Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Sex and the Simpletons

Who wrote the insipid script for the inane movie version of "Sex and the City"? I think it was either a fifth grade girl, with her imbecile brother providing the "poo-poo" jokes, or a couple of gay men high on too many poppers. Actually, that's an insult to the fifth grader AND the gay men -- I'd have expected better -- funnier, sharper, smarter -- from any of them. It certainly couldn't be an actual real woman, since there are no real women in this painfully half-witted two and a quarter hours.

In fact, the screen writer, I see on Google, was also the director, Michael Patrick King. He should be embarrassed. Whatever this movie is trying to say to and about women, especially women in middle age, I want nothing to do with it. I wouldn't have minded a fizzy fantasy, but not one with an IQ of about 50.

Since I'd occasionally enjoyed the confectionary wit of the HBO series, I went to see the movie the other day at a Torrance multi-plex. I had, I thought, a vague memory of a review in The New Yorker in which the writer said something about it being a guilty pleasure.

It must not have been Anthony Lane, who in a June 9 review calls it, appropriately, "catastrophically retrograde." Nobody fares well in this script. Describing Charlotte's sappy husband Harry, for example, Lane writes, "For a movie about the need for real men—lusty, loyal, and loaded—this unusual earthling is truly a most peculiar advertisement for the gender." All the characters are peculiar and problematic, trite, superficial, unengaging.

My husband went along -- in fact, it was his idea because he thought it might be fun. When it became clear he was the only man in the theater, as little pods of women "of a certain age" wandered in in twos and threes, I put my arm around him and murmured, "Hey, babe, you're a stand out! All these women are going to think, what a sensitive guy!"

He whispered he might really be hoping to see a little big-screen T&A.

But when it was over, he said the only thing that aroused him in the whole movie was the chocolate cake at Charlotte's baby shower.

The trouble is, SATC is never funny enough to be a satisfying parody, not authentic enough to be a satisfying romantic comedy, never smart enough to offer vivid perspectives on the lives of its four notorious metro-gals Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.

Instead, they're one-dimensional, silly strumpets, little girls with stunted emotional lives dressed up in ridiculous clothes tripping around like drunk flamingoes. And I wasn't even convinced they were having fun. As Anthony Lane put it, "their gallops of conspicuous consumption seem oddly joyless." The last straw for me was when Samantha took a big risk with commitment...and bought a lap dog, one of the ugly little ones with hair in its eyes -- and guess what? Doggie humps everything, including at least one designer purse.

The plot revolves around Carrie getting left at the altar by Big. But even that twist was annoying -- the guy had doubts the night before, like anybody with half a brain, male or female -- and then couldn't quite bring himself to go inside their nuptial venue -- the New York Public Library. Within a minute after telling her he couldn't do it as their limos crossed paths on the street in front of the library, he changed his mind and said, basically, okay, he was okay.

But that one fatal minute of doubt -- wholly justified in any real world -- was enough for her to jettison her bouquet at him, hollering, "You humiliated me!" and call the whole thing off. This led to an orgy of rejection (and more spending from unknown sources), a protracted narcoleptic coma in Mexico and being spoonfed by Samantha, who dropped everything, along with Charlotte and Miranda (how'd she have that much vacation time saved up?) to succor their spurned sister.

The humor is dumb and also mean. For instance, the moment when Carrie gets her first hearty laugh after being left for that micro-second by Big was when Charlotte poops her pants in Mexico. What kind of joke is that? What are these girls, nine year old boys in drag?

In another painful scene, Samantha castigates Miranda for showing a tiny sprig of pubic hair as they relax (girls only) in swimsuits at their Mexico resort. Real pubic hair -- maybe one of the only natural elements in two hours of the phony lives of these scraped, plucked, botoxed, made up harlequins. It's frickin' depressing.

Then there's Jennifer Hudson, the only black character, who shows up with her perfect makeup and sweet batty eyes, the only woman in the movie with a real woman's body -- whose job is to be a kind of upscale mammy to Sarah Jessica Parker's extravagantly distraught Carrie. This seems to have a lot to do with deleting emails (apparently the hysteria makes it impossible for Carrie to hit "delete") and sorting through Manolo Blahnik shoes. Her reward? A Louis Vuitton handbag, (ugly as hell, by the way) to replace the fake ones she'd been renting. She eventually gets HER man and retires, handbag awkwardly slung on her arm, back to St. Louis where she's much more likely, one suspects, to fit in.

Carrie's supposed to be a writer, but we see her type only one word: "Love..." and then she revises, deleting those uncertain ellipses. Wow. What work! What brave rethinking!

Anthony Lane comments, "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." He concludes, "I walked into the theatre hoping for a nice evening and came out as a hard-line Marxist, my head a whirl of closets, delusions, and blunt-clawed cattiness."

For myself, I didn't come out quoting Marx. But weirdly, in the midst of its vacuous froth, the movie's nods to a mutated, dopey feminism were among its worst offenses. "Sex" is a big disappointment for real women who'd have liked an intelligent, knowing romp into the considerable humor, when it comes down to it, of real work, real bodies, real friends and real men.


Gillian Swart said...

I have not seen the movie, but I agree with everything you said about it! I know it to be the truth...

Macy Swain said...

Thanks for the affirmation, Gillian! Former Flintoids have a special intuition for the truth!