By Kyle | May 30, 2008
Over at our, um, sister publication The Wall Street Journal, whose readership is said to be something like 80 percent male, it’s a Sex and the City party today. Half a dozen SATC articles (plus a video and a podcast) grace the onetime home base for earnings reports. My fave is the one by my friend Pia Catton, who talks about the phenomenon of packs of women swooping into bars and how women of our parents’ generation have never heard of such a thing. Another article questions whether SATC is encouraging women to wear sexier outfits to work, which in turn may lead to them being taken less seriously. Critic Joe Morgenstern says the film isn’t as lively as the TV show. Marketing the R-rated movie to squealing 13-year-old girls makes for another story, then there’s a piece about how broadcasts of “Sex and the City” on TBS are going to feature 2-minute mini-episodes of another girl-power show. You’d think The New York Times could top that, but you’d be wrong. All the Times offers is a review of the film (“dumpy little makeover”–rrrrrowww!–according to Manohla Dargis) and a rather hilarious class-based article that says poor, black, brown and outer-borough women like “Sex and the City” also. Reminds you of the old joke about how various papers would cover the end of the world. Washington Post: “Administration Knew End of World Was Coming;” New York Post: “WE DIE!” New York Times: “Poor Hit Hardest as World Ends.”
By Kyle | May 29, 2008
3 stars out of 4
2 hrs 24 minutes/Rated R
Kyle Smith review of “Sex and the City”
The big-screen version of “Sex and the City” is a love story with a ruthlessly cynical subtext. When David Mamet wrote, “Love makes the world go round–love of gold,” he could have been reviewing the movie.
Which is at about the same level of an average, though ridiculously elongated, episode of the series, with a couple of touching moments and the usual mix of sharp New York jokes and wheezing puns.
Since all four of the girls begin the movie in long-term relationships–Carrie and Big are together, but she still has her own apartment; Miranda and Charlotte are still married (not to each other); and Samantha is the L.A.-based manager of her boyfriend, the David Beckham-ish actor Smith–the movie takes more time to get started than the four divas take getting dressed in the morning.
Various breakups and attempts at reconciliation and personal growth will drive the plot, but for a good long stretch the movie keeps diving into its own shallowness and hitting its head on the bottom of the reflecting pool. That, plus some completely extraneous scenes–one in which the plot stops dead for everyone to visit a fashion show, another in which Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker, who is also a producer on the project) tries on her pouffiest 80s outfits as the three lesser beings rule whether to keep them or toss them–means we’re in for one of the longest romantic comedies ever released in Hollywood. But it’s a movie about indulgence and catching up with old friends, and not many fans of the show will be checking their watches.
At the start, the naked, panting moneylust is so extreme that the effect is as embarrassing as listening to your neighbors’ mating calls, or a Danielle Steel novel. Carrie and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) are shopping for apartments-but not just any apartment. It has to be a penthouse on Fifth Avenue the size of Yankee Stadium. Presented with this palace, what does Carrie do? She complains about the size of the closet. Other non-scintillating storylines include whether Samantha (Kim Cattrall) will succeed in winning an auction for a $50,000 ring. At times this is less a movie than a catalogue.
The strangest situation is that of Miranda, who has been priced out of Manhattan and is living with her husband Steve and their kid in (ewww) lowly Brooklyn. But Miranda is the only one of the four women whose income depends entirely on her own efforts–she is a Harvard-trained corporate lawyer and could easily afford the kind of multi-million dollar home that the others acquire by attaching themselves to rich men. The movie seems determined to punish her for not fitting the fairy princess narrative of marrying way, way up. Later, she’ll be seen looking at cheap apartments in Chinatown, as though she were at the same income level as an immigrant.
As Carrie heads toward marrying Big, she gets caught up in a girly fantasy. Vogue (personified by Candice Bergen as an editor) hires her to do a story on her own wedding, which means Oscar de la Renta is sending over a gown! They say a girl’s wedding day is the happiest of her life, but for Carrie, the highlight is getting a present from Vivienne Westwood. She also wants to hold the ceremony at the headquarters of the New York Public Library, supposedly because that’s where all the love stories are, but it’s hard to get around the idea that what she really craves is the status symbol value of the most lavish reception hall imaginable.
To its credit, though, the movie turns Carrie’s value system, which equates “the two Ls–Labels and Love” to its advantage, and in the second half, when the girls run into various real-world difficulties the movie achieves a nice balance between comedy and drama.
Jennifer Hudson, the Oscar winner from “Dreamgirls,” who shows up as Carrie’s Webmaster and wisdom-dispenser, is written in the same Magic Negro key as the archetypes once played by Will Smith and Morgan Freeman, but Hudson is a welcome addition, with her kind eyes, her soft voice and her practical approach to style: Her designer handbags are rented. (That the script dubs her Louise, from St. Louis, meaning Carrie calls her St. Louise, must be counted as overkill.) The Hudson character also sets up one of the movie’s best jokes, in which Carrie decides to watch “Meet Me in St. Louis” on New Year’s Eve.
