Girls, can we talk? When it comes to "Sex and the City," the breathlessly anticipated feature adaptation of the hit HBO show, the question isn't whether it's good. The question is whether it delivers the goods -- the goods being shoes, romance, ribald humor, shoes, sex, shoes, pithy observations about single life in New York and more shoes.
With its unapologetic materialism, raunchiness and heroines who managed to be sympathetic even in the midst of almost pathological self-absorption, "Sex and the City" became one of the most successful guilty pleasures in the history of Sunday night TV. And judged by the standards of its original medium, the movie version succeeds just as well, cramming what used to take a whole season into a nearly 2 1/2 -hour marathon of men, misery and Manolos.
As "Sex and the City" opens, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) explains that "year after year, 20-something women come to New York City in search of the two L's: labels and love." Then commences an opening montage that neatly telegraphs the past story arcs of Carrie and her three best friends, bringing them to the present day, four years after we said goodbye (the series ended in 2004). "Sex and the City" begins at the happy ending for Carrie & Co.; the challenge for writer-director Michael Patrick King, who wrote most of the show's episodes, was to inject a credible degree of conflict and suspense into the women's picture-perfect scenario. That he does, with a whopper that, even if it's not entirely unexpected, still lands like a blow to Carrie's perfectly toned solar plexus when it arrives an hour in. That twist efficiently puts the focus where it belongs in "Sex and the City": on Carrie, her friends and their relationship of acceptance and support.
"Sex and the City" has clearly and lovingly been made for the show's devoted fans, so newcomers to the story might be puzzled at the movie's worship of Louis Vuitton purses and the silly women who carry them. It's true that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are appallingly shallow and narcissistic; their friendship often seems based on the fact that they're simply each other's best mirrors. It's also true that time, and King, have been kinder to some characters than others. Miranda, it seems, has become even more brittle and unforgiving than before, whereas Samantha, the sex-obsessed cougar of the bunch, turns out to be even more warm, nurturing and vulnerable than some viewers might remember (and still just as racy). One of the great pleasures of "Sex and the City" is how the filmmakers embrace their characters' advancing ages, frankly addressing such issues as waning sexual desire and weight gain even while celebrating over-40 fabulosity.
-- Ann Hornaday (May 29, 2008)
Contains strong sexual content, nudity and profanity.