June
2nd 2008
Historiann.com exclusive: SATCTM, the review!

Posted under: fluff, Gender, GLBTQ, Intersectionality, race

Well, kids, I finally got away from my endless duties at Historiann.com HQ to see Sex and the City:  The Movie.  And, what can I say?  It was a two-hour-plus excursion to Candy Land for me.  It was also a damn fine character-driven comedy/drama–and how many of those are there out there that don’t star extremely unphotogenic men?  The four main broads in this movie looked like movie stars–and how many movies are there out there that feature adult roles for women in their 40s?  Be warned, if you haven’t seen it yet:  it’s a full three-hanky weeper, much to my surprise.  I’m not sure what the movie would offer someone who’s not already a fan of the show, with an extensive knowledge of each character’s back story, but that viewer is not Historiann.  Anyway, on with the review–spoiler alert!  Don’t click “continue reading” if you don’t want to know!

Plot:  The movie gives a pretty realistic look at where the women are four years after we last saw them.  The major plot turn is that John Preston (a.k.a. “Mr. Big,” played by Chris Noth) agrees to marry Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), then jilts her (in her Vivienne Westwood wedding gown) at the altar.  Yes–Mr. Big is just as emotionally unavailable, immature, and manipulative as ever, and in this, he does not disappoint.  Meanwhile, Miranda’s (Cynthia Nixon) marriage to Steve (David Eigenberg) is foundering on the shoals of sexlessness, then implodes when Steve confesses to having had a brief extramarital affair.  Charlotte (Kirsten Davis) continues to bask drama-free in the love and adoration of Harry (Evan Handler) and their adorable adopted daugher, Lily.  And Samantha (Kim Cattrall) finds herself bored and restless in L.A. as the publicist for boyfriend Smith Jared (Jason Lewis, hunkier than ever).  Will Carrie ever find true love, with or without Mr. Big?  Will Miranda and Steve get back together?  Can Charlotte really be that happy?  And, how will Samantha resolve her restlessness without cheating on Smith with her very hunky, very available, and very naked exhibitionist next-door-neighbor?

The plot gave fans of the show what they were looking for–four more extended plots delving into the specifics of each of their lives and loves.  I liked the way the movie dealt with issues that people in their 40s must face (although I wouldn’t know myself, being still very much an under-40 myself!):  the end of the fairytale romance, the onset of married middle-age, with its children, chores, ageing parents, and even slight weight gain.

Fashion:  There was indeed a lot of it, and thankfully, most of it was much better than that intro shot they used for the publicity shots (see photo at right).  Carrie wore a lot of cute dresses, but she also wore a lot of schmattas of the Scarlet-O’Hara’s-drapes variety (like the photo of her above the jump).  Charlotte was super-cute in preppy prints and trapeze dresses.  Samantha looked great–although her style is too severe and too mature for me.  Miranda looked really gorgeous in the movie, and because Nixon is the best actress of the lot, she kind of ran away with the movie.  Historiann was partial to some of her looks (although not the oversized print dresses), as well as Charlotte’s wardrobe.  I don’t believe the fashionistas who say that the dress is so over–dresses were all over this movie.  Dresses were the default costume for each main character.  (And fortunately, Annie Hall made only a brief appearance in the intro scene you see above!)

New York:  The city part of Sex and the City finally features brown, black, and Asian people.  It was refreshing to see SATC finally acknowledge some of the diversity that is New York.  The TV show was embarrassingly retro when it came to ethnicity–it was as white as other famous so-called “New York” shows like Friends and Seinfeld.  Jennifer Hudson does a star turn as Louise, the personal assistant that Carrie hires after she’s left at the altar by Big.  But, I agree with Diary of an Anxious Black Woman’s take on the Hudson character, who comes to Carrie’s rescue:

Of course, in the case of Carrie, this is where elite white privilege comes in. She’s such a mess after this public humiliation, she’s got the resources to hire a personal assistant to organize her life. Enter Mammy 2.0 (yes, that’s the gig Jennifer Hudson gets post-Oscar, and her name is Louise!!! As in Louise Beavers? Are they for real?). And Miss Louise is such a trooper and the perfect mammylike comforter – she can get Carrie the online hookup (like renting the best Louis Vuitton handbags), update her website, her email files, and even all her “love letters” from Mr. Big, which she will not read. And of course a nice sympathetic ear and big shoulders to cry on. . . . I just love how the twentysomething black girl is still the one with the all-knowing wisdom and the strength and courage and know-how to help resuscitate the fortysomething white woman back to her self.

