Dir: Michael Patrick King. US. 2008. 140mins.
Four years after the series finale of HBO's iconic Sex And The City, the eagerly-awaited film version arrives with much of the spirit and humour intact, a juicily melodramatic plotline and more over-the-top fashion than is decent for one movie. Fans of the series, which ran for six seasons between 1998 and 2004, will not be disappointed by the film, which runs to 140 minutes and plays like a new season in itself.
Whether New Line, Warner Bros and the foreign independents which have bought it will be able to lure a wider audience is another question, especially since there is enough sex and nudity to ensure adult ratings across the world. Having said that, the popularity of the series has grown enormously since 2004 in reruns and DVD sales, and very healthy box office returns can be anticipated everywhere. It should easily be one of the year's biggest films among an adult female demographic, not to mention gay men, although women will probably go with other women rather than bring along their reluctant male partners.
Longtime series writer and executive producer Michael Patrick King wrote the film (and produced it with star Sarah Jessica Parker and John Melfi) and he doesn't meddle much with the format of the series, kicking off with a brief recap of each character's history, using a voiceover by Carrie Bradshaw (Parker) throughout and including all the supporting players from the show, albeit in a reduced capacity bearing in mind the temporal parameters of a feature film.
What's appealing about the film is the calmer nature of the four women at its core and the careful reflection of their increased age. No longer are we dealing with the frenetic sex-crazed antics of four women in their early thirties, but rather the more thoughtful musings of four women in their forties (and in Samantha's case her fifties). They have their longterm partners - the question is whether can they sustain relationships and do they want marriage.
Front and centre, as always, is Carrie, an absurdly-overstyled journalist who writes a column about sex in New York City, and at series end was finally got back together with her financial hotshot on-again-off-again boyfriend John James Preston aka Mr Big (Noth). As the film begins, four years after their reunion, the two are moving into a sumptuous rooftop apartment and decide to marry. But while Big would like to tie the knot with as little pomp as possible, Carrie gets carried away and the proposed wedding turns into an event at the city library complete with a preposterously extravagant Vivienne Westwood gown.
Cynical lawyer Miranda (Nixon) is still married to the sweet-natured Steve Brady (Eigenberg), but their sex life is suffering as the demands of her job and parenthood take their toll, and early on in the film Steve confesses infidelity.
Vampish PR queen Samantha Jones (Cattrall) has moved to Los Angeles where she is managing the career of her young boyfriend, actor Smith Jerrod (Lewis) and living in Malibu. But she too is getting frustrated both with the relationship and her new job and paying frequent visits back to New York.
Happiest of all is prim and proper Charlotte (Davis) who has a strong marriage to the dependable Harry (Handler) and a beautiful child in Lily, whom they adopted from China. But just when she thought she couldn't have a baby of her own, Charlotte falls pregnant.
All the women find themselves turning to each other for support in their respective crises, and their closeness is cemented when they take a tumultuous trip together to Mexico in the centre of the film. Needless to say, problems are resolved by the end of the story, but not before Carrie has learnt a few life lessons from her new assistant Louise (Hudson), a young twentysomething who has come to New York looking for love, much like Carrie twenty years earlier.
If the dialogue is more contemplative than in the series' heyday, there are still some laugh-out-loud moments mostly generated by Samantha whether it be her outrage at Miranda's overgrown pubic hair, her plan to surprise Smith on Valentine's Day by covering her naked body with home-made sushi or her growing obsession with a hunky neighbour in Malibu.
Somewhat distracting in the film is the persistent use of designer labels and promotional partners whether it be the Westwood dress - complete with a note from La Westwood herself to Carrie - a Louis Vuitton bag or the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Whereas such naked designer-lust seemed fitting for the younger women on the small screen, it feels inappropriate, even a little vulgar, for the more mature ladies on the big one.
Darren Star Productions
New Line Cinema/Warner Bros
New Line International
Sarah Jessica Parker
Michael Patrick King
Michael Patrick King
based on characters created by Candice Bushnell
Director of photography
Sarah Jessica Parker