Last night, in a bid for canonization, I cooked dinner for Meg and offered to take her out to see Sex in the City. I figured it was the only way I'd be able to drag her to the new Indiana flick as well as the remaining Comic book releases of the season. I even promised to be polite, avoid comments, and not dog it afterwards. That's what the blog's for. This was *very* generous -- I'd heard that the movie was 2 1/2 hours long, and I despised the show -- watching it would occasionally spark homicidal fits of gibbering rage that may have ended at least one friendship. But I digress.
Here is where I should put "spoiler alert" -- but since that implies something fresh and capable of ruin, it's unnecessary. Of more interest anyway was the crowd. Hordes of young and older women, dolled up for a sweltering Houston Tuesday, many clearly tipsy (cosmos perhaps?). Their reactions made the movie for me: when wooden Mr. Big walks out on the wedding, widespread sobbing ensued; when Carrie pulls out a Prada box to give to her aspirational blackssistant, there were widespread squeals of delight.
And I laughed several times. Anthony Lane's blistering review is unfair in noting that
No self-respecting maker of soft erotica would countenance such shots, and, as for the matching dialogue (“Something just came up,” Samantha murmurs over the phone, as her boyfriend stands beside her in bulging briefs), it’s a straight lift from flaccid, mid-period James Bond. In a daring plot development, she buys a dog the size of a child’s slipper; the camera keeps cutting away to it, and guess what—the pooch screws, too! Mirth is unconfined.
Flaccid is what MADE 70's bond. The whole point is that there was little virile about Roger "I'm too bloody old for this shit" Moore (who didn't think Grace Jones would rip him to shreds?). I loved the dick and shit humor of Sex in the City -- given a few more years of New World accounts Shakespeare would have surely worked Montezuma's revenge into Comedy of Errors II: Dromios^2. I don't care if it was a bone for me and the other five guys in the audience.
But there were two interrelated points of interest for me in the movie -- elements that made it more interesting than the original show. First, there was the reduced authority of Carrie's voice-overs. In the show, Carrie, as columnist, pontificates with abandon about the social and sartorial foibles of Manhattanites and her friends. But in the movie, she's uncertain, worried about the course of her relationship, and coming to grips with being forty -- no longer the girlish lounge visitor that launched the show. Her incessant critiques of others become troubled examinations of her own life.
And bound up with this re-examination is the movie's own unease with its materialism. It's still filled with bags, boxes, and baubles, of course. Half of the plot involves shipping Carrie's clothes between homes and figuring out how to store her massive shoe collection. But the film makes a strong effort to note the intangibility of these objects, which ironically help wreck her first ceremony with Big. It even concludes with a diatribe against "labels" man/wife, movie/farce. Yet despite the insisted difference between bride and lover, ultimately Carrie still finds comedic resolution in marriage, if for no clear reason (as she and Big agree, they were happier before all the marriage fuss).
This shoehorn marriage marks how the movie is torn, I think, between the need to feed the audience the show created and the desire to reflect on what shape that monster finally takes. (Imagine the trebling roars of outrage if Carrie and Big and gone their single ways.***) It is possible to defend glorifying a $1000 purse and convincing an audience they need to have it -- The Devil Wears Prada made a good pitch -- but it's sure as hell not easy. The show offered a one-two punch that was intoxicating -- sexual liberation with a hefty designer price. Love is passed along in the movie as a gold-plated "Love" keychain (rich metaphorics here). The movie tries to separate love and fashion (one of the characters fails to shop her way out of a failing relationship) but it ultimately fails. In the final scene, the girls gather again in a flashy lounge in the meatpacking district to reflect on their romantic fortunes, sipping Cosmos that would probably cost $20 a pop, ensconced in their haute couture. The final shot -- eerily reminiscent of the casualty shot from Gone with the Wind -- pans back and away, over the lounge crowded with similarly clad covens, and then out onto the street where women trip along in designer shoes, designer bags, designer clothes. They could have been panning over the audience in the theater (and obviously that was the point). But after all the anxiety the movie seems to express for the legacy of Sex in the City -- it felt oddly haunting, not Glamorous.
*** Meg strongly disagreed with me on this one -- she thinks the audience would have been fine without the marriage. But if ever there was a target demographic for the romantic comedy ...