It was great to have a central character played by an African American actor, and it was sweet to see Carrie mentor the younger woman, whom she clearly saw as a younger version of herself.  However, having her essentially serve as Carrie’s “mammy” was an unfortunately stereotypical trope for an African American actor.  But, Hudson (as always) is excellent, and is surely destined for better roles.

Gay friends:  Why couldn’t Stanford (Willie Garson, pictured at left) or Anthony (Mario Cantone) find love, too?  (And I don’t mean with each other–as though those are the only two homosexuals in Manhattan.)  Why does this show, which has featured several gay male characters, refuse to let them have any romantic plots or sex life?  I get it that the show is focused on the four straight, white women characters, but Hudson’s Louise gets to have a boyfriend and a happy romantic ending–why not the gay boys?

Conclusion:  Mr. Big is a Big Disappointment.  In the end, Carrie and Big get back together (after several months), but I thought the “happily ever after” ending was forced.  (Reader, she married him!) The endings to the other 3 women’s stories were better and more realistic:  Miranda and Steve got back together, Charlotte actually got pregnant the old-fashioned way and had another little girl, and Samantha left Smith and went back to New York on her own.  All three of them were true to themselves, unlike Carrie.  I thought that after Big humiliated her in that spectacular way on their putative wedding day, Carrie should have given him the final heave-ho and struck out on her own like Samantha.  Be assured that a guy like that will disappoint you the next time you really need him:  like when Carrie wants to adopt a baby, or when she must deal with ageing and dying parents, or when for whatever reason, their relationship stops being about Mr. Big and he has to deal with Carrie’s career, needs, and desires.  Big’s a schmuck, and Carrie’s a schmuck too for buying that load of crap.  Again!  I guess she’ll never learn.

18 Comments »

18 Responses to “Historiann.com exclusive: SATCTM, the review!”

  1. Indyanna on 02 Jun 2008 at 10:26 pm #

    Wow, thanks Historiann! I clicked on the “jump,” since there’s no way I was going to see the thing, but now I’m armed at least with a lot of good nodding-points if a discussion breaks out somewhere.

    Meanwhile, the big story in Manhattan (according to the Times) is that the “Council of Fashion Designers” is giving its annual award to “Mr. Little,” aka Mayor Bloomberg. (Hard to believe he wears a 39 jacket–or a 38 when he’s been exercising or chasing around town after crane-collapse mishaps!) Not because of his taste; he buys carloads of “mid-gray suits,” but because he stepped up to the plate last year to keep their show from getting kicked out of Bryant Park. He’s saved with the fashion police, it seems, because his “longtime companion, Diana Taylor,” does know something or two about a stitch from a hem.

    Back on SATCTM: a sidebar story in TheArts section notes that it “unexpectedly” knocked Indiana Jones from the top spot in the box office sweepstakes this weekend, highlighting the “potential of the female audience.” Indy’s a claim-jumper, though. Shoulda sued him years ago!

    Anyway, a way-pithier review than in the mainstream sheets.

  2. Historiann on 02 Jun 2008 at 11:02 pm #

    SATCTM’s success is only a surprise to people who don’t think women are an important constituency. That Indiana Jones debacle is ridiculous, a by-the-numbers hash made to please the video game demographic and people my age who were in elementary school when the first Indiana Jones movie hit the screens. And, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: Harrison Ford is pushing 70!

    I just can’t imagine why people would prefer to look at beautiful women in (mostly) great clothes acting in a real story with real characters. What a surprise!

  3. Rad readr on 02 Jun 2008 at 11:47 pm #

    In the past I have talked trash re: Sex and the City for being an all-white show set in New York City. That in itself strikes me as one of the fantasies that the show motivates. But now that they brought in a black character, St. Louise, I take it all back. Please, please, keep it a white show. Jennifer Hudson showed (lest there was any doubt) that she has no acting talent. But I disagree on the Mammy interpretation — she was a mirror image of Carrie: materialistic, unbelievable, giddy, and also going on to marry a guy who had dumped her.

    But I will take back the “unbelievable” point when it comes to the end of the movie. Carrie going back to Big is the most realistic part of the show. Here is a woman who turned down a marriage proposal from Aiden — nice, caring, dreamy voice, not materialistic, Jesus complex (wood work). She wants the aloof Big guy who calls her “kid” and can’t make a commitment. The patriarchy sucked out her brain some time ago. Sorry Big, you’re no Bogey.

