The summer’s latest tent-pole event movie doesn’t have digital spaceship battles or whip-cracking adventurers or superheroes soaring between skyscrapers. But it does have not one, not two, but three scenes devoted entirely to showcasing different outfits. It’s what my girlfriend gleefully refers to as “fashion porn,” and it will have women lining up at theaters in their best pairs of shoes the same way Star Wars fans lined up for those movies in their best approximations of Jedi robes.
It’s been four long years since we last saw Sex and the City, and boy, has it gained weight—about two hours’ worth. Clocking in at a gargantuan 148 minutes, the feature-length addition to the beloved HBO series feels a tad long. (I mean, I love Sex as much as the next person, but two and a half straight hours of it is going to leave someone sore.) The reason for the running time’s added girth is that, like the brilliantly written TV show, the movie packs in all the feel-good, superficial fluff of a romantic comedy, but also leaves room for authentic relationship issues, handled realistically, which, if you’re not too careful, might actually teach you something about men and women and what they do behind closed doors.
The truth is that fans who have waited four years for this movie probably won’t mind spending a little extra time with their four favorite female archetypes. For the uninitiated, there’s Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), the cynic who ultimately managed to balance both career and family; Charlotte (Kristin Davis), the New York princess who never stopped believing in true love and ultimately found it; Samantha (Kim Cattrall), the sex glutton who ultimately found a boy toy with a heart of gold; and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), the woman whose dating chronicles have guided all of the female viewers who have lived vicariously through this everywoman’s trials and tribulations of love. She ultimately got Mr. Big (Chris Noth), and their impending wedding is what kicks off the central storyline.
And what a disappointment that storyline is. Spoiler alert: Like so many (too many) cinematic heroines before her, Carrie is jilted at the altar. Even ignoring the contrived and idiotic way this plays out, this is the best that writer-director Michael Patrick King could come up with—one more “off again” in Big and Carrie’s “on again, off again” relationship? This is the show that delved into issues like infidelity, uneven bank accounts, secret single behavior, breast cancer, impotence and “the reproductively challenged.” Even the issue of funky spunk had more complexity than this.
Fortunately, Carrie spends as much time overanalyzing her friends’ problems as she does her own, and the way these once young, single women deal with impending middle age and the not-so-single life is handled as honestly, touchingly and hilariously as you might hope. When the ladies who lunch gather around their afternoon roundtable, there are more clever, witty one-liners than you could pack into the most spacious Louis Vuitton purse.
Aside from that, Sex hits all the essential bullet points. There are Manolos, cosmopolitans (and a sly joke about how the show sparked their popularity) and a gratuitous number of costume changes. Every bit player, from Magda the housekeeper to Stanford the reliable gay sidekick, gets a moment to shine.
Even with its extended length, the movie can’t really teach us the lessons that the show could in its episodic format. The show was a better medium to walk us through the natural progression of relationships. But as a love letter to the fans and a proper send-off for our four favorite onetime singles, the movie is absolutely fabulous.