Movies

Sex and the City & Mister Lonely

Sex and the City & Mister Lonely featured image

by Marc Glassman.

Sex and the City. Michael Patrick King, writer and director. Based on the book by Candace Bushnell. Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes), Chris Noth (Mr. Big), Candice Bergen (Enid Frick), Jennifer Hudson (Louise), David Eigenberg (Steve Brady), Evan Handler (Harry Goldenblatt), Jason Lewis (Jerry ‘Smith’ Jerrod)

Mister Lonely. Harmony Korine, director and co-writer w/Avi Korine. Starring: Diego Luna (Michael Jackson), Samantha Morton (Marilyn Monroe), Denis Lavant (Charlie Chaplin), Werner Herzog (Father Umbrillo), James Fox (The Pope), Melita Morgan (Madonna), Richard Strange (Abraham Lincoln), Anita Pallenberg (The Queen), Rachel Korine (Little Red Riding Hood)

Sex and the City

When Sex and the City came out on TV in the late ‘90s, it was lauded for its frank and funny take on single women living in Manhattan. Early episodes were fast, raw and witty. The show truly felt that it rose out of the visceral, sarcastic reality of life in New York. The texture and language of the town was there, in spades.

It was easy to enjoy the banter between witty NY journalist Carrie Bradshaw and her friends, hot publicist Samantha, cool art gallery impresario Charlotte and canny lawyer Miranda. Much of the appeal of the show was in the dialogue between those four; you felt as if you were eavesdropping on wonderfully candid conversations that real adults might be having in clubs and restaurants across Manhattan—and other cities, as well.

I remember laughing out loud at some of the lines in those shows. Samantha’s exuberant approach towards sexuality was particularly piquant: it upset some people and excited others. And the structure of Sex and the City was appealing to anyone who likes writers. Having each story structured around Carrie’s column, with its thought du jour (or actually du semaine)—“are modern women sluts?” for example—gave a purpose to each episode. It was as if you were watching an essay, with illustrative points. And what illustrations!

Flash forward—perhaps “dissolve” would be the better cinematic term—a decade. Sex and the City joined The Sopranos and Six Feet Under as one of the defining shows that upset the applecart and turned TV into a mature, occasionally shocking, medium. Carrie and her friends became icons for women—and attentive men—around the globe. Sex and the City won multiple Emmys, made millions and did what all TV shows eventually have to do: stopped broadcasting.

Four years have gone by and the girls are back in town. Now, they’re in a movie, directed by Michael Patrick King, the show’s former executive producer, whose credits include working on Murphy Brown and Will and Grace. And, what movies, you say? (Well, Ok, maybe that’s me asking the question).

None.

It would be easy to pin the lugubrious melodramatics of the film version of Sex and the City on Mr. King but perhaps that’s unfair. A lot of the fun in the series was watching 30-somethings grab the designer clothes and hot men who attached themselves to women who wear those labels. It’s less interesting to see 50 year-olds doing the same thing.

Aren’t they bored of it? Aren’t we?

The film version of Sex and the City has replaced cutting-edge comedy with cut-by-the-pattern soap opera. With the exception of ever salacious Samantha, the other three women are in the throes of drama. Too much of the film is devoted to Carrie’s relationship to Big, Miranda’s anger towards straying hubby Steve and Charlotte’s pregnancy. Even though Samantha has issues around her boyfriend, life in California and—even-weight, it doesn’t seem to matter to the effervescent Kim Cattrall, who still plays her character for comedy.

Sex and the City is long and slow and dramatic. It’s also—heaven forefend!—sweet, especially towards Jennifer Hudson’s character Louise, who arrives to rescue Carrie at a low point.

I wanted to love this film—or at least feel that it’s a guilty pleasure. But unless you love fashion shows—which many do—or the TV show—ditto!—or Kim Cattrall—and there’s a scene where she’s nude except for sushi covering her private parts—this film is a miss.

Mister Lonely

Michael Jackson falls in love with Marilyn Monroe in the new indie film Mister Lonely. Ok, they’re modern day impersonators, but if that premise doesn’t intrigue audiences, what will?

How about a secondary plot about a nun falling out of a plane and miraculously falling unscathed to the earth?

Having grabbed your attention, director Harmony Korine takes you to a commune of impersonators in the Scottish highlands. Marilyn’s husband Charlie Chaplin lives there along with their daughter Shirley Temple. James Dean and Madonna are a hot couple, wandering through the gorgeous landscape. A foul-mouthed Abraham Lincoln tends to the sheep farm. They all embrace Michael Jackson as their brother in arms—or is that moonwalking feet?

Harmony Korine, the aging enfant terrible of American indie cinema, has staged a comeback with this quirky, sad and charming film. The director of the arty misfires Gummo and Julian Donkey Boy and the scriptwriter of Larry Clark’s Kids, which dealt with teenaged sexuality and AIDS more than a decade ago, has redeemed himself with this film.

Mister Lonely features a cast including Anita Pallenberg, former lover of both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, as the Queen (presumably of England) and James Fox, who starred with Pallenberg and Jagger in the 1970 noir hit Performance as the Pope. More to the point, Samantha Morton is brilliant as Marilyn and Diego Luna is fine as the young Michael Jackson. (You may remember Luna as the other hot guy in Y tu Mama Tambien, the film that made Gael Garcia Bernal a star.)

Mister Lonely quotes films and filmmakers ranging from the young Jean-Luc Godard and David Lynch to the Paul Newman western Hud and the classic Astaire and Rogers musicals. Altogether too self referential for mainstream audiences, the film should find an audience among connoisseurs of cinema art and indie aesthetics. A sequence set in the dark, where a group of performers singing “Cheek to Cheek” find a hanged body in the woods, is enough to set Korine apart from those who have decried him as a poseur.

He’s the reel deal, alright.

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