Here’s the thing: I’m just not genetically programmed to gasp in awe at a designer wedding dress, or a really big closet. Many of the folks who saw Sex and the City with me obviously are, but it’s not in me. Given that regrettable fact, plus the fact that I have never seen an episode of the tv show of which the film is a continuation, I am forced to the following simple conclusion: I’m gonna have to let this one go. One should be mature enough to recognize when his opinion is not only insignificant, but straight-up doesn’t count. So I’ll keep it brief.
If that sounds like the start of a vicious pan, try this: for this non-fan — one could say anti-fan — Sex and the City was a fairly painless experience. Sure, it was at least 40 minutes too long, filled with jokes decipherable only by acolytes, and predicated on an obsession with designer labels, but once I got into its girly, melodramatic groove, I became oddly engaged. I attribute that to my appreciation for characters who seem like they existed before the start of the movie and will continue to exist after the end. Say what you will about Carrie Bradshaw and her friends — “shallow,” “whiny” and “unlikable” all seem pretty much right — but their history is evident on the screen.
I should say that to the extent that Sex and the City worked for me, it certainly didn’t work in the same way as it might for someone who’s followed the show. The film seemed obsessed with the notion of finding love in the big city — I take it that’s the overriding theme of the franchise — but the characters’ romantic travails (most prominently Carrie’s plans to finally marry her on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again “manfriend”) played second-fiddle, for me, to its touching view of friendship. My favorite scene had Carrie, temporarily single, rushing across town to spend New Year’s Eve with Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), alone after her husband cheats. And I smiled a lot at Carrie’s relationship with her saintly new personal assistant Louise (Jennifer Hudson), who helps her move, answers her e-mails, and introduces her to the world of designer handbag rental.
So Sex and the City is at least as sweet as it is raunchy; on the other hand, it’s also basically witless. There are maybe two good laughs in the entire two-and-a-half hour film, in addition to a number of jokes that the screenplay thinks are funny but are simply, embarrassingly not. And its attempts to be risqué — mostly through frank depictions of sex — are much less shocking in the movie theater than they must have been on the small screen. A lot of my reaction to experiencing this pop culture sensation for the first time consisted of the shocking realization of just how lame and ineffectual a lot of it is.
It’s hard for me to say how much of what happens here deviates from the tv show’s m.o. Is the last act’s repudiation of the characters’ previous materialistic, fashion- and status-obsessed ways supposed to be a shocking twist? When one of the women ends a relationship because she decides she “loves herself more,” is that a sudden fit of feminism or par for the course? I imagine the answers to those questions would affect an educated and relevant assessment of Sex and the City. As I’ve made clear, I can’t provide that. I guess I can be most useful to this weekend’s potential drag-alongs: it’s not excruciating. I was never more than mildly annoyed.