SEX AND THE CITY: THE MOVIE: Blu-Ray (HBO/New Line 2008) Alliance Home Video
At the dawn of the new millennium, Hollywood really ramped up its cannibalization of the small screen for its big screen movie franchises, practically to the point of utter absurdity. This trend began in the early 1990’s with a string of cultish recreations of beloved television shows from the 1960’s and 70’s (The Addams Family - 1991, The Brady Bunch – 1995, Starsky & Hutch – 2004, Bewitched - 2005) then, continued with the absorption of 80s pop-u-tainment (Charlie’s Angels, 2000, Miami Vice, 2006, The Incredible Hulk, 2008), gradually mutating into TV/movie ‘tie-in’ of then current television series (The X-Files: Fight the Future, 1998). However, as a television-to-cinema hybrid, Michael Patrick King’s Sex and The City: The Movie (2008) is rather disappointing. Instead of playing as a glossy hair extension of that highly successful HBO series, this movie tends to run on as though it were five, half-hour episodes loosely strung together. When last the series left the airwaves, sex columnist, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) had been rescued from a possessive relationship on the banks of the Seine by the ever-cold-footed matrimonial hunk, John James ‘Mr. Big’ Preston (Chris Noth), a philandering cad who twice before reduced the usually effervescent Carrie to a puddle of sobbing blubber. In Sex and The City: The Movie, Big is at it again.
After buying a lavish penthouse apartment for he and Carrie – and redoing its closet to conform to the needs of her ever-expanding obsessive/compulsive fashionista’s wet dream of a wardrobe – Big proposes marriage, then chokes on his promise and bolts at the altar, leaving Carrie looking bizarrely stylish in her atrociously expensive ‘Traviata’ wedding gown, complete with the frenzied plumage of a blue bird stuck into her veil and – you guessed it – yet again, desolated to the point of ravaged hyperventilation. Breathe, baby…just breathe. It seems Big’s cold feet stem from a comment made by Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) at the pre-wedding banquet after she has discovered her own mate, Steve (David Eigenberg) has cheated on her with another woman. Ironically, given the title and premise of this movie, we never get to see the sexual indiscretion that severs Miranda and Steve’s matrimonial bond. Instead, the first hour of King’s calamity is devoted to an endless and nauseating cavalcade of bizarrely unhinged and often tasteless ‘fashion’ costume changes as the brittle bride searches for the perfect wedding gown. So much for Carrie’s dilemma. In another part of the city that never sleeps, the ever optimistic, though obtusely frigid, Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) continues to live out a resplendently kosher Cinderella fantasy with Harry Goldenblatt (Evan Handler) and their adopted Oriental daughter, Lily (Alexandra Fong).
If these narrative threads in King’s screenplay sound weak to begin with, they positively fall apart with resident assembly-line hump with an attitude, Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) forsaking her perfect relationship with pin-up underwear model/turned famous movie actor, Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis) simply for a chance to pursue another dead-end flagrante delicto with next door neighbor, Dante (Gilles Marini) in Malibu, a guy who prefers to shower in the nude in broad daylight on a public landing overlooking the beach where children frolic and scantily clad snow bunnies cavort for everyone's amusement. Honestly, who lives like this and does he have a sister as uninhibited? What is rather disappointing about Sex and The City: The Movie as opposed to Sex and The City: the series, is how utterly joyless this excursion fast becomes, even as it borrows slavishly from the familiar stomping grounds and scenarios to have made the TV show one hell of a fresh-lathered sweat with audiences. But if anything, this is one time too many a trip to the same damn well: Carrie and Big’s break-up leaving Carrie shell-shocked and sleeping alone at a posh resort in Mexico. Even the girls’ conversations about bodily functions, various sexual positions, and, other deliciously tawdry behavior seem tinged with more than a hint of bitter regret, bitchiness and ennui.
In retrospect, perhaps the animosity brewing beneath the façade of pretending to be friends had worn thin. Indeed, there have been several public interviews given by both Sarah Jessica Parker and Kim Cattrall, to illustrate just how little love is lost between them once the cameras stop rolling. Neither has been particularly forthright in revealing the actual cause of their mutual dislike. And, in fact, Cattrall has been the more ‘above it all’ lady-like in her general opinions, both to clarify, and yet simultaneously obfuscate whatever the real reason might be for Parker failing to warm to her professionalism. Oh, if only one could have been a fly on King’s wall while talks were in the works to reunite these feuding friends. Sex and the City: The Movie, retains Carrie’s voice-over narration – a main staple of the series; alas, only as book ends. In the series, Carrie’s reflections on life, love and great sex were the guiding principles to hinge all the hilarity intermittently dispersed for our pleasure. Indeed, we know these characters primarily through Carrie’s externalized referencing. In the movie, Carrie’s comments are neither external nor reflective, merely a regurgitation of what we already know or what we are already seeing – hence, they prove pointless. After Carrie suffers her humiliation with Big at the altar, the voice-overs stop abruptly and remain strangely absent until near the end.
