Fans will enjoy the afterglow of a satisfying return
May 29, 2008 8:00 AM
Craig Blankenhorn/New Line Cinema
Kristin Davis, left, stars as Charlotte York-Goldenblatt, Kim Cattrall, center, as Samantha Jones and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes in "Sex and the City."
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Standing in New York nirvana, a Fifth Avenue penthouse apartment with a terrace, Big tells Carrie: "Welcome home, baby."
Women (and more than a few men) who adore Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will echo that when "Sex and the City" arrives on the big screen with more than 300 costume changes for the leading ladies, dialogue that will make you laugh out loud, friendships that are tested in surprising ways and a mature exploration of the concept of forgiveness.
Yes, our little HBO girls are growing up. They aren't 30-somethings who bed-hop and dish about it in the coffee shop. Three years have passed since we last left the foursome with their happy endings; everyone was coupled up but not necessarily married.
Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) now has penned three best-selling books. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has traded New York for a Malibu beach house, which she shares with actor Smith Jerrod (Jason Lewis).
Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and her husband, Harry (Evan Handler), dote on their adopted daughter, Lily, while Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is doing the juggling act familiar to women everywhere with a husband (David Eigenberg), young son, high-pressure job at a law firm and mother-in-law with Alzheimer's.
In a development that will come as no surprise to anyone who watches TV or glances at newspapers and magazines, Mr. Big (Chris Noth) and Carrie not only decide to live together but to get married. In a proposal that sounds like it's from a fractured fairy tale instead of the Prince Charming handbook, he says, "I wouldn't mind being married to you. Would you mind being married to me?"
That's like asking, would you mind a free Louis Vuitton bag?
As Carrie watches her small wedding inflate like a Thanksgiving Day parade balloon, Miranda grapples with betrayal, Samantha tries to tame her appetites and Charlotte worries because everything is perfect ... in a scary, the sky-will-fall-soon way.
The less you know about the story, the better, but suffice it to say that writer-director Michael Patrick King, a longtime executive producer and writer of the series, does right by the women.
Carrie and Miranda have the most dramatically rich stories -- Parker's best moment, for instance, comes when she appears exhausted, her face scrubbed clean of makeup and artifice -- but Charlotte and Samantha get their due, too. If anything, the men get short shrift in varying degrees and supporting characters such as Anthony Marentino, Stanford Blatch and Magda the nanny manage only minimal screen time.
Adding a welcome note of youth and racial diversity is Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's assistant, a St. Louis woman with a weakness for designer handbags who moved to New York to fall in love. The Oscar winner, who has a song on the soundtrack, and young quartets of women are echoes of "SATC" past or, maybe, the next generation.
Back when "Sex and the City" had women talking about modelizers or Birkin bags or breaking up by Post-it note, they also debated whether girlfriends really dished in such detail about their relationships. The more ribald and risque the talk, the more ridiculous or real it seemed, depending on the circle of friends.
Although there is still plenty to laugh about, the conversation is more genuine and mature, the cuts deeper when friends unintentionally wound or disappointment or anger rages. Even the idea of fairy-tale endings gets a new examination, as does the continuing theme about being true to yourself.
While King lays the foundation for one development near the end, it feels rushed or as if a scene providing a bridge to the finale is missing. And when a movie runs 142 minutes, meandering through the months and seasons, that's a problem.
It is not necessary to have watched the TV show, either in its raw or cleaned-up form, to enjoy the movie. But it is a richer, different experience if you understand why Carrie always gravitated back to Big or how Miranda ended up in Brooklyn or why Smith seemed so chivalrous when Samantha had breast cancer or why Harry was an unlikely but perfect match for Charlotte.
In a world where actresses of a certain age disappear -- either from the movies or behind Botoxed or surgically altered faces -- "SATC" is a joyous embrace of grown-up women who are able to look to the future instead of the past. Both marked by friendship, fashions to die for and freedom in a fabulous city.