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‘Sex and the City’

Sex is stale in the city

by Kaori Shoji

Hmmm. This is tough. Trashing “Sex and the City” is like saying you don’t own one pair of great strap-on heels or a little black dress. It’s like admitting to years of celibacy. Immediately, you’re seen as less than a woman (the modern definition of one anyway), one with no sense, no taste, weird and undesirable. I can already hear the gates of sisterhood crashing in my face with a resounding, hostile bang.

In my defense, it’s the movie version that’s troubling, not the TV series, which, as it did for every other female on the planet, brought me incredible amounts of joy, laughter and fashion tips in many a sunless winter. At one point, my girlfriends were even saying they’d rather go home and watch “Sex and the City” than waste time on a date, which contradicted the essence of the program.

But hey, so what? We waited four long years, nursing on rental DVDs, for another season or at least some sense of continuity. And now, this movie.

Alas, on the big screen, the Fabulous Four seem to lose their sheen, their verve, some significant core of their very beings. The director/writer, Michael Patrick King, wrote and produced many of the episodes for the series, but what worked for him on the living-room screen simply doesn’t translate to theater size. At nearly two and a half hours, “Sex and the City” feels overly long, overcontrived and unnecessarily fussed at, like a too-made-up bride with an impossibly cumbersome gown.

Sex and the City
Rating
Director Michael Patrick King
Run Time 147 minutes
Language English

Speaking of which, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker): Every woman’s best girlfriend and the guardian angel of urban sisterhood, is getting hitched. Her wedding however, doesn’t sound like at her at all, or at least not the youthful, independent, sparkling woman who wowed us with her combination get-ups of street-waif vintage and high fashion, not to mention her spot-on observations about looking for love in Manhattan.

Carrie used to balk at the tastelessly inconspicuous — at parties she subconsciously channeled Jackie Onassis and let other people do the talking while she stood quietly, being cool and gorgeous. But on this occasion, she pulls out the stops. The guest list blows up from a cozy 75 to a whopping 200-plus. The venue, to be photographed by Vogue in a five-page spread, is the New York Public Library (thank God it wasn’t the Museum of Sex). As for the dress, it’s an affront to all that Carrie had once stood for. In 1998, when the series first started, she would have preferred to have her fingernails torn off by Nazi interrogators than wear this monstrosity that resembles a huge vat of white paint in which globs of Styrofoam have been left to drown.

The groom is that elusive Mr. Big (Chris Noth), the love of her life who, even when he was in bed with Carrie, seemed always on the verge of going out for cigarettes and never coming back. Now about to enter holy matrimony for the third time in his life, Mr. Big gets a severe case of cold feet just before the ceremony and has to be cajoled by Carrie to come on down from the tree and have a sip of champagne.

Actually, Big has been bitten by the Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) bug, though not in the way you think. Always the rigid perfectionist, Miranda can’t forgive her husband Steve (David Eigenberg) for a teensy weensy one-night stand and lets slip to Big (whose name by the way, we finally found out is John) that marriage ain’t no bowl of cherries. Big then feels like chucking the whole thing, as much as he feels bad for jilting Carrie, not to mention that “her 40s is the last age at which a bride can be photographed without the unintended Diane Arbus subtext.”

Luckily Carrie’s pals are there to console and comfort: sexpot Samantha (Kim Cattrall) flown in from Los Angeles, where she lives in sexual bliss with daytime TV star Smith (Jason Lewis); the sweetly obliging Charlotte (Kristin Davis), who lives in domestic bliss with stable husband Harry (Evan Handler) and their adopted Chinese baby; and, of course, the irrepressible Miranda.

So the Fab Four go to Mexico to get away from it all. This doesn’t include raucous, nonstop discussions of sex and pubic hair and a sudden, um, burst of incontinence on the part of Charlotte, rather there are interminable phone calls back and forth between the ladies and their respective men folk, plus a grand-scale profusion of designer garb, some really hideous handbag paraphernalia and so many Manolo heels that even Imelda Marcos would have found them too much.

True, Zen aesthetics had never applied to “Sex and the City” but the excessive, pile-it-on credo of the movie wears on the nerves like a bad hair-do. The TV series had always been about the celebration of womanhood, but it seems like the movie carries on long after the party’s over.