Jun 12, 2008

Sex And The City: the Ordeal

I finally saw Sex and the City: The Movie. Most of my girl friends saw it the first weekend, so I was delighted to discover my friend Lori hadn't. As soon as she got down here from Portland and had a free afternoon, we went.

Here's a pic from the LA Times: 20-something girls dressed up to see the film on opening weekend, at the chichi Arclight Cinema. I don't see labels. They probably had to save up for the $15 movie tickets and the gas to get to the theater.

I had a love/hate relationship with the TV show. I loved the portrayal of friendship: the love between friends is really the big love in the show for me. But the sex didn't seem realistic to me. Yes I know women sleep around nowadays, but I don't think we can do that without numbing ourselves out first. Maybe that’s why they drank so many cosmopolitans and went shopping. Yet so many women who came of age during the show’s tenure believed that was what life is about: “labels and love,” as Carrie begins the VO in the film. If Carrie Bradshaw sold off her shoes she could feed Darfur for a couple of years.

But I had a certain nostalgia with the show. I moved to New York in 1998 when the show debuted, and when the show made its final bow in 2004, I was finally done with New York and my single-woman dreams. Actually, my relationship with New York was much like Carrie’s relationship with Mr. Big: that exciting, suave, bad-boy boyfriend who strings you along with promises but is too difficult and to expensive to maintain. Still you're haunted by the moments of brilliance. They say New York is only for the very rich or very young. By the time the show ended, I knew I was no longer young, and I was never going to be rich.

Anyway, Lori and I went to the first matinee of the day. There were only two other people in the audience. Two men who were probably in the SATC closet: too ashamed to admit they loved the show, they bought a ticket for Iron Man and slithered into SATC with their caps pulled down.

The first half hour of the film was a glee-fest as the girls reunited on the street and went shopping. When Carrie and Big decided to move in together, there was another squeal-fest as the girls get together to pack up Carrie’s apartment. (After ten years of dating they’re only now moving in? RED FLAG). Samantha is living in exile in Malibu, so every time she shows up, which is like once a week, they squeal as if she’d just returned from Gitmo.

The biggest romantic moment in the first two acts came when Big builds Carrie a massive closet, whose construction budget outspent the Sudan economy for a year. Anthony Lane said in his New Yorker review, that women in the audience sighed, gasped and applauded. His review sums up how I felt in much better language.

A half hour into the film I didn’t care what happened and I didn't like the women anymore. Charlotte had no conflict, Miranda was bitter, Samantha griped about living in a massive house on the beach, and Carrie—always my hope for humanity and balance in the show, was forced into a plot contrived split with Big.

Speaking of Big, the men in the film felt castrated. Charlotte’s husband had little to do but glow at his wife. Smith shrugged. Steve was on the verge of tears the entire movie. And Big: well Big’s allure is noncommittal devil-may-care nature. Chris Noth seemed to be gritting his teeth every time he had to say something sincere.

Top be fair, it’s hard to cram an entire TV season into two and a half hours. The writer/director had to follow four separate plot lines. So to flesh out four different versions of “Girl has boy, girl loses boy, girl must go on or get boy back,” was impossible. And he tried.

I do appreciate that the film starred four women over forty and celebrated friendship. But isn't there more to life by that age, than labels and love? And what kind of friend lets another friend spend $500 on shoes? For me anyway, if there is absolutely no spiritual search in anyone’s life, that’s what you end up with. Sex, shoes, distractions. Samantha’s goodbye line to her boyfriend was, “I love you, but I love me more.” Was that the take-away? Narcissism? Yucch.

It relieved me of any residual nostalgia I had for the TV series. As for a romantic vision of New York, that died in 2004. If you want a more poignant, realistic depiction of a young, single woman’s life in the Big City, read Joan Didion's short story, “Goodbye to All That.”


patrick said...

Sex and the City seems to have a polarizing force... people either hate the movie or love it; so far it seems like the "lovers" outnumber the "haters"

Susan Isaacs said...

Yes, Patrick you're right. I loved and hated the series. I felt little for the film except annoyance. There were a couple moments I liked. Like the moment at the end on the Brooklyn Bridge. But then they had to cap it with a married porn moment. TMI.

Sara Phillips said...

Hi Susan!
Out of town on a freelance job here in Colorado,I went to see the movie by myself last weekend. I thought, I am a cultural anthropologist, I will study this thing (I much rather would have gone in a cocktail dress and snuck in martinis- but hey).
The started showing previews, and one of the previews was the movie about the Military Police at Gitmo, a girl in the back row yelled, "wrong theatre" and everyone laughed.
I thought, wow, we really do like our escapism these days, don't we? Theres something extra desperate with all those 500$ shoes, these days aren't there?

Meredith Rachel Munro said...

I haven't seen it yet, but I made a friend tell me the whole plotline of the movie and I felt absolutely disgusted when she told me samantha's break-up line.

Doug Perkins said...

As much noise as I made about the Christian world's bent towards hating a show that it would never even consider seeing, I still think that I will not get around to seeing this in a theatre and maybe not even in DVD. Yeah, the "I love you, but I love ME more" I guess was supposed to be about not getting drowned in a relationship or something, but it's hard to not have the ickiness not stick it's tongue out at you when you hear it. On the one hand, I have liked SATC's way of commenting on life between the sexes by both positive and negative example, but after a while you can't help wondering when they're going to wake up to the fact that all the stuff they think is "fabulous" just isn't - it's a bunch of stuff to numb you to take your mind off the fact that pretty empty inside.

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