    OK, one more thing. I thought the best part of the movie was the criticism of the wedding and marriage industry — not marriage in general since it is a romantic comedy — but certain elements of marriage. It comes down hard on people who let their relationships go after marriage (Miranda). It emphasizes that marriage, or something like it, is not for everyone (Samantha). It is critical of the compromising positions that marriage creates (Steve). And finally, it is most critical of the “big” manufactured wedding. Having said that, it also celebrates the designer wedding. Those dresses were high art. So in a typical case of subversion/containment, they had to sacrifice Carrie to the altar at the end.

  4. Historiann on 03 Jun 2008 at 6:57 am #

    Rad–brilliant! I disagree with you about Hudson, but you’re spot on about the marriage politics. Are you a cultural studies professor or something?

    I saw the movie with my mother, who approved of Carrie’s “happy ending” with Big. My father, who didn’t see the movie however, backed me up in my sense that Big is just a self-centered jerk who will disappoint again and again.

  5. squadratomagico on 03 Jun 2008 at 9:19 am #

    I likely won’t see it until it’s on DVD… but I have to agree with Rad Readr that Carrie going back to Big is the truest possible expression of her character. She always has wanted him — or the money and glamor he represents — regardless of how he treats her. Moreover, it’s a realistic a depiction of the kinds of internal inconsistencies many women struggle with. I think she KNOWS he’s a heel, but she wants him anyway.

  6. Historiann on 03 Jun 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Ugh. I was hoping for a conversion, but perhaps you all–Squadratomagico, Rad, and Clio B. (from last week’s comments)–are right: Smart Woman, Foolish Choices when it comes to men. (I think for most straight women, there’s one or two “Mr. Big”s in our past–but most of us grow up and figure out that that’s not the guy you marry!)

    Disappointing. But, at least the other women pull it together and manage to come to an expression of an authentic self that works for them (and their families too, in the cases of Miranda and Charlotte).

  7. dance on 03 Jun 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Oh, I disagree about Big! Here’s my rant. Based on that, I totally think Carrie was right to go back to him because he never really jilted her anyhow.

    I like Rad’s extended analysis re the marriage messages—but I thought it didn’t come down hard enough on Miranda, and I am not quite following what he means about Steve.

  8. Historiann on 03 Jun 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    Dance–OK, you’re right that Carrie perhaps should have tried to talk to him. However, this is his M.O. as a manipulative, emotionally unavailable, immature jerk–he leads her down the garden path, she falls for it every time, and then “I got married,” or “let’s just have an affair,” or “I can’t marry you.” What kind of a person gets cold feet, leaves a million voice mail messages, and then doesn’t get out of the car to have a conversation with the person he’s been obsessively trying to contact for the past 18 hours?

  9. Susie from Philly on 03 Jun 2008 at 5:20 pm #

    Uh, a typical guy? They’re not big on dealing with things, especially emotional things, unless they have to.

  10. dance on 03 Jun 2008 at 7:22 pm #

    I’m willing to believe that freaking out is natural behavior faced with that wedding. Big may have been a stupid choice before, but in that context, I don’t think Carrie had any kind of moral high ground.

  11. Historiann on 03 Jun 2008 at 8:30 pm #

    Hi Susie–thanks for stopping by again. I would think that “dealing with…emotional things” is pretty much something to be expected on a wedding day!

    Dance–the wedding was overdone. But–do you really feel no compassion for the massive public humiliation Carrie suffered as a result? I’m sorry–but the time to back out of a wedding is well before the actual day, with all wedding guests assembled. (That would be a permanent, no give-backs deal maker for me, anyway!)

  12. ej on 03 Jun 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    Although I haven’t seen the movie, I’m not at all surprised by the turn it takes regarding Carrie’s wedding to Big. He was always fearful of commitment, and she always wanted men who were distant. I could cite the corresponding seasons and episodes here, but I will refrain. Carrie seemed to be incapable of loving a man who loved her more than she loved him, which makes Big perfect.

    After they are married, she will never have to worry about feeling that “stomach flip” that to most of us indicates a problem, but to her represents true love.

  13. Rad readr on 03 Jun 2008 at 11:24 pm #

    Dance raises some good points about Carrie’s hasty departure from the wedding. Big did turn around and was on his way back when he got pelted by flowers. That’s not to excuse his lame — but it does show he was conflicted and phobic rather than just being a straight-up jerk.

    Re: Steve. I mean that marriage dynamics are such that a couple can be in a bad situation and one steps out. I don’t think it’s necessarily just a cheating spouse or bad judgment or attraction or love or libido gone wild. Although one or more of those can influence a situation, when a married person has an affair, it is inextricable from the marriage. And Steve is a good example of that.

