Sex and the City

New Line, May 30

In theory, the eagerly awaited film adaptation of “Sex and the City” sounds like a good idea-and a lot of fun; after all, four whole years have passed since the hit show ended–too long for the fans to wait. In reality, though, this “transfer” of the long-running TV show proves that what had worked so well on the small screen is not particularly effective or entertaining on the big-screen–not for two and a half hours!

Sadly, what was witty, savvy, cool, and sexy in the hit TV series has turned into an indulgent, overlong (146 minutes to be precise), and largely middlebrow affair, with a larger than needed or expected dosage of bourgeois morality and schmaltzy tone, perhaps a reflection of the fact that the women are now a decade older than they were when the show began (in 1998).

Yes, it's good to see the Fab Four–the charming Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlottetogether again, parading their Louis Vuitton handbags, Manolo Blahnik shoes, and bigger bags of emotional and sexual problems. But any hopes that “Sex and the City” would be a nice companion piece to the superlative chic and fun “The Devil Wears Prada,” are crushed right after the first reel.

Indeed, as conceived and directed by Michael Patrick King, the creative force behind the TV show, this version hovers somewhere in a limbo between TV and movie land. Basically, the saga feels like five or six episodes glued or stitched together not in a particularly engaging, savvy, or original way.

For six seasons, HBO brought to life Candace Bushnell's provocative bestselling book, “Sex and the City,” turning the show into an upscale, trend-setting phenomenon, popular all over the world. It was HBO's most popular and critically acclaimed prime time show. If my reading is valid, the movie should appeal to the show's core fans (younger and older women, urbanites, gay men) and perhaps bring in a new demographic group, teenage girls. But this New Line-Warner release may not reach blockbuster proportions in the neighborhood of other quintessentially New York romantic comedies, such as early Woody Allen and Nora Ephron's works, and more recently “The Devil Wears Prada”

For the few out there who need a reminder: Sarah Jessica Parker stars as Carrie Bradshaw, a “sexual anthropologist,” who writes “Sex and the City,” a newspaper column that chronicles the sexual affairs of fellow New Yorkers. Carries ideas are often inspired by her three best friends, nice-girl and eternally optimistic Charlotte (Kristin Davis), hard-edged and bright Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and sluttish party girl Samantha (Kim Cattrall), not to mention Carries own turbulent love life.

This screen adaptation opens with the girls entering early middle-age. Carrie is with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), living and writing in Manhattan, hoping for one big wedding. Miranda is married to Steve (David Eigenberg), still working as a lawyer and raising their five-year-old son in Brooklyn (the “New Manhattan”). Charlotte is married to Harry (Evan Handler), raising their newly adopted Chinese girl. Stubbornly independent Samantha has taken her publicity and marketing talents to L.A., where her boyfriend Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis) has become a movie star, and she playing a subservient role–as his publicist and girlfriend.

“Sex and the City” follows the quartet of girls as they deal with sex, love and relationships in what could be described as a balancing act. Though Carries is the star, each of the three other women is getting a storylineand a major dilemmato handle.

There has been a veil of secrecy around the plot and subplots, and I certainly don't wish to destroy the fun by revealing too much. Suffice is to say that Carrie hopes very much to tie the knot with Mr. Big and live in a lush Manhattan apartment that has a huge closet (remember her collection of shoes in her tiny flat).

Though loving and respecting her husband, Miranda is faced with the dilemma of dealing with the breech of her monogamous marriage due to her husband's confessed indiscretion.

The happiest and most well-adjusted of the quartet is Charlotte, but has she given up on having children of her own with hubby Harry, who has the tiniest role of the men.

Will such a hard-core Manhattanite and free spirit as Samantha be able to settle down into domesticity with one man and on the West Coast, which is not as exciting and vibrant as the Big Apple.

One of the problems of this version, particularly with such excessive running time, is that there is only one new character: Carrie's secretary, Louise, played by Jennifer Hudson, in her first post Oscar-winning role for “Dreamgirls.” Considering that some of the women (again, I can't disclose names) go through breakups and splits, King the writer could have “arranged” for them to date other, new men.

The movie rehashes too much text of the TV show, and though there are new locales (Malibu, Mexico), the scenes in those settings lack wit and freshness and resort to visual clichs. This is particularly the case of the trip the femmes takes to a luxurious Mexican resort, where one of them (guess who) ingests a bit of tap water and spends the rest of the day in the bathroom!

In general, the saga contains enough melodramas to fill five or six episodes of the TV series. Dear readers: Its really hard to analyze the film without revealing too many plot points. But I'll say this: Not all of the dilemmas faced by the women and the resolutions they reach ring true to the essence of their characters. And I have problems with the predominantly bourgeois and mainstream values that inform the film's screenplay but was decidedly absent from the TV show, which was much more outr and risqu–sexually and otherwise. I will return to this issue after the movie opens, when it safer to discuss its contents.

It doesn't help that as a tyro director, Michael Patrick King lacks the necessary technical facilities, particularly in the areas of camera movement and editing, to give the story a sharp, vivid, and snappy pacing. With the exception of the opening sequences and a few other scenes, the movie drags on and on, seldom finding the right rhythm required by one continuous-seating big-screen entertainment.

Suffering from an epic running time, the movie could have easily cut by half an hour. At the end of the viewing experience, you realize how important pacing and duration are to genre of comedy. Perhaps one of the reasons for the TV show's huge appeal is that each episode lasted only about 25 minutes.

The movie also reunites many of the people behind the camera, including series creator and writer Michael Patrick King and fashion designer Patricia Field. Patricia Fields career skyrocketed, when her hip signature creations became almost as well known as the characters wearing them. Indeed, technically, the best aspect of the film are the costumes, designed by Oscar Award nominee and Emmy Award winning designer Patricia Field, who also designed the wardrobe in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Cast

Carrie Bradshaw – Sarah Jessica Parker
Samantha Jones – Kim Cattrall
Charlotte York – Kristin Davis
Miranda Hobbes – Cynthia Nixon
Mr. Big – Chris Noth
Enid Frick – Candice Bergen
Louise – Jennifer Hudson
Steve Brady – David Eigenberg
Harry Goldenblatt – Evan Handler
Smith Jerrod – Jason Lewis
Anthony Marentino … Mario Cantone
Magda – Lynn Cohen
Stanford Blatch – Willie Garson

Credits

A New Line Cinema release presented in association with Home Box Office of a Darren Star production.
Produced by Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker, Darren Star, John Melfi.
Executive producers: Toby Emmerich, Richard Brener, Kathryn Busby, Jonathan Filley.
Co-Producer: Eric Cyphers.
Written and directed by King; based on characters from the book by Candace Bushnell and the TV series created by Darren Star.
Camera: John Thomas.
Editor: Michael Berenbaum.
Music: Aaron Zigman; executive music producer, Salaam Remi.
Production designer: Jeremy Conway.
Art director: Ed Check.
Set decorator: Lydia Marks.
Costume designer: Patricia Field; co-designers, Molly Rogers, Danny Santiago.
Sound: William Sarokin; supervising sound editor, Michael Hilkene; sound designer, Odin Benitez.

MPAA Rating: R.
Running time: 146 Minutes.