'Sex In The City'
(Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Jennifer Hudson, Candice Bergen, et al / R / 89 mins / New Line)
Overview: Carrie Bradshaw, Samantha Jones, Charlotte York Goldenblatt and Miranda Hobbes (Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon) all return for another Manhattan adventure of romance and laughs.
Review: It’s impossible to talk about the new Sex and the City movie without first mentioning "Sex and the City," the HBO series; or the rabid fan devotion it enjoyed; or the equally fervent antipathy (female and male) it inspired on socio-political grounds (sort of like the late-'90s equivalent of not letting your daughter play with Barbies); or the recently much-affirmed straight-male aversion to the series, predicated on cooties. In fact, the film arrives shrouded in such a fog of expectation, preconception, anticipation and (now with more post-Hillary bite!) gender bias that it's hard to see -- or write about -- the movie for the trees.
Which is too bad, because Michael Patrick King, who executive produced the show (with series creator Darren Star) and wrote and directed the movie, has done some brave, surprising things with it, mining territory that's been all but abandoned by Hollywood. It's hard, in fact, to think of any other recent examples of movies that explore the complicated emotional lives of characters comically without stooping to adolescent silliness or that are willing to go to such dark places while remaining a comedy in the Shakespearean sense -- all's well that ends well.
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?