Like the stampede the moment the doors open for a Filene's Basement white sale, the crush of women at theaters this weekend to see the big-screen version of Sex and the City should be intense. On Tuesday night, for the film's invitational premiere, swarms of femi-nests buzzed expectantly outside Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall. And when many of the ticket-holders couldn't get into the 6,000-seat Hall because of overbooking, the anger and hurt spilled onto Sixth Avenue, literally stopping traffic. Near the front of the line of rejectees, according to the New York Daily News, were two women from Vancouver, B.C., who had paid $16,000 for the trip to New York (they must have driven here) and were dolled up in designer dresses and stiletto heels. You should have realized, ladies, that those things can be used as weapons.
The most reliable demographic for a big box-office weekend is teen boys who can't get dates. Traditionally, when a film opens, young males come more quickly than the several generations of female this one is aimed at. But SATC a continuation of the HBO babes-in-bonding series that ran for six seasons and ended in 2004 is already sold out for many of its midnight shows tonight and evening performances on Friday. .. The film is clearly a lifeline for the Sex-deprived. By Sunday, if the early buzz translates into huge ticket sales, Hollywood may have to consider a new truism: there's instant girl power at the movies.
We mean girls of all ages, from precocious tweens to denizens of rest homes and the Red Hat Society. But especially the thirtysomethings: the moms and unmarrieds who, in Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, could see themselves as sassy career gals gossiping about who had the most volcanic orgasm. Perhaps they also connected with the iconic working woman of their time, as Mary Tyler Moore's Mary Richards had been a generation before. (And, unquestionably, the show gave its fans a smart laugh or two.) So naturally they're primed for the SATC movie, which was written and directed by Michael Patrick King, an executive producer of the show. For them, it's what Grand Theft Auto IV is to their sons, and a Hannah Montana concert to their daughters a gotta-have cultural event.
Now comes the requisite paragraph where I say I'm not really qualified to comment on either the series or the movie because I'm (a) male and (b) straight. And yet, having both those infirmities, I also feel estranged at times from Judd Apatow films. I have the anachronistic notion that romantic comedies needn't be exclusively partial to one gender; they should be critical and loving and true to both. So I'll soldier on with my mixed, distant, defiantly ignorant review of this 142-minute trifle which comes close to being the longest non-musical romantic comedy in Hollywood history.
Followers of the series know that Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a journalist, thinks she's found Mr. Right in Mr. Big (Chris Noth); that randy Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has moved to California with her actor-boyfriend Smith (Jason Lewis); that Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has married salt-of-the-earth Steve (David Eigenberg); and that Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is hitched to the homunculus Harry (Evan Handler).
And at this point, I'm supposed to say no more. As if it were the last Harry Potter book, the SATC publicists have begged critics not to reveal the intricacies of the plot. So, trying to balance journalism and gallantry, I am providing a rundown, but with certain words or phrases anagrammed in boldface to obscure their import you can find the corrected words at the bottom of the piece. Let the nosy piss (synopsis) begin:
Carrie and Mr. Big have finally decided to migrate red, but he gets clef toed and is a how son at the my encore. Instead of her oh no money, Carrie spends time at a Mars excretion being consolidates in the company of her patchy timesfriends, who have their own lob sperm. Miranda has boredom issues with Steve, who is briefly a flu fun hit, provoking her to have lime. Charlotte, who has radiated glop but still hopes to vibe right, finds out that she angers pint. And Samantha gets axe sully distracted by the sight of a lewd lewd eon gent next door. Miranda and Carrie have a gainful lot because one of them told the beau of the other to seal stingy, but the two circle one on a weeny verse. At the end, all the stories are resolved la hippy, as our four femmes go nab a dingo by drinking tampon colossi.
When Pretty Woman came out in 1990, it was a smash, especially with women, and I hated it. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who ran the studio that made the film, explained what I was missing: "You don't understand shopping." SATC is similarly attuned to the shopping impulse, to the joy of having, and, even more, the thrill of coveting, Carrie knows Big is her soul mate because, in their new apartment, he magically produces what she most desires: extra closet space, which is the most elusive real estate in New York. Samantha practically has a crisis of conscience when her $50,000 bid is topped at a Christie's auction of jewelry from a zillionaire's ex-wife. (Scholars of celebrity divorces will recognize this as the Ellen Barkin garage sale.)
