Sex and the City

Movie Information

The Story: The four women of the wildly popular HBO series Sex and the City return to continue quests for love and fashion. The Lowdown: A predictable, shallow movie that comes across more as an extended version of the TV show than anything that should be playing in theaters, and -- at a running time of 145 minutes -- easily overstays its welcome. For fans only.
Score:

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Michael Patrick King
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Jennifer Hudson
Rated: R

Judging from the crowds on opening night, the Sex and the City movie—and more specifically the HBO series that spawned it—is the type of pop-culture phenomenon that requires a certain acquired taste. After seeing women arriving at the theater Friday evening dressed up in evening wear and heels (and in one case, showing up in a limousine), I could only conclude that the movie and the show are akin to Star Wars for the Cosmo set. But before I get called “out of touch,” or accused of “just not getting it,” I will readily admit that I am not the target audience for Sex and the City. I’d have said this before I saw the movie, and I’ll most definitely say it after watching it.

But not understanding the hubbub surrounding Sex and the City is not the reason I’ve given the movie a single star. No, the sad fact is the movie is not good. At all. In any way. As filmmaking, it’s shoddy, predictable, dull, poorly acted and, maybe worst of all, way too long. I’m talking Apocalypse Now (1979) long. The bright side is that at a whopping 145 minutes, that’s about 17 1⁄2 minutes of movie for every dollar spent on a ticket. That’s a better deal than the price of gas or ground beef.

The story mainly focuses on Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a New York City writer with a taste for high fashion, and her engagement—and subsequent breakup—with longtime boyfriend “Mr. Big” (Chris Noth). The subplots of the film involve Carrie’s circle of friends—Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon)—and their relationships. The main storyline is theoretically workable, but writer-director (and show stalwart) Michael Patrick King draws every bit of minutiae he can out of the film, following Carrie through an entire year’s worth of post-breakup malaise. And because the manner in which Carrie and Big reconcile can be guessed within the first 20 minutes (I guessed the first part of their resolution while Ken Hanke figured out the second) means you’ve got another two hours to wait for the movie to end up exactly where you knew it would to begin with.

King does little to try and push the movie forward; he instead takes pointless side trips and grinds the movie to a halt at every opportunity—something that would be a problem even if the movie didn’t already move at the speed of continental drift. Carrie’s depressed? Let’s go to Mexico to set up the world’s most expensive Montezuma’s revenge gag, just to make the point that the only way to get over being dumped and left at the altar is seeing your friend crap her pants. (According to the dialogue, this constitutes something “truly funny.”) So Carrie’s cleaning out her closet? Let’s have her pointlessly show off what she wore in the ‘80s. There’s a fashion show in New York? Let’s have the gals attend it for no good reason. I realize fashion is a big aspect of the TV show, but when you see people wearing giant hats that make them look like pepper mills, or Parker wearing everything from a gigantic two-foot-wide hibiscus to a robe made of Yeti, it’s a bit ridiculous. They could’ve thrown in Sean Connery’s red-leather bikini from Zardoz (1974), and I wouldn’t have been surprised.

And then there’s the acting, such as Kristin Davis shrieking throughout the entire film like King Kong just showed up. But she’s nowhere near as bad as the men in this movie, who prove that there is a difference between movie talent and television talent, especially when Miranda’s husband (TV actor David Eigenberg) is on-screen. He spends the entire movie being mildly creepy, blubbery and sweating like he just escaped from a methadone clinic. But even when there is talent on-screen, it’s wasted. Take the addition of Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), who’s obviously there for some forced racial diversity. Her character ends up as a throwaway plot device as opposed to an actual character.

The whole thing would have worked better on TV, and even then it’s a fans-only deal. So if you like the show, you’ll probably like the movie. And if you aren’t a fan, you probably weren’t contemplating watching this film in the first place. Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language.

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12 thoughts on “Sex and the City

  1. Gary Woodall

    I for one loved the movie. I never missed a episode and since the show went off the air I have longed for closure for the characters. Now I have it and I am very pleased with their life choices.
    I have only been back in WNC for 3 years after a 20 year absence and I honestly have to say I rarely agree with the reviews you folks post here. I have always read the reviews and used them to help me decide what I would see next. Giving this a “1 star” is exactly the reason I will not do that anymore.

