Sex and the City - The Movie

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Upping the Ante

Nov 3, 2008 (Updated Jan 29, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

  • Action Factor:
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Pros:Was never lost though hadn't seen any of the TV episodes.

Cons:If you come late to the theater, you'll miss important background material.

The Bottom Line: A lot of strings to tug at your heart, but it's slow paced and the expert editing keeps them from getting tangled.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

Four longtime friends since young womanhood in New York are moving on to marriage and family responsibilities. Their new roles interact with their friendship in subtle and overt ways that engage the audience throughout the 2½ hour film. The time slips by unnoticed despite the easy-paced plot—including a car chase that's more deliberation than action—which I attribute to the ease on our senses of the fashionable dress, elegant surroundings, and a dash of poetry. (I'm such a sucker for poetry!) 

    Carrie who's just turned 40 narrates for us as we go along which keeps confusion to a minimum. She's a writer for Vogue Magazine, so she has a way with words, unlike Mr. Big her intended; but then opposites are known to attract. She offers to help him write his wedding vows to say simply, "I will love you," which is more than he's managed to come up with as of the day before the wedding. Nevertheless, his heart is truly hers. 

    Ahead of Carrie in the marriage field is her friend Charlotte who with her husband Harry have adopted a cute doll of a girl named Lily who appears to be about 4. They wanted children of their own but settled for adoption when Charlotte turned out to be "reproductively challenged." 

    A little ahead of them is their friend Miranda who with her husband Steve have a son Brady just a little older than Lily. Miranda has a day job in the legal field. 

    Bringing up the rear is their hot friend Samantha, soon to be "fabulous at 50," who has a successful Hollywood career though happiness seems to elude her. 

    The narrator tells us the movie Sex and the City is about "labels and love." The girls indeed are into high fashion with label recognition, and satisfying love relationships are equally valued, somewhat as Addams Family Values carried its own slant on the traditional ones. There is a telling comment one of the girls makes to Miranda in the swimsuit scene: "Jesus, honey, wax much?" Evidently not. Very evidently. She replies that she's had other things on her mind; now that she's married, she has a "different set of priorities." The girls don't seem to buy it, at which she gets defensive saying they probably think her now estranged husband's indiscretion is all her fault for having "let the sex go out of my marriage." 

    The words to the song "Wives and Lovers" capture the concept: "Put on something pretty,/ Something you'd wear to go to the city./ Don't think because there's a ring on your finger,/ You needn't try any more./ Day after day there are girls at the office/ And men will always be men./ Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers;/ You may not see him again./ For wives should always be lovers too," etc. There are more words to it, but you get the idea. It's the same idea addressed in the Bible (Prov. 30:23) "For an odious woman when she is married." 

    You know how at the start of a movie, you'll often find some symbols or numbers thrown in that seem superfluous to the plot and yet seem right at home there anyway, almost as if they had some meaning just beyond our ken? Well, the movie "Sex and the City" opens with Carrie and Mr. Big apartment-hunting in New York, visiting lead number 33 which they make a big deal of. Chapter 30 of the Proverbs which I quoted from above just happens to have 33 verses. I don't know if it means anything, and if it does, how it got there, but I'll take any help I can get, and with such minimal encouragement quote the whole section.

(Prov. 30:21-23) "For three things the earth is disquieted, and for
four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool
when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married;
and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress."

Let's see if the other parts actually do fit. "A servant when he reigneth" is what we know as affirmative action, and "a fool when he is filled with meat," that's a liberal welfare policy. John, Mr. Big, is a big financier with the confidence of a man who got that way by his own hard labor rather than a boost up or a handout. Consequently when all they could find was a very pricey penthouse, he says, "I got it" with the ease of someone picking up the check for coffee. This sure makes life easier for Carrie who can entertain there and store all her clothes. We'll give that a pass. 

    Let's look at that fourth category, "an handmaid that is heir to her mistress." A woman's family is supposed to inherit before the hired help. Today we are probably most familiar with this conflict of women in the tension between work and childcare, but the movie expresses it in the "girl talk lock-down" where the four friends don't want to expose Lily to inappropriate words (sex) when discussing a delicate subject in her presence so substitute a metaphor to talk about coloring in the city. They communicate quite well regardless, in this reviewer's opinion. Also Carrie sticks with the "happily ever after" storybook ending reading to Lily even though in real life, in Vogue, stories don't always end that way. 

    That leaves us with the tension produced from "an odious woman when she is married" to provide the drama in this movie which focuses on the friendship more than on the family per se, and tackles environmental values rather than family ones. What else can be meant by "the earth being disquieted, [with something] it cannot bear"? We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto. 