Writer-director Michael Patrick King hasn’t quite worked out the differences between TV and movies. The screenwriter William Goldman refers to the last half hour of a film as the time when we should be “gunning for curtain,” but “Sex and the City” keeps wandering away from its main storyline to subplots and subplots of subplots, such as one about a sudden weight gain about Samantha. (As usual, Samantha’s adventures are the gay-porn section of the movie, complete with a lengthy full-body shot of a hunky guy showering. His name is Dante–King heaves in a feeble pun about hell–but around the locker room he seems more likely to be known as “pepper mill.”)
Flabby as his structure is, though, King does come up with plenty of witty lines, and when the women take a break from gawping at labels and make with the banter, things click into place. A joke about Charlotte’s suspicion of drinking the water in Mexico is well set-up and leads to a big laugh at an important point in the story, and Samantha’s idea of covering her nude body in sushi as a treat for her lover yields, “I got wasabi in places where one should never get wasabi.” Samantha’s zipping from coast to coast produces far too many shots of her making entrances and lots of ear-rattling squeals from Charlotte, but then again it does leave us with a classic Gotham zinger: “When was the last time you felt happy?” Samantha is asked. “Six months ago,” she says. Which sets up the response, “I think that’s normal for L.A.”
By Kyle | May 13, 2008
After the inexplicable decision to premiere the “Sex and the City” movie in London on Monday night, UK hacks are out with their reviews. The verdict is….unclear.
Says The Daily Telegraph, “Coarse, sentimental and materialistic–just as we hoped it would be.” That’s the pro side. On the con side is an admittedly grumpy old man from the Times of London, who says his cup runneth over with twittering fashionistas, giving the flick two stars out of five. He grumbles at its running time–and indeed who would gainsay him if the film really is TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES?–and says,
The plot twists and turns like that of a pot boiler. Having inspired an entire genre of chick lit, Sex and the City the film feeds off its own progeny. Is it a film, one wonders, or an extended soap opera, will any of these crises be resolved and, if they are, will it matter, for they will surely soon plunge themselves into another dilemma, for which the only cure is an expansive shopping trip.
Over at the Sun, generally considered the newspaper of choice for Cockney lorry drivers, the word from reviewer “The Sneak” is that the film is exactly what you expect (crave?): “As always it is Kim Cattrall as sex mad Samantha who steals the show with all the big laughs.” Okay, not exactly Anthony Lane here.
So whom do we trust? None of the above! Let’s wait to hear from the clever and reliable Peter Bradshaw, (no relation to Carrie, I think) who writes for The Guardian but hasn’t yet posted his thoughts.
By Kyle | January 17, 2008
Matthew McConaughey sounds like the rare celebrity whom it might actually be fun to interview. The February Playboy interview with him is loaded with tidbits that are as much fun as playing the bongos in the nude. To wit:
–“I abstained from sex for a year…I laugh about it now, but you appreciate things all the more when you get back into them. It was great for me. I still do miniature versions of it–fasting two times a year for a week or so.”
–McConaughey says he lost his virginity at 15 but offers no details.
–McConaughey says his father, Jim, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1953 (but despite his proud son’s claims, probably never played for them) died because “he had a heart fibrillation making love to my mother on a Monday morning.”
–He says he hasn’t worn deodorant in 20 years and adds of his costar in next month’s “Fool’s Gold,” “Kate Hudson can’t stand it.” But he takes “a few” showers each day.
–He would have taken a part in “Brokeback Mountain” if he had been offered it. Of filming an explicit gay sex scene, he adds, “I wouldn’t be fearful. I wouldn’t say, ‘that’s going to mess with my image.'”
By Kyle | October 19, 2007
Doing a sort of American take on “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” Pulitzer-capturing Washington Post film critic Stephen Hunter ventured off the multiplex beat to wax poetic about the female form. October, not April, is the cruelest month, says Hunter: that’s when the female form starts to disappear beneath coats and sweaters. Sigh. Excerpt:
I know you do not read this kind of utterance regularly, as if it’s some big secret that men look at women’s parts, then women, then womankind, in primordial ways. But it’s honest, and it is well rooted in the literature of men. Irwin Shaw wrote a famous short story called “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” about a young, happily married guy with the all-American name of Mike who could not stop looking at the antecedents of the story’s title, much to his wife’s pain. Then there’s a ditty from the ’50s consecrating the eternal nature of the vision quest, with the fabulous lyric “Standing on the corner, watching all the girls go by.” It sounds so innocent, yet it would probably cost you a career today. And you can go back even further to the Elizabethan age when Robert Herrick, contemplating his lady love and commenting for the ages on “the liquefaction of her clothes,” meaning, of course, that in that pre-plastic age, he was watching gravity and musculature do their business as his Julia, in her silks, undulated by. Oh, brother, could this guy write a poem today or what?