In SATC, as in fashion magazines like Vogue and In Style, the editorial is indistinguishable from the advertising. You can't tell where the drama ends and the product placement begins. Carrie's friendship with her new assistant (Dreamgirls' Jennifer Hudson) is cemented with the gift of a Louis Vuitton purse; and, in one climactic scene, the humans trying to spill out their emotions are upstaged by a Manolo Blahnik shopping bag. Posh brand names show up everywhere, occasionally with severe consequences (Carrie is effectively led astray by a Vivienne Westwood dress), but mostly to suggest the luxe that goes with the women's lust.
The movie continues one hallmark of the TV series: all the stars but Parker go topless. And, poaching on Apatow territory, the film matches a glimpse of a healthy penis with a view of the russet pubic moss luxuriating below Miranda's swimsuit line. But there are more male buttocks than female breasts on display here, as if to appeal to the show's other core constituency gay men. That's fine with me, since gay screenwriters are the last ones who believe that comedy needs verbal wit, that the epigram still has a place in movies. (Though, disappointingly, there are precious few mots in this one.)
Obsessed as it is with lust and looking, the movie naturally wants its stars to look great. They're not kids any more: Parker and Davis are 43, Nixon 42 and Cattrall 51. (I know, Harrison Ford is 65, but you know that the camera and the audience are kinder to aging male stars than females.) But their characters are youngish, at least in their minds. Like a lot of us, they refuse to grow up or old; they need to stay fit and sexy, to sustain a satiny, early-20s robustness straight into senility. And whether Carrie and her friends are heroic or delusional, they aren't the only ones. Last night The Daily Show played a news clip of a talking head discussing John McCain's medical records and, noting that he seemed in good health, proclaimed that "71 is the new 30." Back to Jon Stewart, who added, "and Dead is the new 50."
Sparing you my construction-worker's appraisal of each actress' current state of preservation or decay, I'll just say that the wonder is Cattrall, who's managed to retain her erotic shine from her first film, the 1975 Rosebud, undiminished. The camera examines her face, tracks up her tanned legs, nuzzles or nestles in her cleavage, and can find no flaw, as if she were the prize creation of a CGI wizard. One scene where Samantha, as a treat for Smith, lies nude on their dining room table, her body garnished with sushi could be a chic photo essay in either Maxim or Gourmet. I don't know the particulars of Cattrall's maintenance regimen, but, as a friend of mine said about another, gorgeous, 50-plus actress, "If she's had work, it's great work." (The other major character in the film is New York City, playing the role it filled in Hollywood comedies of the '30s and '40s: the capital of glamour and sophistication. Today, Old New Amsterdam is pushing 400, and it still looks fabulous!)
In SATC, what keeps the characters young is their abiding friendship: the sisterhood of shared confidences and ego-boosting, of advice offered in good faith and accepted in gratitude, of a timely phone call when a pal's spirits are low. ("I just called," one woman says, nicely paraphrasing Stevie Wonder, "to make sure you weren't hanging from your shower rod.") Learning and hugging. There's lots of that here woman to woman and man to woman which satisfies the movie's fantasy fulfillment of both amity and eros.
SATC spends too much time dawdling, but at the end it boils its theme down to 12 words. An estranged couple once communicated by reading love letters from famous people. Now, the longtime stud sends this e-mail to his wounded partner: "I know I screwed it up, but I will love you forever."
Devotion and apology in a single sentence. That's a love letter for the ages.
The anagrams, in order: get married, cold feet, no-show, ceremony, honeymoon, Mexican resort, disconsolate, sympathetic, problems, bedroom, unfaithful, leave him, adopted a girl, give birth, is pregnant, sexually, well-endowed, falling out, stay single, reconcile, New Year's Eve, happily, bond again, cosmopolitans.