Monday, June 16, 2008

REVIEW: "Sex and the City": Give me Celibacy or give me Death…

…either of which would be preferable to watching this movie. Seriously. I'm not kidding. If this is sex then I'm a monk. If that's the city, then I'm letting my hick flag fly. I don't want what they've got. Do you need more? Cause I got more, baby…
Now would be the point where I might be expected to say “Sex and the City” tells the story of-- but there is no story per se. More accurate would be to say that “Sex and the City” is a series of product placements and manufactured conflicts that drags its thoroughly unpleasant protagonistas through a series of expensive would-be hells, only to deposit them at more or less the same place they were at the beginning. It's a fun house ride without the fun; and shots of many expensive houses do not make up for that lack.
Let's be clear-- and I say this as a non-New Yorker (thought I do have a subscription-- that counts for something, doesn't it?)-- this is a movie that equates closet space with love. In fact, human beings and expensive accessories are pretty much interchangeable in the movie's cosmology, the chief difference being that the accessories are accorded more respect. Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie, our plucky heroine (and by plucky I do mean eyebrows), for instance, refers to her would be husband (Chris Noth, doing his best Leonid Brezhnev imitation.) repeatedly as “Big” (not even time for the honorific Mister that she has saddled him with, let alone his actual given name); but be assured that the various emanations of Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, and Manolo Blahnik are always fully and respectfully identified. The movie encourages us to salivate along with its characters over these high end goods, each one photographed more carefully than any of the leads (that Chris Noth dyes his eyebrows is information I wish to G_d they'd managed to keep from me.). Yet, when an actual fetishist does show up-- a perfectly correct Asian gentleman in a suit and pink pumps-- he is treated as though he is a radioactive freak. Apparently, having a true organic connection to this stuff is too much for these people-- it is to be appreciated for its socioeconomic connotations alone. God forbid it give you a boner; it's that whiff of integrity that they can't stand.
Even more annoying, if that's possible, is the movie's use of serious themes of love, parenthood, relationships , work, being of a certain age; and the difficulties of juggling all of them to find happiness and balance. As someone who is awash in these things right now, I feel protective and particular about this struggle and the depiction of it. Watching this movie feebly gumming them engendered the same feelings I'd get from watching someone hand a toddler a Ming vase, the Rosetta stone, a Guttenberg Bible, a hammer and a box of color Sharpies, and tell them to go play. The emotional jolts that occur fitfully within the film have nothing to do with the movie itself, its point of view or gestalt; and everything to do with the raw subject and a certain modicum of skill on the performer's parts (stage training helps. So does utter shamelessness.). An artless movie made about a compelling subject can be Important while not being good. But if you go to “Sex and the City” expecting an Important Film, about The Way We Live Today, then you're even more pathetic than I am, wanly hoping for a competently made diversion.
Speaking of competently made, it isn't. Everything is stretched past the breaking point; at two hours and twenty-five minutes, it feels longer and more pointless than Andy Warhol's “Empire State Building”. Fashion montages that should be disposed of in seconds spread before us like buffets full of slowly spoiling food. The editing is ad hoc, pointless, and offensive, in addition to there not being enough of it. Do we really need insert shots of untrimmed, unwaxed crotch hair to show bed death in a relationship? But we get one, and the other characters' reaction to it is akin to finding a rat in the soup. So then, later, when we see the miraculous revival of these characters' sex lives, shouldn't we then get an insert of the carefully shaven landing strip or something, since clearly that's what was holding them back? Well we didn't, and thank God, but I certainly was led to expect it.
The same harsh rules apply when Kim Cattrall shows up at a party bearing a microscopically protruding stomach that Brad Pitt would be happy to call his own, and her friends say how miserable she must be to let herself go like that (I let myself go like that every day, it's a little thing I call “lunch”.). I could go on and on, but I'm not the creative team behind the “Sex and the City” movie. In summary, this movie hates most women, despises love and forgiveness, confuses leaden wit and poo jokes for comedy, and contains precious little sex and not even much City (some nice shots of the New York Public Library to the contrary). Of course, it has gotten a few decent pull quotes from many reviewers, and is a huge hit. So what do I know? Well, I may not be a Communist (though I have been accused), but this movie made me long for a nice low-key production of “Red Detachment of Women” (it's a Communist Chinese opera, not a slasher flick. Geez Louise, stop it, or I'll turn this car around.). I'm not holding my breath for one, though.

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