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      Sex and the City Review

      Sex and the City poster

      Sex and the City

      Jessica Reaves, Chicago Tribune

      At the New York City premiere of "Sex and the City," cast member Willie Garson (Stanford Blatch) called the highly anticipated movie "critic-proof." If the crowds at early screenings are any predictor of box office performance, he's right. Happily, he doesn't have to be. Witty, effervescent and unexpectedly thoughtful, the big-screen iteration of the HBO series stands up beautifully (and somewhat miraculously) to the twin pressures of popular expectation and critical assessment.

      Four years have passed since we last raised a glass with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall). And while the time has brought a few changes - Samantha lives in Los Angeles, and Charlotte is, at long last, a mother - much remains the same. Samantha really, really loves sex, and Charlotte is borderline obsessive-compulsive. Meanwhile, Miranda continues her love/hate relationship with Brooklyn, and Carrie and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) have finally settled into a functional relationship.

      For anything further on the plot, you're going to have to read another review, or, better yet, just go see the movie. Part of the fun of this celluloid reunion is getting reacquainted with the characters, both major (Steve, Harry, Brady) and minor (Candice Bergen's acid-tongued Vogue editor), as well as meeting new ones (Jennifer Hudson as Carrie's new assistant). I would have been extremely annoyed if anyone had tarnished the not-inconsiderable joy of watching the (jealously guarded) story line unfold, so I'll just sit on my hands for a moment until the urge to reveal spoilers has passed. ...

      Perhaps it's best to move on to a far safer subject: the clothes. Oh, my good sweet heavens, the clothes. Suffice it to say that Patricia Field (SATC's uber-stylist and total loon) has done herself proud, draping the movie's stars in an unapologetically impractical and genuinely stunning array of dresses, cloaks, boots, stilettos, pants, swimsuits and, yes, handbags. We've come to expect as much from Carrie, whose size 0 frame is the ideal hanger for designers' most outlandish creations, but now even Miranda, generally considered the most sartorially challenged of the foursome, has found her fashion groove.

      Much has been made, and said, in recent weeks about the appeal of "Sex and the City." Social critics are wringing their hands on the sidelines, fretting. They can't understand why so many women are so captivated by the SATC world, which is, after all, a totally fantastical place in which women have financial autonomy and healthy sex drives. It's a materialistic, completely unrealistic world, the scolds tell us. Yes, of course it is. That's kind of the point. It's escapist fun. But it's also a show (and now a movie) with an enormous amount of heart, the kind of viewing that reminds you to call your best friend, just so she knows you're there if she needs you. "My friends," Carrie intones over the opening montage, "have been my salvation."

      So while "Sex and the City" provides plenty of eye candy for the ladies (think naked men and haute couture), it's also a movie about friendship and marriage, parenthood and middle age, presenting a great opportunity to yank "women's" films out of the cinematic ghetto. Consider this: Every summer brings an influx of big-budget action movies, none of them categorized by gender, and we all traipse off to the theater and expect to be entertained. Period. Women don't rend their clothes and weep about the coming apocalypse every time a new Bruce Willis film is released.

      And really, there's plenty here for everyone to enjoy. Because while outré fashion, casual sex and dubious cocktails may have defined the SATC brand, the writing and the actors are what gave life to the television show. The movie is no different: Michael Patrick King's screenplay hits all the right notes, building on the warmth and familiarity of the series (which King also wrote), while taking full advantage of the longer format, drawing the characters into a more fully realized, emotionally resonant narrative. As we all know, the aforementioned emotional resonance doesn't come without a hint of tragedy, and King skillfully leavens the movie's darkest moments with trademark humor, the jokes veering wildly from razor sharp (a Diane Arbus zinger was wasted on a screening audience) to bawdy (giving Nixon and Cattrall ample opportunity to show off their comic timing) to wry (Parker's forte).

      Appearances, so integral to the ethos of this franchise, are often deceiving. This movie is no exception. Like the television series, it looks like a sugary, insubstantial confection, seemingly no more capable of bearing weight than the spidery stilettos that line Carrie's closets, and just as easily written off. But beneath its delicate exterior is a carefully engineered marvel, surprisingly substantial - and, as Samantha might sigh happily, totally satisfying.

      MPAA rating: R (for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language).

      Running time: 2:22.

      Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw); Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones); Kristin Davis (Charlotte York Goldenblatt); Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes).

      Directed by Michael Patrick King; screenplay by King, based on characters created by Candace Bushnell; photographed by John Thomas; edited by Michael Berenbaum; music by Aaron Zigman; production design by Jeremy Conway; produced by Eric Cyphers, King, John Melfi, Sarah Jessica Parker and Darren Star. A New Line Cinema release.

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