Fashionably Late

The girls of Sex and the City are back—but shouldn't they have grown up by now?

Before I begin this review, let me make full disclosure: I just don't care about fashion. I don't pay attention to labels, I don't read Vogue, I don't lust after shoes I can't afford. I dress for function and comfort. The hottest designer bags are—from what little I know about them—hideously ugly and utterly impractical. I wouldn't know a Dolce&Gabbana outfit if it bit me on my outsized ass. Fashion is, in my opinion, a silly, shallow, and vulgar expression of material excess.

Likewise, I hate New York City. It's overcrowded, overrated, and simply overdone. I lived there myself (in the early '90s), and couldn't wait to skedaddle back to the South. Who needs all that concrete? All that grime? All that rent? All that homelessness? All that crime? It's just awful.

So why am I entranced by Sex and the City—a candied confection of a television show that exists to glamorize both? I was a latecomer to the cult, catching on to the show in 2003, five years after the first episode aired on HBO. But somehow, it was love at first viewing. I started watching the show religiously, researching its history on the Web and gabbing about it with the very girlfriends who couldn't believe I wasn't into it earlier. They loved it for the same reasons I did: Here were smart, successful women exactly our age, angst-ing about love and having frank discussions about sex. Over drinks.

Each character spoke, on some abstract and archetypal level, to an aspect of our over-30 selves. There was Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), a character who embodied our inner girlie-girl: frivolous, flirtatious, frilly, and flighty. There was Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), the bitchy and realistic career girl who reflected our own desire to find meaningful work, and to succeed at it. There was Charlotte (Kristin Davis), the preppy, passive, sweet one, who spoke to our unspoken urges to find true love, settle down, and make babies. And there was Samantha (Kim Cattrall), the freedom-loving, man-eating sex addict who lived life on her own terms—just like, on some level, we wanted to ourselves. They were us, only beautiful and stylish and living in a fabulous parallel universe where the only things that mattered were Blahniks, bellinis, and blow jobs.

When the show moved, in reruns, to TBS, so did I. I'd watch every episode I could, whether I'd seen it or not. I didn't think I'd ever get enough. I wanted the show to go on forever. And now, with a new two-hour and 15 minute feature-length film, it does.

The movie picks up where the show left off—Carrie back together with her one true love, Mr. Big; Miranda married with child and living in (gasp) an outer borough; Charlotte happily expecting an adopted Chinese baby; and Samantha managing the career of her impossibly hot younger lover, Smith. Moreover, it picks up the thread of…well, threads—fashion.

There's a plot, sure, but mostly it serves to move the characters along from costume change to costume change, from gorgeous backdrop to gorgeous backdrop. As usual, it's all about Carrie: She's getting married (enter Vivienne Westwood wedding dress) and moving in with Mr. Big (cue penthouse apartment with custom walk-in closet). But she gets left at the altar—so it's off to a five-star Mexican resort with the girls, couture gowns in the carry-on. Then back to New York for skulking and sulking around various chi-chi restaurants, impossibly hip nightclubs, and fantastically designed dwellings in what must surely be millions of dollars worth of clothing.

It's all part of the fantasy to see the girls work their way through heartbreak and pain without a smudge, split end, or sweat pant in sight. Life might suck, but you can still look great.

Or can you? The big screen may provide a wondrous backdrop for all those outfits, but it also reveals something new about our celluloid sisters: They're shallow. And old.

Now over 40, the four friends pay plenty of lip service to the benefits of growing older and wiser. In fact, the movie's opening dialogue is dedicated to dissing twentysomething women and proclaiming the virtues of age. But Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha—now far more cougar than kitten—do nothing but bemoan the costs of maturity, cling to their youthful identities, and squeeze themselves endlessly into a parade of skin-tight, hip-hugging, backless, peek-a-boo, short-short clothes that might embarrass an 18-year-old.

They'd get away with this on TV, but on an outsized movie screen—and in a movie that, indeed, invites you to feast your eyes on them in every frame—you can see the crow's feet, the lip lines, the saggy skin, the sun damage, the jowls. These are clearly middle-aged women—still whining about their boyfriends, still searching for their own identities, still trying desperately to act out their adolescent fantasies.

When you see them exposed so clearly, it's hard to buy into their self-consumed indignation whenever reality has the audacity to assert itself. Where once you might have you-go-girl-ed their childish antics and egocentric emotions—maybe even felt empowered by them—now you just want them to grow up, already. You don't want to be them anymore, or for them to be a part of you. Haven't you managed to balance your life out a little better? I have—and I have the closetful of Chico's stretch pants and Dansko clogs to prove it.