  14. Historiann on 04 Jun 2008 at 7:23 am #

    ej–I can’t believe you read this post without seeing the movie! You’re right about Carrie (and this is something Clio B pointed out last week too): she rejected Aidan, the loving, sweet man who wanted to marry her, so that she could still pine after Big. IMHO, that’s not love, that’s a neurosis.

    And Rad–yes, one brief mistake does not mean that the marriage is over. I was more sympathetic to Miranda than the rest of you seem to be. I disagreed with her moving out, and she definitely was part of the problem, but she’s also tired from working, caring for a child (albeit with the help of a nanny!), and for an elderly mother-in-law. It’s the typical web of responsibilities of people in their 30s and 40s, and yeah, I bet getting on the sexy sexy will seem to be a lower priority than paying the mortgage, etc.

  15. dance on 04 Jun 2008 at 8:15 am #

    Oh, I do feel compassion for the massive public humiliation, but I think she absolutely brought it on herself by immediately freaking out instead of trying to work it out. Which makes it not a deal-breaker, to me—in deciding whether to get back with Big, I would see massive public humiliation as a wash, equal blame on both sides, thus a moot point not to be taken into account in judging the man.

    Maybe I wasn’t so sympathetic to Miranda because the movie was so heavy-handed about it: “get it over with”,”have to be up in 4.5 hours”, totally not shaving. Those are extremes—she really should have known better, and her friends were very silent about the “get it over with” when I thought someone should have said “get thee to therapy immediately” or kidnapped Brady weekly to enable date night. But definitely the Steve-Miranda subplot was the one I cared most about. I thought she walked out a little fast too, but they rationalized it better afterwards (can’t trust, “you broke us”).

    I was uncertain how to read Miranda’s excursion into Chinatown, and freaking out about being surrounded by Asian people.

  16. Knitting Clio on 09 Jun 2008 at 4:53 am #

    I went to see the film with one of my gal friends from work. I’ve only watched the show periodically over the years, never had HBO so depended on hotel rooms, have watched some of it on TBS and found it amusing and sweet. The film was the same, although about an hour too long. I think it would have been perfect had it ended with Carrie and Miranda at New Year’s Eve.

    As to the clothes — although Miranda and Charlotte usually looked great (with a few clunkers on M — and the big earrings didn’t always work) — Carrie had some really awful outfits and nearly everything Samantha wore was hideous and unflattering. I didn’t get how people thought she was fat when she showed up at Charlotte’s baby shower — that outfit was the most flattering thing she wore the entire film, and the cinched waists and shoulder pad outfits actually made her look fatter.

    I didn’t watch many episodes of the actual show — so why did Carrie dump Aidan? I find John Corbett way better looking the the guy who plays Big.

  17. Historiann on 09 Jun 2008 at 7:16 am #

    Yeah–join the club of the Historiann readers who like John Corbett and don’t get “Big!” Aidan was a hunky, funny, down-to-earth craft furniture maker, and so wasn’t glamorous or dangerous enough for Carrie, I guess. He was a guy who had a mountain cabin, which made for a rather silly “city girl in the country” episode. He liked KFC and was unpretentious. He finagled Carrie into financial responsibility, doubled the size of her apartment, and then sold it to her when they broke up, so what’s not to like? I guess, as many people have suggested in this thread and others about SATC and SATCTM, that Carrie is too emotionally immature to love someone who loves her back unreservedly, and/or she’s too materialistic to give up on Big’s money. She ended up cheating on Aidan with Big–and got caught. Like a sensible man, Aidan cut her loose. Perhaps the question is more properly, “what did Aidan ever see in Carrie?” or “What did Carrie ever do for Aidan, except make him feel inadequate or unsophisticated?”

    I’m glad you liked the movie, and I agree with you totally on the clothes. (What was up with the big earrings?) But they got Miranda’s hair color just right–such a pretty golden red! And, as for Samantha being “fat,” well–it’s all relative. SJP is a size 0, so anything above a size 2 looks “fat” to that crowd.

  18. Carrie2 on 30 Oct 2008 at 3:20 pm #

    It’s time some of us feel compassion for Carrie. I understand her as i have seen myself be like her and i assure you it’s not a good feeling: we know ourselves
    how immature we are or whatever it is that rules our heart and we are perfectly aware that we should go for the Aidans’ in the world, but why can’t we?????? And why do those Bigs out there capture our every thought??

    There’s nothing you can do until you understand, until you have gone through the ‘worste’ hell and come out again with more knowledge

    And until that day marrying an ‘Aidan’ would only be a manipulative act on our side, we would do it only because we want to prove to ourselves otherwise, being certain deep inside that we’re not ready yet!!

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