  2. Justin Souther

    First off, I’d never presume that my review of this film (or any of my reviews, for that matter) should the last word in whether a person watches this — or any — movie. I tried to point out a couple of times that I am not the target audience for this film, while fans of the show would get everything they want out of the film. At the same time, I attempted to point out the movie’s faults as filmmaking, which are numerous. From a purely technical standpoint, I can’t imagine anyone making a strong argument for the merits of this film.

    Nevertheless, I think it would be amiss of me to not point out that the “one star” I gave the film might’ve been a bit generous, at least from Ken’s viewpoint, who’s mentioned to me that he thinks was too kind to the film. So I guess maybe that’s some sort of silver lining.

  3. Ken Hanke

    I honestly have to say I rarely agree with the reviews you folks post here. I have always read the reviews and used them to help me decide what I would see next. Giving this a “1 star” is exactly the reason I will not do that anymore.

    I’m having trouble understanding that first sentence in connection with the second sentence. I mean why have you been using the reviews as a guide if you rarely agree with them? I suppose you might use them in reverse and assume that if Justin or I liked a film, you’d steer clear of it and vice versa, but that’s not the implication.

    In any case, you’re coming at this film as a fan of the show with an emotional investment in it and the characters. That makes a difference — and it’s a difference that is made pretty clear in the review. Now, I’ve never seen the show and perhaps the characters are more developed there and more likeable. I don’t know, but the film ought to be able to stand alone. For me, it didn’t. I found the characters shallow, superficial and ragingly materialistic — making the whole thing like some ode to consumerism at its most virulent.

    The film seems to be a polarizing experience. The reviews are pretty much evenly split between critics who liked the movie (and the show) and critics who hated it (and either haven’t watched the show, or didn’t like it). It appears that it’s largely a case of fans and non-fans — something that’s inevitable with a film like this. What I have not seen is anyone championing the film as a film, but only as a coda to the series.

  4. Dionysis

    “I found the characters shallow, superficial and ragingly materialistic”

    Having watched a few episodes of the television series, but not the film, I think your characterization is correct. The few times I did watch the show, I’d just shake my head and wonder why such vacuous characters would appeal to anyone. But that’s just me.

    And contrary to the first poster, I find the reviews in MtXpress usually spot on, and am often influenced to either see or skip a film based upon them. In fact, the movie reviews are always the first thing I read in each week’s edition.

  5. Sunday

    I agree with Ken’s assessment of it being polarizing and for those reasons.

    For that reason, I think the movie accomplishes what it sets out to achieve. It’s a true and sincere continuation of a very good TV show on the big screen. Maybe it should’ve been relegated to an HBO film istead of theaters, but the point is it doesn’t try to be something it never was in order to satisfy people who didn’t care about the show to begin with. It was never going to do that anyhow, so why mess with what made it tick? That would just frustrtate the fans too, much like the new Indy film has managed to do with some of its creative choices this go ’round.

    As a film itself, I’d saystill better than the average rom-com. It doesn’t rely solely on the show’s winks and insider glances to carry it like the latest Indiana Jones movie does. It’s considerably better (and more palatable) than a movie like Elizabethtown which sweetly smothers and gags you. It’s no Chasing Amy or Death At A Funeral though either.

    But again, what was the movie supposed to be but the show moved to the big screen? On that level it succeeds pretty darned well because that’s exactly what I hoped it would be.

  6. Ken Hanke

    it doesn’t try to be something it never was in order to satisfy people who didn’t care about the show to begin with. It was never going to do that anyhow, so why mess with what made it tick?

    I don’t think anyone has suggested it should have. I might suggest that it would possibly have helped had it built the characters a little better so that first-timers didn’t feel like they were in the middle of a party where they knew no one (Serenity made this same mistake). (For instance, I still don’t know if “Mr. Big” refers to the man’s power, his money, his position in SJP’s life, or his physical endowment.)

    However, if this show is anything like the movie, I can guarantee I would hate the show, too, since I intensely disliked the characters. That said, I didn’t review the film (I would have been even harsher on it), but the reviewer — Justin — made it pretty clear that while he thought it was bad, he imagined that fans with an emotional investment in the show would feel otherwise. That’s pretty fair.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I love Sex and the City. We have been able to start a small college fund for our kids solely from this show. You go girls!

    Something about that statement just doesn’t seem quite connected to an assessment of the actual quality of the material. Maybe I’m wrong.

