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Monday, June 2

Sex and the City Movie Review: Austentini's Rule Over Cosmo's Any Day Ladies!

In an imaginary scenario, if authors Jane Austen and Candace Bushnell met for cocktails and shared a few laughs, what would they chat about? Would it be courtship rituals, or the importance of status and money in choosing a mate, or the latest designer duds? Would they drink the ultimate chick drink the Cosmopolitan, or advance to an Austentini?

It’s not hard for me to surmise that they might have more than a bit to discuss since Ms. Bushnell the creator of Sex and the City, and Miss Austen of English literary acclaim share the disconcerting distinction of having been tagged chick lit authors! Shudder. What a unruly moniker. None-the-less, I would enjoy being a fly on the wall when Austen interprets for Bushnell the irony of their names being mentioned in the same sentence! Ha!

I have just returned from seeing the Sex and the City Movie. Me, and the five other people in the theater. Weird, but according to today’s news, it knocked Indiana Jones off the top box office slot. I was a peripheral fan of the television series, mostly for its keen social observations and driving narrative by its main character Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is a singleton celebrity writer in New York City. She and her three girlfriends, Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) are on the prowl for the perfect man and along the way, buy lots of expensive shoes, have sex everywhere and then gossip about it. Groundbreaking stuff in 1998 when it premiered and still scintillating when it concluded in 2004.

Some people say that Sex and the City is Jane Austen after way too many Martini’s! Not quite sure I agree. I see similarities in plot and characters, but since Jane Austen has been credited as the great grandmother of chick lit, and Bushnell the modern pided piper of chick lit, the comparisons are inevitable. One can find Austen’s themes and characters in just about any modern romance story today. She is about so much more than romance though, at least for me, that I hesitate to label her talent.

(Spoilers ahead)

Speaking of labels, it is one of the main themes of the movie, and forgiveness, yes forgiveness, one of the difficult virtues that we all face! The opening scene was like a sorority reunion; - everything looks perfect on the outside, but reality will soon surface after a few drinks. Four years has transpired but not much has changed in the lives of the four friends. Carrie and ‘Big’ (Chris Noth) are a couple, but not married; Charlotte and Harry (Evan Handler) are still blissfully married with their young adopted daughter Lily the center of their lives; Miranda, the multi-tasking working mom who adores her son Brady, but is still cranky and curt to her understanding husband Steve (David Eigenberg); and Samantha, ah Samantha, the wild free-loving publicist is in a committed relationship with a younger man, Smith (Jason Lewis) and has moved to the coast (Malibu, CA) to manage his budding acting career.

There is more familiar territory here in that we are flooded with fashion; - the haute couture high brow stuff that the ‘Sex’ ladies live for, but hardly makes it off the runway and into your local department store kind of stuff. This is New York after all, the city where high fashion dreams are made, for the select few that understand them at least, and these four friends still revel in the hype and rush of looking like little girls playing mis-matched dress-up from the closet of a traveling drag show. To reinforce their addiction, we see other young women similarly dressed romping about the New York streets. Hmmm? Fashionista herds?

The plot is predictable and revolves around Carrie and her long relationship with her man ‘Big’ who after ten years proposes marriage, because all of a sudden he thinks he should? No mention of love or a romantic bended knee moment, but Carrie accepts and is soon swept up into the marriage ‘event’ whirlwind created by well meaning friends to celebrate their union. As a subplot, cranky Miranda has dumped hubby Steve because he admitted to a one-night-stand and can’t live with himself any longer without telling her! She dumps him. In the meantime, Carrie is getting into her now headline society wedding featured in Vogue magazine hoopla, but ‘Big’ can’t get past writing his vows or literally out of the car on the day of the wedding, and jilts her.

Friends to the rescue, and we follow the ladies to Mexico on the non-refundable honeymoon that Carrie had planned as a surprise for her new husband. Bitter salsa ensues. Sarah Jessica Parker is not very appealing as the tragic heroine, and she makes the jilted Carrie as posed and predictable as those runway models that hawk the clothes she covets. When bad stuff happened in her life in previous episodes, and there was plenty of it, she typed out her inner thoughts on her computer and turned it into a column for her newspaper job. Sadly, we didn’t see any of this in the movie which made me wonder how does a single girl in New York live as extravagantly as she does without an obvious income? Jane Austen would surely like to know that secret, let alone any singleton out there trying to make ends meet!

Some of the themes of the television show have transferred well to the movie; the enduring friendships of the four ladies, the quest for love or the perfect pair of designer shoes, and the qualms and challenges of making a relationship last. My biggest disappointment was the lack of biting social observation played against the humor and irony of the dialogue. I did not laugh as much and consequently could not connect to these ladies. They have evolved into caricatures of the original characters in sillier clothes, doing sillier things, for sillier reasons. Honestly, how many times can Miranda be over judgemental to her husband Steve, and then he just grovels for forgiveness? Why did they have to make Charlotte a screaming ditzy goody-two-shoes beauty queen with no foreseeable life problems? What was Samantha, the sex addict supreme, doing in a monogamous relationship alone in a beach house in Malibu while her actor boyfriend is stuck at the studio for all hours? And poor Carrie! After ten years of getting jerked around by ‘Big’, then left at the altar, she takes him back and they marry? Whaaat?

Jane Austen always supplied us with the wedding of her protagonists at the end of her novels and we were happy for them. These modern ladies are faced with some of the same challenges as Elinor Dashwood or Lizzy Bennet, but they lacked the integrity and resolve of Austen’s heroines that allowed us to identify with them, and most importantly admire them. The smaltzy Hollywood happy ending for all of the ladies in Sex and the City was disappointing because we just didn’t agree with their decisions or care. Austen still rules supreme in my book, and I raise my Austentini to her.

Posted by Laurel Ann, Austenprose


LookingBackSeeYa said...

Very compelling piece and enjoyable read.

It's inevitable that no modern author can match up to Austen, but I thought the film did an excellent job of taking the hot-to-trot steam of the show and correlating it into a more mature, post-40s introspective. Mrs. Elton might say, perhaps too much satin.

Anonymous said...

Please give us the recipe for Austentinis, Laurel Ann! (Maybe syllabub and vodka??)

Anonymous said...

I think a better plot for the story would be all the girls get rich like in the show "Roseanne". But instead of just wasting the money, they help people like the homeless.

calvierude said...

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