notions of fairness and taste and to reflect and influence our deepest notions of culture, myth, gender, sexuality, and iconography. We could debate endlessly which female body parts are equivalent to which male body parts in terms of impact — erotic, political, artistic, comedic. Certainly, scholars in many categories, film, literature, gender studies, anthropology, and more have done extensive research and analysis. And of course courts have looked into this as well. The Supreme Court regularly rules on what constitutes art (and protected speech under the First Amendment) vs. pornography, and those rulings evolve as changing tastes are reflected in the media.
    I recognize the relevance of this issue, but I believe it can only be examined in a broader context. A few years ago, the idea of male genitals being exposed in an R-rated movie would have been unthinkable. A few decades ago, the idea of breasts being exposed in a movie would have been unthinkable. Both the old and the new ideas on that have had their critics as will be true of whatever is considered acceptable in another 10 or 20 years.

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