  8. Sunday

    Well in all fairness the show itself has taken the time to develop the characters…and since the movie is an extension of the show, it makes the presumption that you know them already.

    That being said, I’d argue it might be a bit premature to say you’d hate them having not watched the show. For instance, when I first started watching Entourage I felt the same way, that these were Hollywood type uber-males…self-centered, materialistic, etc. Complete jerks with little redeeming value. Sticking with the show for a few more episodes you get to see the character’s real motivations, what makes them tick, etc. Same with the Sopranos. If I based my like of each of them based on the pilot alone, I might not have tuned back in. Big Love anyone?

    Shows have that luxury of easing you into the water and taking a season or two even to fully flesh out characters. Movies based on shows work on the presumption you’re there because you already know them.

    Look at the Brady Bunch spoof films from a few years ago. Those work entirely off the premise that not only do we already know the characters but the show’s old plots as well in order to get the laugh.

    Maybe the best argument of all is that shows like Sex And The City, Firefly, The X-Files (also rumored…Lost), etc. NOT be brought to the big screen at all because it’s almost impossible (or at least unfair) to judge them as stand-alone films…since their screenplays come with expectations, history, and baggage. That doesn’t mean “excusing” films like this…but in just about any case we have to look at this type of movie through different eyes. And yes, Justin says as much.

    One wonders if any of these kinds of attempts really ever…work.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Well in all fairness the show itself has taken the time to develop the characters…and since the movie is an extension of the show, it makes the presumption that you know them already.

    But is that really in all fairness? After all, the movie is freaking 145 minutes long (preposterous for a romantic comedy). Most movies can offer some degree of characterization in a lot less time. It’s a pitfall of the whole idea. And I doubt it’s entirely coincidental that the best formed character in Serenity was the Chiewetel Ejiofor one — and he wasn’t from the series.

    That being said, I’d argue it might be a bit premature to say you’d hate them having not watched the show.

    The point is probably moot, since I have no intention of watching the series, especially after seeing the film. But it would take a lot to make me like these characters. I mostly wanted to slap them and tell them to stop their upper-class whine-fest. I mean really — have you ever had your heart broken? And if so, did you to sit around and mope through every holiday season known to Hallmark while you got over it? Chances are, you didn’t, and that you had to get on with the business of life and making a living. Romantic comedies are often bad about this — the creepy P.S. I Love You is a good example — but this one seemed even more so to me. And bear in mind that I have a greater tendency to like romantic comedies than not — Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day being a recent example, and this week’s Priceless (opens Friday) being another. I’ve even given pretty high marks to some fairly negligible genre efforts like Maid in Manhattan, Music and Lyrics and Two Weeks Notice. Something about this one, though…as I said on the radio, just before the film I saw the trailer for Midnight Meat Train, and by the time we’d hit the 20 minute mark, I was wishing all these characters were taking a ride on it.

    Maybe the best argument of all is that shows like Sex And The City, Firefly, The X-Files (also rumored…Lost), etc. NOT be brought to the big screen at all because it’s almost impossible (or at least unfair) to judge them as stand-alone films

    Well, when they make this kind of money, you can bet they’ll continue to be made, regardless. Of course, this one’s aberrant. Features of The X-Files and Firefly fared less well.

    One wonders if any of these kinds of attempts really ever…work.

    The one big exception I can think of is The Addams Family. (And it didn’t continue the TV series.) Others would doubtless argue Star Trek, since those films were certainly popular. But all in all, it probably doesn’t “work” that well. That’s partly due to the fact that so many TV stars don’t quite make the transition to the big screen. Except for SJP, who in this film has had much of a movie career? And I certainly can’t see any of the men having one. (Citing Chris Noth in The Perfect Man isn’t saying much.)

  10. Louis

    “The one big exception I can think of is The Addams Family. (And it didn’t continue the TV series.) Others would doubtless argue Star Trek, since those films were certainly popular.”

    TV being his original milieu, please don’t give Paul Haggis any ideas. If I find out that ONE DAY AT A TIME, THE LOVE BOAT (a.k.a the TV version of the movie CRASH, structurally speaking) THE FACTS OF LIFE, DIFF’RENT STROKES, or WALKER, TEXAS RANGER is making its way to the big screen, then I’m going to assign the blame to you Ken, and I’ll be a life-long disgruntled ‘Xpress’ reader.

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