Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw
Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York
Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes
Chris Noth as Mr. Big
Candice Bergen as Enid Frick
Jennifer Hudson as Louise
David Eigenberg as Steve Brady
Evan Handler as Harry Goldenblatt
Jason Lewis as Jerry ‘Smith’ Jerrod
Mario Cantone as Anthony Marentino
Lynn Cohen as Magda
Willie Garson as Stanford Blatch
Joseph Pupo as Brady Hobbes
Directed by Michael Patrick King
“Sex and the City” will not be redefining cinema as we know it, nor does it ever fully justify its existence as a feature film, but if you’re a fan of the show, you probably won’t care. You’ll just be glad to see the ladies back and doing what they do best.
It’s four years later, and Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is about to move into a dream apartment with long-time on-again off-again boyfriend Mr. Big (Chris Noth), but when they decide they should get married, things don’t exactly go as planned, because Carrie’s best friends Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are going through crises of their own.
There really are only two or three questions that might go though the mind of anyone reading any review of the “Sex and the City” movie: Is it as good as the show? Is it worth seeing if you haven’t seen the show? Or lastly, why on earth would I want to see a movie based on a show I hated? For the latter, I can’t help you, but those looking for more of Carrie Bradshaw and her gabby friends shouldn’t have a hard time overlooking the film’s many faults in order to enjoy their latest adventures in romance and relationship.
Rather than being an extended version of the show, this continuation of the series is more like a half season of five or six episodes slammed them together with a flimsy story arc running through it focusing on Carrie’s relationship with Big (Chris Noth), as they prepare for their wedding. Michael Patrick King, making his feature film directorial debut, tries to create a character arc for each of the four women, and for the most part, he succeeds at taking all of them to new places from where they were at the end of the series. If you’ve never watched the show, it’s doubtful you’ll find very much reason to care or understand why so many people are riveted to every word they say.
After Parker, Kim Cattrall’s sex-starved Samantha has the best storyline, as we see her coping with life in Malibu with her actor boyfriend Jared, and going through an exaggerated mid-life crisis about being in a long-term relationship away from her New York friends. As is usually the case, Samantha’s story offers the most nudity and the most actual sex, and it’s what keeps the film light and fun as Cattrall continues to offer the best laughs. Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda is still trying to find her way as the mother of a five-year-old son, and her part in the story does not necessarily put her in the best light, including her awkward “Lust, Caution” moments with co-star David Eigenberg as husband Steve. Sweet, neurotic Charlotte’s adoptive daughter Lilly steals a couple scenes as a “fashionista-in-training”, but otherwise, Kristin Davis doesn’t have a very interesting arc, being there mostly for comic relief, often at her own expense.
The film cuts briefly to each of these stories and then every 20 minutes, the four women reassemble to scream and laugh and talk about what we’ve just seen in the same unfiltered way they’ve spoken for six seasons of the show. At times, it feels like King is trying to fit the movie into the typical outline for a formula romantic comedy, but other than that, the writing and pacing are the same as the show with King’s wry dialogue driving the film in a way that helps one overlook the obvious problems that come from trying to fit so many stories into a single movie. In fact, King’s writing is often the only thing that does help this movie rise above other Hollywood romantic comedies.
Despite the brisk pace allowed by concurrent storylines, the tone tends to be all over the place, especially after the “big plot twist” where things hit a sharp tonal downturn. The amount of break-ups and make-ups shoehorned into the movie’s 2-hour-plus running time never allow any of it to carry the amount of weight needed. For the most part, the film’s attempts at heavy drama seems forced, especially because Carrie seems to be overreacting to many of the situations that happen to her, and things get more and more erratic as King tries to maintain film’s lighter tone amidst said drama.
Parker and company are much better when dealing with the humor although even the funniest recurring gag might seem obvious or predictable if you’re even remotely familiar with the show’s M.O. It’s equally surprising and disappointing when King veers into low-brow humor with jokes about waxing and bowel movements, that seem out of place amidst the serious storytelling developments around them. The film’s nicest surprise is when Jennifer Hudson enters the picture as Louise, Carrie’s new personal assistant that she hires to help her get organized, and the young actress offers enough of a fresh face and point-of-view, as well as an unexplored layer to Carrie’s life that helps things pick up again.
Except for Chris Noth’s Mr. Big, the guys get the short end of the stick, either being underused or treated like little more than chattel or comic relief, but since this was also the case with the show, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. At least for guys, the hardest part of this film to suffer through will be when it repeatedly turns into an extended fashion show, usually when all four women are together. It’s as if they needed to repeatedly throw it into the viewer’s face that celebrity costume designer Patricia Fields had her pick from the world of fashion to outfit the women. Okay, we get it, but it adds little to nothing to the story, expect to make the characters seem even shallower.
Even to the most diehard fan, the movie might start feeling long once it hits the two hour mark, because there are far too many scenes and gags that could have easily ended up on the cutting room floor or saved for the ubiquitous DVD extras without being missed. King is smart enough to end things on an up note rather than entirely destroying the show’s strengths after so many character-building developments, and one could easily see them trying to milk this premise for another movie or two if this one does well.
The Bottom Line:
Like the show, this is an unrealistic fairy tale about how imaginary women in New York behave. Anyone who hasn’t seen or doesn’t like the show probably won’t have very much interest in the movie, but those who love the show shouldn’t be disappointed by the shenanigans their favorite ladies can get up to when given 135 more minutes of life.