Sex and the City: The Movie
It stands to reason that sometimes personal bias or feelings get in the way of enjoying otherwise good movies.
Those who simply cannot stand profanity should avoid Quentin Tarantino's and Martin Scorsese's movies. Do needles make you queasy? Don't watch "Trainspotting."
That was kind of my issue with "Sex and the City," a romantic comedy based off of the hit HBO series of the same name. I anticipated enjoying the film tremendously since the 20 or so episodes that I've seen have been great. That didn't happen for a very specific reason that might also affect some viewers. Others who don't share my neuroses, especially fans of the show, probably won't care.
The film is basically a 148-minute episode of the show. It features everyone's favorite 30-something, 40-something, sexually-liberated, New York professional women Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker,) Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall,) Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon,) and Charlotte York (Kristin Davis.)
For those unfamiliar with the show, here's a quick Cliffs notes of the characters. Carrie is the protagonist; all of the episodes are from her point of view and feature her narration as she writes her sex and relationship column and/or books. Throughout the series she had an on-again, off-again relationship with Mr. Big (Chris Noth,) whose real name is revealed in the film. The movie finds the two of them committing to one another, moving into an apartment, and getting married. Samantha is arguably the show's most popular character. She's the oldest and most libertine of the four women, totally obsessed with sex, against marriage, and open to trying just about anything. She's moved to California to manage the career of her lover Smith Jerrod. She takes every opportunity to fly to New York to see her girlfriends and in the film finds herself struggling with monogamy. Charlotte is the quieter, more traditional, idealist of the foursome. Her character is the only one in the film not experiencing a significant relationship crisis. Her struggle is adapting to motherhood. The fourth member of the group, Miranda, a married workaholic, finds different problems than Samantha in the committed relationship. For the driven individual with a job, child, and spouse, often times it's the spouse that receives the least attention - something with painful consequences.
And so the film basically chronicles the planning for Carrie's wedding and the characters' struggles with no longer being single.
I enjoyed about the first 30-45 minutes. It was great until the film decided the primary relationship problem it wanted to address that I got tremendously frustrated. Romantic comedies are all pretty predictable and formulaic in their construction. And that's OK. We generally don't watch them for the plot. Their allure is in the humor, characters, and relationship commentary. So I tend not to get too irked when seemingly every romantic comedy involves some degree of miscommunication. Usually the male or female protagonist screws up their relationship in some way because of a deception or misunderstanding. And the audience is left in suspense for about 15 or 20 minutes while the characters work it out. That's fine. And it's perfectly OK to play with the audience - to hold them in the vice - for a little bit while characters they care about struggle.
What is not OK is to torture your audience with that irritation for over an hour and a half. Early on in the film, two of the four couples experience pretty severe relationship trauma. The men do something, make a mistake of varying severity, and the women then completely cut them off and retreat to the comfort of their girlfriends.
This drove me absolutely insane. You've got great characters that you like, care about, and have an emotional investment. And they're driven apart for 90 minutes - much longer in movie time - over a simple miscommunication that could have been resolved at the moment it happened if the female character had not leapt to conclusions. The fact that the conflict is not a real conflict between the characters but just a miscommunication and lack of communication in general was too much for me to take.
And that's where it gets personal. The great thing about "Sex and the City" is that most people in relationships will probably be able to relate to the characters and their plights. You don't have to be a rich, promiscuous, fashion-obsessed, urbanite to get something out of "Sex and the City." You just have to have experienced the trials of serious relationships. In my experience there is one element by which all relationships live and die: communication. If there's a problem it needs to be talked about and it needs to be talked about immediately. Even when there isn't a controversy of some kind, both individuals need to be talking all the time about all aspects of the relationship so that a small issue does not quietly grow into a larger one. You do not go to bed with an argument, you do not leave each other with a conflict. If you do then you only open the window for the relationship's destruction. It doesn't take a long time to learn this lesson. Or at least it shouldn't.
So I'm kind of obsessed with this idea. If my fiancée and I have a conflict, I'm not going to let her get away until it's resolved. We're going to take care of the problem immediately. That's why we're still together. If we hadn't treated our relationship's injuries swiftly then they would have gotten infected and we wouldn't be together today.
So the idea of just letting a problem fester - to not get the issue resolved - is a terrifying concept for me. It turns "Sex and the City" into a horror movie
Not everyone's going to have this problem, though. And aside from it there's still plenty to enjoy as everything positive about the show is recreated in the film. It's funny, sexy, and continually entertaining. The principle problem aside from the communication issue is simply the length. (In fact the problem I've ranted about would be minimized greatly if the film were maybe 45 minutes shorter.) Sorry, but it's so universally true that it should practically be a rule. Comedies, especially romantic comedies, cannot be epic in length. Nearly two and a half hours is far too excessive. Light comedies really should be no longer than 90 minutes, and those with more dramatic and substantive elements might be able to sustain 2 hours if they're especially good.
A better strategy would have been for the film to have been 90-110 minutes long and for the present version of the film to have been an unrated, extended, director's cut.
It's certainly not exclusively a "chick flick," as the movie is accessible to men too. I generally only approve of in-theatre talking during the previews since often trailers all but demand commentary. When a preview played for the movie version of "He's Just Not Into You" I blurted out "Well, they certainly know their audience," provoking cackles from the girls and women sitting around us. My fiancée estimated the men to women ratio in the nearly sold-out theatre at perhaps 2 to 10.
Now if HBO can only get around to making a film conclusion for "Deadwood".