Sex in the City or Extensive Handholding in the Countryside, I Prefer the Second
The movie "Sex in the City" was released today. My reaction is "meh." A friend sent around an email to a group of us asking if we wanted to go to lunch or to see "Sex in the City". I voted for lunch. Date to be determined.
Now let me make a few caveats:
1) I have not ever owned my own TV. In fact, I have not lived in a household with a TV since college. That is nearly two decades of TV-less living. I am VERY behind in my TV watching by choice. So, I have never, not once, seen the HBO TV series "Sex in the City".
2) In recent months, to not appear to the the serious computer savvy luddite or jacobite that I can be at times, I got a Netflix subscription of 2 movies a month, of which I watch on my MacBook Pro with headphones. My Netflix movie subscription has most comprised of Bollywood romantic comedies (no kissing, no real handholding), Jane Austen movies (Extensive handholding in the countryside), an odd happy indy foreign film, and a few indy cinema classics.
Basically, I did not grow up in a happy, intact family in the 'burbs, so I really don't like horror movies, film noir, serious complex indy films, and throw away sex movies. I grew up in a constantly divorcing & moving family in the sometimes burbs and now I like nice, happy movies with redemptive endings. Mock me all you want to, I lived the shit and now I want a happy ending.
3) New York is a foreign country to me. London and Mumbai are much more familiar cities to me. I have been to NYC a number of times and could not wait to get out. My last visit, I stayed for only four hours to go to dinner & see a band, and then got out as fast as possible. I love London, I go there all the time. I fell in love with Mumbai this February and plan on going back soon.
Movies and TV shows about New York are odd to me. It is another culture, a bizarre one at that, that I really don't get. Los Angles, London, Istanbul, and Mumbai, I get and like. I will watch films about those cities.
4) If you have met me then you know a very important fact about me, I have a case of terminal nice girl. Forget the funny colors in the hair (honey, that is all about art & color), forget the tendency towards loud & fast music, forget the tendency towards outrageous stories (I am a Hanen after all!), but remember I am a nice girl despite the colorful external trappings. Viva extensive handholding in the countryside!
End of caveats.
One thing I have done for years, to make up for my lack of TV watching and movie attendance, is to read the LA Times' film review section in the Friday Calendar so that I can at least know some of the plot and the critics' opinions on the latest movies. I surprise friends with my skimmed knowledge of the latest flicks at times even when I have no intention of seeing them at all, not now in the theatre or later on DVD.
After my friend's email and all the hype about "Sex in the City" to women of my age group (post-25, pre-60), I made sure that I read today's LA Times review about the movie. It was glowing. It made love to Carrie, Samantha, et al. The LA Times critic, Carina Chocano, seems to think even though they would deny that they ever stepped into the theatre that men would like the movie. The LA Times asserts that the film is quite revolutionary for Hollywood, in that it depicts middle-aged women (40-50) having a complete, fulfilled independent life.
"Sex and the City" can't rightly be called a romantic comedy in the dismal, contemporary sense, though it is at times romantic and is consistently very funny. It's also emotionally realistic, even brutal. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), now in their 40s and 50s, continue to navigate the choppy waters of urban life, negotiating relationships, work, fertility and friendship, only now the stakes are higher, the risks are bigger and decisions feel more permanent.
For a film that delights in indulging in frivolity at every possible turn, it examines subjects that most movies don't dare graze for their terrifying seriousness. And when it does, the movie handles them with surprising grace, wit and maturity. In other words, it's a movie for grown-ups of all ages. The press and industry screening I attended was uncharacteristically packed with women in their 20s, and my guess is that their interest had zero to do with the inclusion of Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's personal assistant -- though her character, Louise, is likable and allows the writer to expand the scope of the film from a story about four friends living in New York into a tale about the contemporary lives of urban women from early adulthood to maturity.
After I read this review, I thought, "Hmmm... maybe I will put it in my Netflix queue to watch much, much, much later."
But then the New Yorker's film critic, Anthony Lane, panned the movie as an extendede TV show on steriods, ending his review with this quote:
In short, to anyone facing the quandaries of being a working mother, the movie sends a vicious memo: Don't be a mother. And don't work. Is this really where we have ended up--with this superannuated fantasy posing as a slice of modern life? On TV, "Sex and the City" was never as insulting as "Desperate Housewives," which strikes me as catastrophically retrograde, but, almost sixty years after "All About Eve," which also featured four major female roles, there is a deep sadness in the sight of Carrie and friends defining themselves not as Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter did--by their talents, their hats, and the swordplay of their wits--but purely by their ability to snare and keep a man. Believe me, ladies, we're not worth it. It's true that Samantha finally disposes of one paramour, but only with a view to landing another, and her parting shot is a beauty: "I love you, but I love me more." I have a terrible feeling that "Sex and the City" expects us not to disapprove of that line, or even to laugh at it, but to exclaim in unison, "You go, girl."
I really am not interested in watching a movie about NYC consumerist fashion obsessed women. If I wanted to watch something vaguely similar, even if the West Coast version, I could go to any upscale bar or restaurant in Newport Beach or the Westside of LA and watch it live and in person. Bah.
What ever happened to hand holding and true love or at least love that is concerned with others as well as self? I guess I will be missing "Sex in the City" and I could watch a Jane Austen flick or a Mira Nair movie. Or maybe I will read a book instead.