And Just Like That - Middle Aged Misery
[Credit: Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection]
Revitalising a show that centres around the dating antics of a group of women, now 15 years beyond their prime and one inimitable character short, wasn’t going to be an easy task, but then again, how could the themes of sisterhood, sexual freedom and glamorous New York living ever disappoint?
I had secret hopes that in the same way Sex And The City (SATC) made being a single woman in her 30s trendy, the show's remake And Just Like That would change society's mindset on women's ageing, not in a quirky Golden Girls retirement way, but in a "50 is the new 40", kinda way.
In the first episode, we welcome back our leading ladies, missing Samantha, the insatiable PR guru who approaches sex like a man. The actress who plays her, Kim Cattrall, has been very vocal about her ongoing feud with her co-stars over the intervening years since the show last aired, and whether the reboot could possibly work without her has been a huge question. It’s not a very Hollywood thing to do – the list of awful big budget film sequels proves there’s almost always a price actors will return for, but then again, it’s very Samantha.
Our heroine, Carrie still has her knack for self-centred chaos and Manolo Blanhiks - but the difference now is she can actually afford to buy them. She is still married to Mr Big and together they are super rich and seemingly happy in love, despite living in an apartment with really vulgar wallpaper. Big, the prodigal villain, now does drastically uncharacteristic things like gazing lovingly at his wife or uttering breathlessly, "I’m just looking at you"— which are clearly giant red flags, and we know he’s either having a salacious affair (yes — excellent viewing) or about to die (no — terrible viewing).
Each character has been buddied up with a person of colour to tackle the waspishness of the original cast, but it feels unnatural. If anything, it draws more attention to the fact that wealthy middle-aged white women tend to hang out with other wealthy middle-aged white women, and racism is very much alive.
The first 30 minutes have already included a desperate line up of culturally woke topics from racism, gender identity, sexism to ageism which are played out in a cringe-inducing, clunky fashion. It feels like meeting your mate’s parents who are donning midriff tops and baseball caps swung backwards as they attempt "dope" new lingo and the latest dance from "The Tick Tock".
When not attempting to cover wokeness from every angle apart from the believable, the topics jump from the tedium of the mundane, attending children’s piano recitals, conflict with teenagers, and hearing loss, with hardly any funny jokes or shrewd observations. Sheesh, if I wanted to watch a middle-aged tragedy, I have my own life to draw from. If this is as enticing and entertaining as 55 comes then my fears are realised; middle-age for women simply sucks. A quote from 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy comes to mind, "Lemon, 50 is the new 40 for men. 50 is still 60 for women."
When the first episode is nearly over, I am wondering if the humour and sexual antics will ever appear. Suddenly, the twist! Big has a heart attack in the shower, and Carrie holds him screaming as he dies in front of us. It’s a harrowing scene, made worse because Carrie at no point considers calling an ambulance to help revive him, a glaring plot flaw (and precursor of things to come). It's the TV equivalent of the scene in the Titanic where Rose is floating on the wooden door with room for two, as Jack lets go and drowns. Imagine sharing a bed with that woman!
Perhaps if Carrie had been reflecting on Big's terrible treatment of her in every single season and the show's first movie: non-committal, standing her up on dates, emotionally unavailable, marrying someone else after years of holding her at arm’s length, ditching her at the altar at her OTT wedding, making her marry him in a guest-less civil service ceremony at the city hall wearing a knee-length sensible white work suit supposedly designed by no-one (I am literally convulsing in fury), we would have seen this was a deliberate decision on her part and a juicy plot point, but alas, she is not. Big is dying a revered hero. I am no script writer, but I'm pretty sure that a grieving widow is unlikely to lead to long mimosa lunches discussing saucy bedroom antics this season.
Look, the cynics and the realists amongst us all wanted Big gone, but not like this. We wanted Carrie to finally realise what a jerk he'd been and to step into her power to kick him out. We didn’t want him to die tragically, where his memory is sanctified. Plus, now that he’s gone, she can’t enjoy all those nice things he’s bought her, like that illuminated shop-like display closet for her designer shoes. So many things to be sad about.
It is clear this is a very different show to SATC. Beyond the location, the cast and some of Carrie's original wardrobe, little remains of that revolutionary show I used to love. The pace is awkward and the dialogue is devoid of the usual punchy lines and repartee — much more inherently problematic than the missing dynamic of Samantha.
Samantha is not the only character missing — Miranda is a shell of her former self. There is little sign of the astute, highly intellectual Harvard grad who finished top in her litigation course and was crushing the New York corporate law scene in her 30s. The old Miranda had a masculine energy that she enhanced by wearing her hair short and slicked-back like a man in high finance, donning severely cut two-piece suits that she topped with a biting wit and acerbic flair. Instead, we meet Miranda again as an insecure, quivering, stumbling woman, seemingly out of touch with cultural change and spouting lines more suited to a doddering virginal cousin visiting from the country. It’s an implausible trajectory, and I feel ROBBED.
I’m suddenly remembering that the first SATC movie was so-so, the second was bordering on abominable (critics asked "is this the worst movie ever made?") and, thankfully, someone had the good mind to cancel the third movie halfway through (FYI, it was Ms Cattrall again and her outlandish inability to be bought). The tone for the remake was already set in motion, but I had chosen to ignore it.
And Just Like That is grasping and clutching, full of cringe-inducing lines and shallow plot developments. But did I watch it eagerly to the end? Absolutely. Before too long I found myself riding out its shortcomings with some forgiveness, a little like I do with Gossip Girl, the soap opera-esque show about the "scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite" teenagers. Gossip Girl is excellent so long as you don't stop to analyse it or confess to liking it.
I suggest treating And Just Like That like a trip to Disneyland. Just seeing your favourite characters in that magical backdrop is exhilarating enough. So, when you find yourself adrift in the uncomfortably slow and flat ‘It’s a Small World’ ride, remember you there at the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’. Just sit back and try to enjoy it.
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Here are my suggestions for the plot we should have had:
Carrie catches Big in bed with Samantha, and files for divorce. She then goes on a dating rampage, having sensational sex with men from 17 to 80 years of age. (In real life, this results in new dating apps aimed specifically at older women finding hookups. The Bachelor TV show gets on board and shoots a riveting, grey-washed season, featuring contestants who have more wisdom and money than ever before.) Charlotte tires of being a caged Stepford Wife and embarks on steamy lesbian affairs around the city. And finally, Miranda reaps the benefits of her hard work and career success (the moral of the story is to put your career first, girls) and moves into a glitzy Park Avenue mansion – eventually her storyline blends with Gossip Girl.