With Sex and the City fever reaching an all-time high, it seems like the right time to review a DVD that was sneakily released the same week as Carrie and co. strut their Manolos onto the big screen. While I disagree with fellow reviewer Roger Keen, finding the movie version of SatC to be a largely predictable affair losing much of the series' edge and wit, Suburban Girl is much more of a failure in that it doesn't have a groundbreaking TV show to back it up. This clunky Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle desperately aims to be the missing link between SatC and The Devil Wears Prada but, unfortunately for the film's sense of self-importance, is merely one of the 'Bridget Jones knock-offs' that Gellar's character has to contend with on a daily basis.
Brett Eisenberg (Gellar) is the titular 'suburban girl', a twentysomething dreamer who has escaped Jersey and is now associate editor at one of Manhattan's top publishing houses. Her dream of becoming editor is jeopardised by a vampish new boss (Vanessa Branch) and her own crippling self-doubt. Determined to make headway in the cutthroat business of publishing, she starts mixing in the same circles as legendary New York editor Archie Knox (Alec Baldwin). When their initial flirting develops into a fully-fledged romantic entanglement, Brett must navigate, with the aid of best friend Chloe (Maggie Grace), the uncharted waters of a relationship with an older man.
It's basically a candy-coated Teen Vogue take on Shopgirl, Steve Martin's superior take on the younger woman/older man relationship, and yet I don't expect pre-teen girls used to Ashton Kutcher will be in a hurry to watch a flick where Alec Baldwin is the male love interest. I won't pretend I'm familiar with the source material - the script is based on two stories from Melissa Banks' The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing - but I expect the awkwardness of the tone has something to do with the translation from page to screen. Flashcards divide the film into 'chapters' such as 'Movin' On Up' and 'Brett's Blue Period' but these only serve to emphasise the predictability of the plot's major developments.
The fact that the book's title was scrapped for something so anodyne as Suburban Girl is evidence of what a wasted opportunity this film is. It's even more of a shame considering, after her acute impression of sleepwalking in both The Grudge and The Return (I haven't seen Southland Tales yet), Sarah Michelle Gellar finally displays some spark, suggesting her turn in Cruel Intentions wasn't a one-off and that brown hair lends her some movie magic. However, she ultimately fails to prove why Buffy, for all its great writing and innovative left-turns, could not have existed on the small screen without her. As Brett, she's basically doing a perfunctory take on, you guessed it, Carrie Bradshaw. A whinier and less competent version. Imagine that, eh?
Her own Mr Big is played by a nicely understated Alec Baldwin, who single-handedly saves Archie Knox from coming across as a smarmy perv. Still, watching him get it on with the Slayer right after she's been given the brush-off from her father is, in no uncertain terms, icky. The interplay between the two is often fun but the chemistry's never really there for it to be believable. They do their best though, and it's a good job because the supporting cast are never on screen long enough to make an impression. Lost's Maggie Grace has the thankless and entirely expendable role of 'protagonist's best friend', and she's got third billing so you can imagine how little of an imprint the rest of the actors make. It's the usual pick 'n' mix of assorted characters - jock ex-boyfriend, bitchy boss, sympathetic co-workers - and simply certifies this as standard fodder for the chick flick bargain bin.
Given the straight-to-DVD nature of the feature, the transfer and audio are nothing to write home about. They do the job though, presenting a multitude of sappy montages set to some earnest girl-with-guitar music with perhaps more clarity than they deserve. A commentary with director Marc Klein accompanies a barebones release.