Cinderella in Manolos

Posted: May 30, 2008

FULL DISCLOSURE: I've never seen more than a few minutes of HBO's "Sex and the City."

I tried to watch, I really did - I heard it was dirty, and tuned in for the naughty bits, but the show always seemed to be about clothes, or shoes, or shopping, or relationships.

For sex, I adjourned to the Ba Da Bing and "The Sopranos." The city I preferred was the Baltimore of "The Wire."

Props to HBO, though, for delivering cable's remarkable trifecta: roughly coincidental in terms of lifespan, comparable in terms of cultural impact, starkly different in every other way.

David Chase's "The Sopranos" gave us a dark critique of eroding families and morals; David Simon's "The Wire" was a grimy portrait of how neglect and indifference have destroyed great swaths of urban America.

"SATC" 's Darren Star gave us one big party, one that rarely left midtown or its proscribed world of glammy gals (the show's commitment to diversity went about as far as blonde, brunette and redhead).

This left "SATC" open to charges that it was an insular program about frivolous, self-absorbed people, and it probably was, but so was "Seinfeld," and there is no show more fondly remembered or heavily syndicated.

And in its own fizzy way, "SATC" has anthropological value. The great, blingy, bubble economies of the past 10 years needed a pop-culture corollary, and "SATC" obliged, offering conspicuous consumption without apology (the movie's producers brag about the Mercedes and Louis Vuitton products that debut in the movie).

While the incessantly grim Chase and Simon were telling us that the bubble was going to burst, SATC promised that the good times would never end, and so does the movie.

"Sex and the City" opens with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and boyfriend Big (Chris Noth) ogling a pre-war penthouse. The too-small closet looks like a deal-buster, until Big builds her one as big as the Bronx zoo, stocking it with $500 shoes. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is using her Hollywood money to bid on a $50,000 antique ring and, later, stuffing Gucci bags through the rear hatch of her imported SUV (if $4-a-gallon gas bugs her, she doesn't mention it).

Carrie is contemplating marriage, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) enjoying motherhood, Samantha and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) dealing with rough patches in their relationships. (If the show was about the trials of being single, the movie is about the trials of not being single.)

The movie's stated theme is forgiveness, and the writer/director Michael Patrick King concocts various transgressions that initially set the women against their men, then against each other. The plotting is contrived and predictable, resolutions pat, and I'm guessing that's just how "SATC" wants it. If there weren't a prince and a slipper in this Cinderella story, folks would be screaming for refunds.

Non-fans may well wonder what all the fuss was about. They might take a moment, however, to acknowledge the novelty of this production. Absent the spring-board of a syndicated hit, nobody in Hollywood is going to greenlight a project whose hook is the steadfast friendship between four women nearing 50 (featuring actresses without much box-office muscle).

TV is the place for such niche demos, and the "SATC" creators honor this with a story that values sorority above all else.

Couldn't they have done it, though, with a running time about 20 minutes shorter? Any movie that includes a half-dozen shots of a humping dog is five dog-humping scenes too long. *

Produced by Darren Star, Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker and John Melfi, written and directed by Michael Patrick King, music by Aaron Zigman, distributed by New Line Cinema.

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