I was, admittedly, a bit of a latecomer to the Sex and the City craze. For years, I staunchly refused to watch the show, convinced from what I knew of it that it wasn't for me. It struck me as self-absorbed and superficial, episode after episode of successful, independent women who should have been perfectly content with their lives, endlessly bemoaning what they didn't have -- Prince Charming and "happily-ever-after" -- over endless rounds of Cosmos. Who wants to listen to four women talking about nothing but fashion and men? Not me, said I. I didn't even drink Cosmos for the longest time, just because I associated them with the show.

And then, one day a few years ago I was going nuts being confined to bed rest with my last child. I'd watched everything on Court TV and more sappy Lifetime movies than any one person should ever have to stomach, I was desperate for something else to watch to pass the time. And there, right by the DVD player, was my oldest daughter's most prized possession: Season One of Sex and the City. What the hell, it couldn't be any worse than re-watching Tori Spelling in Mother, May I Sleep With Danger, right? I slipped the first disc into the DVD player ... and didn't stop watching until I'd watched every episode of the first season. And then I was hooked on the adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte.

We'd hoped to review Sex and the City at Cannes, but for whatever reason, it didn't end up premiering there. So I ended up last night at the midnight screening, sleepy and cranky and hoping the film would be engaging enough to keep me awake for its nearly two-and-a-half hour running time. After all the time I'd spent avoiding the series, only to fall in love with it, the last thing I wanted was for this long-awaited big-screen finale to fall flat. I'd been with these four women through countless sexual trysts and love affairs, broken hearts and late-night drinks; could a two-hour movie possibly match six seasons of raunchy, giggly, girly bliss? Why yes, it could, thank you very much.

I can only review this film as a fan of the series, so I'm not sure how well it will play to someone who's completely unfamiliar with the characters and their history, but Sex and the City fans should find it sublimely satisfying. For those who haven't followed the ins and outs of the fashionable friends, a very brief summation, couched within the traditional voiceover narrative by Sarah Jessica Parker, is very kindly provided. I can't speak to how well it sums things up if you've never watched the show, but for me, it worked well to recap what's led up to where the movie's about to head with these characters.

As the film opens, we're brought back up to speed with the lives of our four heroines. Carrie (Parker), who finally found love with her Mr. Big (Chris Noth) in the series finale, is settling into a comfortable routine with her man and apartment hunting with him in Manhattan. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is settled down in Brooklyn with long-time love Steve, the man who finally convinced her cynical, hard-working attorney heart that true love could exist. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is still married to her nice Jewish boy, Harry; unable to conceive a child, the two are raising adopted daughter Lily, who Charlotte is trying in vain to keep from learning the word "sex" when she's around her girlfriends; and Samantha (Kim Cattrall), who's perhaps finally found the man she could settle down with, is living in Los Angeles with younger guy Smith (Jason Lewis), the man who stood by her through chemo after her breast cancer diagnosis.

What could possibly go wrong in the lives of the friends, now that they've gone through so many ups and downs and finally reached a place of relative calm and sanity in their love lives? Oh, plenty. If things didn't go wrong, there wouldn't be much need for a two-hour movie, right? I won't say much about the storyline, other than it involves Carrie and Big continuing to work through issues, Miranda having sex problems in her marriage, Samantha wrestling with the weighty problem of having sex with just one man for five long years, and Charlotte being, well, Charlotte -- sweet, worried about her friends, and not quite able to trust in her own happiness with her husband and child.

We have a new character tossed into the mix in the second half of the film; Carrie hires a personal assistant, Louise (Jennifer Hudson) to help her pull her life together, and Hudson's performance in this role should put to rest any naysayers who predicted that her standout performance in Dreamgirls was a one-hit wonder. She's remarkably engaging in this film -- warm, funny, and relaxed on camera. Louise is both practical and idealistic, and still believes in true love even though her heart's been broken; like Carrie herself 20 years ago, she's come to New York to find it.

For me, it never mattered whether I could relate to every aspect of the lives of the Sex and the City quartet. No, I don't live in New York City (been there, done that), I don't go to Fashion Week (and wouldn't even if I lived there), I don't have a compulsion to collect designer labels, and I never traipse about town in stiletto heels, much less drop $500 on a new pair at the drop of a hat. But you don't have to live the lifestyle these characters live to relate to the truths in their lives; there's a little bit of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte in most women, which is why these characters have had such enduring appeal among the female demographic. Like them, we're sometimes strong and independent, sometimes weak and full of self-doubt; we've sought love, found it, and lost it; we've been betrayed and forgiven ... or perhaps betrayed and been forgiven, and we know that life and love are rarely as simple as most rom-coms would like you to think.

The appeal of Sex and the City has always been about the rarity of a show that revolved completely around the lives of four strong, intelligent women. The show never cared about whether it appealed to the male demographic, and so unlike, say, the Judd Apatow films, which appeal to both sexes even though they still put male-centric humor front-and-center, Sex and the City was all about connecting with women. If men happened to like it, they were welcome to come along for the ride, but for once, it wasn't about them. That's what made the show so enormously popular among women for six seasons, and the movie, thankfully, resists the typical Hollywood urge to boost the cross-demographic appeal, staying very true to the feel of the series. For what it's worth there were, surprisingly, quite a few guys in the audience, and they seemed to have a good time.

I unapologetically, very thoroughly enjoyed Sex and the City. It's long, yes (perhaps the man in your life will find it too long, if you drag him along for the ride), but for me, it never felt overly long -- and I have a very low tolerance for films that drag on past the two hour mark for no reason. After two weeks of gloom, doom, and bloody revolution at Cannes, I was ready for a light-hearted, fun, smartly written romp with the girls, and the film more than lives up to its promise. I love depressing Eastern European dramas and war documentaries as much as the next film geek, but sometimes, a girl just wants to have fun, and Sex and the City is just that -- a deeply satisfying wrap-up to a series that always had, in its heart of hearts, a lot more depth than the Manolo Blahniks it dressed itself up in.

For a different take from someone who never watched the show, see Jette's review over here.