    When Miranda stopped being pretty and sexy for her husband Steve, he found relief elsewhere, whereupon Miranda left him though he was sorry enough and vowed it wouldn't happen again. This led to a whole series of consequences to the four friends in relation to their environment. Miranda in feeling let down blurts something to Mr. Big the evening before his wedding to Carrie: "You two are crazy to get married! Marriage ruins everything." Mr. Big had been "weird about marriage" for years, so this comment (along with some other factors) brings about cold feet on the wedding day. He escapes going the wrong way down a one-way street—environmental disruption #1. The next environmental disruption we see is when Carrie hits him on the head with the bouquet scattering flowers everywhere. 

    The four friends go to the exotic honeymoon resort without the absent groom. Charlotte unguardedly drinks the water which audibly upsets her stomach and then her bowels. Environmental stress number 3. 

    Number 4, I'm going to call the new area code Carrie is assigned. She'd always been a 917 girl, now she is the new New York: 347. It seems important to her, and the movie is about labels, after all, so that counts. 

    Samantha who is under stress as it is, in an unfulfilling romance, only gets more stressed out associated with her friends' troubles, so she buys a dog, a dog that has been fixed but hasn't lost the urge. Somehow it seems appropriate. Environmental breakdown number 5. 

    Number six occurs at a chance encounter between Charlotte, now miraculously pregnant, and Big. She is so upset with him for having stood up Carrie at the altar that she lets him have it with a rehearsed curse. The strain of the situation causes her waters to break on the spot, two weeks before her due date. 

    Number seven is a missing password which I include here, again, because it is a kind of label. 

    Going back over them, we have environmental breakdowns with regard to (1) roads, (2) plants, (3) water, (4) geography, (5) animals, (6) reproduction, & (7) information technology. While there might not be enough disaster to call it a scary movie, it isn't just about family values either, though the trouble starts in the privacy of a bedroom. One of the axioms of the environmental movement is that everything is connected to everything else, troubles here shown to happen to four friends according to an ancient proverb, even though they seemed to be doing OK with the other three parts of it. 

    It's worth noting that Miranda seeks forgiveness from Carrie for having let her emotions overcome her that one time with no intention of hurting her, the same sort of unintentional one-time slipup for which Steve seeks forgiveness from Miranda. Both Carrie and Miranda find it hard to forgive the others for having kept a secret. When Carrie brings up this similarity to Miranda, she replies that her situation is different, to which Carrie retorts it isn't: "Forgiveness is forgiveness." If you pay attention you'll note similar if not identical wording in both cases. 

    In the narration the wedding dress is pegged early on as a culprit in the whole mess. Since we are told the movie is about fashion ("labels") anyway, we might as well develop this line of thought as well as the other. 

    When apartment lead 33 didn't work out, at the beginning of the movie, they optimistically went to look at lead 34 though it wasn't on the market. The movie explored the environmental implications of a proverb from a chapter with 33 verses. What means this unlisted 34th lead? Oh, but another proverb from the same chapter says, (Prov. 30:5-6) "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar." We have a reference to a verse that isn't in the Bible and an apartment that isn't on the market. I don't know if that means anything, or if it does how it came to be there, but I'll take it as a clue. 

    In her initial preparation for the wedding, Carrie has found the perfect wedding dress, though it came from some kind of bargain bin sans label. It was "simple, classic, vintage." But then so is the King James Version Bible I quoted the environmental proverb from: in a word, "pure." The wedding planning limited the guest list to 75. 

    Then what happens is Carrie is given another dress, with label, a Vivienne Westwood dress which she loves but the narrator (Carrie) tells us is a culprit in the affair. Let's run that label backwards, reversing VIVIeNNe to get NIV NIV™ the abbreviation for the fashionable New International Version of the Bible. Oh, all that remains is to look up the "odious woman" section of that proverb in the NIV to see if they changed anything, and we find, NIV (Prov. 30:21, 23) "Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up: ... an unloved woman who is married, ..." 

    The footnote in my Jewish Study Bible enlightens us on (vs. 23a) "A loathsome woman, lit. 'hated woman,' has, (the author presumes) done something deserving of disgust and is unworthy of marriage. ... The word for hated seems to mean 'unloved' or 'dispreferred'." The study Bible's introduction tells us the contributors "take cognizance and draw upon traditional Jewish interpretation, thereby placing themselves in the larger context of Jewish exegesis." While a literal "unloved woman" (NIV) understood in the "larger context of Jewish exegesis" would refer to "a loathsome woman" (NJPS) or "an odious woman" (KJV), a modern family-values contingent focused more on the family than on the environment can conceivably co-opt that verse from the NIV changing it into more of a family value stressing the need for a man to be loving to his wife regardless. Furthermore, it is not beyond the family value people to publish movie reviews for their constituents characterizing films for how well they adhere to said values. Might not the movie industry in an oh-so-subtle retaliation come up with a film that gets back at that set for having taken an environmental verse and rewritten it to suit their own needs? 

