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Sex and the City ***
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Rossiter Drake*

Back in black: Patrick King's city-dwelling socialites return for five episodes' worth of Sex.

(Courtesy of SFStation.com)

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, Candice Bergen. Rated R.

Let there be full disclosure: I do not represent Sex and the City’s demographic. I rarely watched the HBO series, and found it only sporadically interesting when I did. So the prospect of watching five uninterrupted episodes in the form of a two-and-a-half-hour movie seemed less than appealing, to put it mildly.

That said, I liked it, which means that fans of the show should warm to it with unbridled enthusiasm. Written and directed by Michael Patrick King, who helped steer the popular series during five of its six seasons, it retains its crudest sitcom sensibilities, serving up a familiar mix of the saccharine and the (surprisingly) scatological. Yet it remains honest in its dealings with the four city-dwelling socialites who inhabit its bubbly universe.

Four years have passed since Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) rekindled her now decade-long romance with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) beneath a serene Paris sky, but serenity is notoriously short-lived in this City. With every helping of pleasure comes a generous side of heartache, leaving the girls to manage their respective crises through a series of indulgences: shopping sprees, late-night cocktails, even a Mexican getaway.

At the risk of spilling too many secrets – shield your eyes, ladies – Carrie is preparing to take the Next Step with the fabulously wealthy financier born John James Preston, while Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are enduring relationship-defining upheavals of their own. Meanwhile, Samantha (Kim Cattrall) has been relegated to Los Angeles, where her ongoing flirtation with monogamy is being put to the test by a hunky next-door exhibitionist.

Beyond that, the joys (and lows) of Sex must remain a mystery, save to say there is much discussion of designer handbags, a mid-movie fashion show, and one memorably lowbrow accident, played for laughs, that would feel right at home in the Police Academy movies. Yet Patrick King’s story overcomes its consumerist bent and crassest tendencies by concentrating on the relationships between its core players, who are older, somewhat wiser and still engaging.

The transition to the big screen isn’t always smooth, but Sex and the City succeeds in rendering Carrie and her gal pals as strong, thoughtful and well-spoken women, rather than the shallow, label-obsessed caricatures they might have seemed in the hands of a lesser writer. There is poignancy in their quests for the happily ever afters that seem so elusive, and even at their most outrageously decadent, HBO’s Fab Four remain grounded in the kind of vulnerability to which any man or woman can relate.

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