Jennifer Hudson makes a welcomed – if all too brief – edition to the clan as Louise from St. Louis, the friend and personal assistant Carrie could really have used elsewhere, if the others in her self-absorbed set were not so perpetually wrapped up in their own navel and crotch gazing antics. Arguably the strengths of the franchise become this movie’s innate weaknesses. Even more ironically, none are exploited to as good effect here as they had been on television. For example: in the series, nudity plays its humorous part, mostly as a precursor to Carrie’s frank observations on the absurdities associated with this basic act of human procreation. The nudity in the series was never there merely to shock or titillate for the thirty-second smut rush of adrenaline, rather, to draw out the obvious foibles and ridiculousness of the episodic conundrum being told. However, in the movie the sex is gratuitous. Steve ravages Miranda. Samantha lies on a glass table in Smith Jerrod’s beach house, covered in nothing but sushi, and – quite frankly – seeing Gilles Marini’s hooded snake in profile and in widescreen is a sight I could so easily have done without. Bottom line: we have seen all this badinage before, but readily played out with infinitely more savoir faire and light-hearted fun tacked on for good measure. The movie substitutes the deliciousness of our innate curiosities about sex, for sex for sex sake, played merely as a naughty, and not altogether enjoyable vice, rather than a filthy-minded little virtue.
Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, never rode the hobby horse as fringe bimbettes in the series. No, these were put-together women of the world, searching for love while miraculously keeping things together long enough to amuse us with their clever resolve and determination. The movie seems to forget none of the gals is a full-blown ‘airhead’. And then there is the rather obvious imbalance in on-screen time, allotted each gal. One would think that with a 2 ½ hr. canvas to paint, King would have cleverly embroiled his all-girl ensemble in enough female bonding to mate with the tradition of the franchise. Alas - not so. Not surprising, Parker’s Carrie gets the lion's share of running time – such as it is. Still, it is rather disheartening to see so little of Cattrall’s Samantha Jones, relocated to a west coast abode from which King’s screenplay desperately tries to find several reasons to have her fly back to Manhattan for her regular dishing of the latest dirt. The men of Sex and The City: the series were never its strength. They were, however, integral to its humor. Regrettably, there is all too little humor to go around in this movie. As proof, the series reoccurring gay characters, Stanford Blatch (Willie Garson) and Anthony Marentino (Mario Cantone) are barely glimpsed here. Noth’s Mr. Big gets a lot of play time – too much in fact, as he has precious little to say and thereby relegates the other male stars to tertiary cameos at best.
In the series, Miranda was given enough time to reveal a certain vulnerability beneath her abrasive exterior – the shield of ‘no nonsense’, slipping somewhat to make her sympathetic in all her harried and stiffly conservative sexual frustrations. In the movie however, she is merely reduced to the bitchy catalyst, responsible for destroying Carrie’s initial chance at marital bliss with Mr. Big. Sex and The City: The Movie is all about the surface sheen – Manhattan, looking ravishingly cosmopolitan – a Disneyland for wayward adults with enough disposable income and slipping inhibitions to indulge in its luscious social depravities. But King’s screenplay relies too much on the audience’s blushing rose-colored identification with the series to sustain these old acquaintances for 2 ½ hours herein. We are expected to remember all of the series memorable moments in order to relate to these characters on film. Yet, even for devotees of the franchise, the trick here never quite works. After all, these gals are older now and thus ought to be wiser as well. Inserting snippets from the series when their struggles were fresher and funnier only serves to reiterate just how far the series has come and how much further removed the incidents presented herein seem – desperately clinging to what we best remember from the past. In fact, the opening title sequence begins with snippets from various episodes in the series – a sort of Sex and the City…the good years’ recap and travelogue - though nothing short of a solid plot can stop these recollections from sinking under the featherweight ridiculousness of the movie’s central focus. Experiencing a good movie may very well be like having great sex, but this movie achieves neither satisfaction.
Alliance/New Line’s Blu-Ray easily bests its standard DVD. Color fidelity and fine details take a quantum leap forward. Contrast levels are bang on. Blacks are deep and solid. Flesh tones appear quite natural on the Blu-Ray while looking rather pasty on the DVD. The audio is an aggressive 5.1 Dolby Digital with a very powerful sonic spread across all channels, giving the pop music soundtrack its due wherever and whenever possible. Extras include a brief 'making of' and commentary track that is self-congratulatory at best.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)