erik lundegaard


Sex and the City (2008)

After a spectacular Friday, in which it was estimated that it grossed over $26 million, it looks like Sex and the City has calmed down a bit. The overall weekend estimate is now only about twice its Friday total: $55 million. Still, not bad for a chick flick. In fact, a record.

I was part of that Friday crowd, by the way, sitting between my girlfriend Patricia and her friend Paige in a theater in downtown Seattle crowded with women, most of whom, like their heroines onscreen, came accessorized with fashion and friends. Patricia’s lament when she saw the other women there was like the lament of the Star Wars geek seeing all the light sabers and Darth Vader masks at the Star Wars premiere: “I should’ve dressed up.”

The movie? Not good. Five episodes strung together. Five high-strung episodes. Carrie and Big are about to be married, but he gets momentary cold feet at the altar for which she can’t forgive him. The rest is recovery, licking wounds, gaining the wisdom to forgive again.

What’s the appeal of Sex and the City for women? I assume it’s the two accessories: fashion and friends. The two constant F’s in life when that third F is more inconsistent. It’s another gender's wish fulfillment. When your dream wedding goes kaput and you’re catatonic, your friends care enough to drop everything, and are powerful enough to manipulate everything, to whisk you away to Mexico for a vacation for four. You don’t even need to thank or acknowledge them. What are friends for?

Of course you’re only in this predicament because of one of your friends. One wonders about Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) in this movie. She was always a bit of a bitch, and not in a good way, but here she’s just awful. She avoids sex with her husband for six months, then boots him out when he tearfully confesses (a la Michael Murphy in An Unmarried Woman) to sleeping with another woman. She pressures Carrie into marrying Big (because he owns their penthouse apartment and what does Carrie own?) and then, during the rehearsal dinner, tells Big that he and Carrie are crazy for getting married (because look what happened to her and Steve!). This leads to Big’s cold feet. She doesn’t tell Carrie this for five months and then, when she does, she doesn’t give Carrie the space to forgive her on her own. But friendship is what the movie is about so she’s there for the happy ending.

Ask women with which Sex character they identify and most will respond: “Carrie.” She’s the main character and the least stereotyped of the four. The others: sex-hungry cougar; naive sweetie; workaholic. It’s still not a flattering comparison. In their own ways, both Samantha (Kim Catrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) are much more caring than Carrie. Carrie is as solipsistic in her happiness as she is in her sadness. It’s all about her. She’s also, to be honest, a pretty lousy writer with fairly pedestrian thoughts. In the movie she needs to hire a personal assistant, but, beyond getting a black face in the crowd (Jennifer Hudson's), one wonders why. Carrie’s not writing. And if she’s not writing, what is she doing? Can’t she put her own damn clothes away?

The true accessory in the movie — more than in the show, even — is men. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film where men are so central in theory yet so peripheral in practice. All the boyfriends and husbands are lucky to get in a good line of dialogue. Well, line of dialogue, since most of the dialogue isn’t good, although Candice Bergen as the editor of Vogue gets off a great one about any bride over 40 having trouble avoiding “that unfortunate Diane Arbus subtext.”

I'll admit it was fascinating going to the movie, particularly opening day, but it's a little odd hanging out in the wish-fulifillment fantasies of the other gender for two hours and 20 minutes. Afterwards, I desperately needed a beer and “Baseball Tonight.” But I did win a $5 bet with Paige. She thought Sex would do as well as Iron Man's opening weekend. Girls.

—June 1, 2008

© 2008 Erik Lundegaard