Monday, June 9, 2008

Sex and the City: A Review

EVEN THOUGH THE BOROWITZ REPORT had me scared to death to see Sex and the City, I decided to brave the sexual orientation waters and wade into that space where, apparently, no straight man treadeth.

In truth, Sex and the City isn't right out of the gate, the ideal summer flick for a straight man; in fact, I know no straight men who have seen it. On the night we went, my wife and I estimated the number of (what we assume to be) straight guys in our nearly-full theater could be tallied on one hand. Granted, we live in San Francisco, so our data point could be suspect, but any movie that hangs its boa on what it calls the two L's: labels and love, has a pretty specific demographic in mind.

While some critics, like Anthony Lane, have panned the movie for this, I think it's great.

Traditionally, summer movies are all about the guys--action heroes, comic book heroes, adventure heroes. But, where are the fashion and romance heroes? For better or worse, I think Sex and the City has established a new bar for the women's summer movie--a fantasy flick that replaces explosions with orgasms, bullets with Blahniks, car crashes with kisses, shootouts with shopping.

Of course, there are moments when both the passion and fashion are over the top. The Fantastically Fabulous Four are always fierce in their couture, but so many of the clothes feel forced and unusually impractical (not to mention unaffordable). And, the gratuitous scenes of hot naked men, candlelit sex, postpartum bliss, and string-free relationship reconciliation feel strained at times, as though writer Michael Patrick King had to cross off all of the chic-flick to-dos. And, while it was great to see the wonderful Jennifer Hudson in the movie, her presence to me felt like a way to insinuate a black woman into ground zero of vanilla.

At its best, Sex and the City lets women be women and celebrates them in all of their bad decisions, break ups, anxieties, and devastations. The movie allows the women to be so not fabulous, which is refreshing. The film is at its best when the Super Friends are in Mexico on Carrie's not-honeymoon. Carrie is so depressed she can't get out of bed; Miranda gets busted for her unwieldy pubic hair; OCD Charlotte poops in her Juicy Couture; and Samantha gets absolutely no sex. There are moments, in other words, when friendship isn't quite enough. It's not the answer, not the palliative that is the show's (and the movie's) ethos.

It is those moments that ground the campiness so many straight women and gay men have grown to adore. The film is neither all fluff nor all gravitas, but it has strong enough elements of both to make us interested in the characters we already know and to remind us that this is fantasy.

It's women's summer soft-core--not XXX but a new genre of XX.

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