    Me, I'm just a poet. I like a balanced expression. It was characterized as poetic in the movie when the couple chose a location to meet for reconciliation in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. They'd been on their own sides of the river up until now, and such a central point represented fair compromise. The proverb as it originally stands seems balanced to me. There are responsibilities to society, and to the earth itself, one takes on in getting married, quite apart from family responsibilities in themselves. The proverb helps the man to understand in two ways that he's to do his best as a provider, not relying on affirmative action to get him the cushiest job, or on a handout to make ends meet. Similarly the woman has a couple responsibilities to the world at large: to continue to be pretty and sexy for her husband, and to give some priority to her children when there are competing demands. Two each, it's balanced. But to flip one of the women's responsibilities so it falls instead on the man is to end up with a three to one ratio, an imbalance. It'd be like saying, let's meet on my side of the river to effect our compromise. Who'd want a compromise like that? Here I'm speaking symbolically as, of course, there was a lot of visiting going on between both sides of the river. 

    When Carrie changed her wedding dress to the Vivienne Westwood, there was a lot of fanfare, and when the guest list grew to 200, Mr. Big was put off. She had let the wedding get "bigger than Big," as she later put it. This was to be Big's third marriage, and he was anticipating a lot of embarrassment standing before all those people again as it would seem to him that they'd all be judging him for having messed up the first two times. He wanted a more private wedding. A Justice of the Peace would suit him just fine. 

    Carrie had to find some way to explain it to him, so she used an analogy from poker. She said the dress upped the ante. That expression seems to get to the heart of their difficulty. It wasn't that Big didn't love her. He did, deeply and exclusively. It's just that he had issues which made a big public display a bit much for him. If you up the ante in poker, there's a chance some of the players will drop out. That's the nature of the game. A question a girl might ask herself would be, is it worth the risk? Here, a guy loves her deeply, he's a great provider, they've been going together for ten years, and now they want to get married, but he has issues with a big wedding. Why press her luck? 

    For that matter, for those heavily into "family values," if there's no question but that the guy loves her, he's responsible financially, they've already courted for a reasonable amount of time, and now they plan to marry; making that love a public environmental issue in our new Bibles serves to up the ante with the same risk. The movie "Sex and the City" works through these issues for anyone who cares to give it some thought. 

    Carrie gives a little speech at the end in some kind of reading. She says that we write our own vows but fear to write our own rules. As is evident from the movie, we are free to put as much assurance of love that we want in our own wedding vows; this is perfectly legitimate, but we should have a godly fear about altering the sacred text which serves as a rulebook to live by. She ends on just the right note about being covered "from head to toe in love" because love is "never out of style."

    "Sex and the City" – The Movie tackles a sophisticated philosophical issue, one that the eminent philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen took up in his book Reason and Law (New York: Collier Books, 1961, © 1950, The Free Press) pp. 60f.: "An organized group, like an individual, needs to give vent to its feeling of horror, revulsion or disapproval. We turn away in disgust at certain uncleanly or unaesthetic traits of an individual." The girls expressed disgust at Miranda's unwaxed legs.

    Cohen goes on to say, "It is only personal love like that of a mother that can train itself to overlook repellent features or devote time and energy to eliminate them." The "family values" contingent would hold that a husband's love for his wife should allow him to overlook her shortcomings or have the patience to work with her to overcome them. Love conquers all and such love is legitimately expressed in, say, wedding vows, in particular those of ones own making.

    Cohen goes on: "There are, of course, various forms and degrees of social disapproval, and it is not always necessary to bring the legal machinery into operation. But at some point or other the collective feeling must be embodied in some objective communal act. By and large such expression of disapproval is a deterrent. But deterrence here is secondary. Expression is primary. Such disapproval need not be cruel or take extreme forms. An enlightened society will recognize the futility of severely punishing unavoidable retrogression in human dignity. But it is vain to preach to any society that it must suppress its feelings. In all our various social relations—in business, in public life, in our academic institutions and even in a church—people are rewarded for being attractive and therefore penalized for not being so." The "objective communal act," which is of less force than a law, is a song and a proverb I quoted. Some new Bible versions have suppressed that feeling of objection by rewriting the proverb so that the "family values" contingent can pass it off onto a "mother's love" as it were, but the movie demonstrates the value in leaving the proverb intact as it has been handed down, for the ultimate benefit of women for whom more good men will be available if women take upon themselves to be attractive and appealing to their men instead of more demanding of their love.

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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