Big leaves Carrie right before their wedding, and the film's resolution of this storyline is Carrie finding Big in her closet at their penthouse. Why is this a happy ending? I can think of several reasons why the opposite would be true. For one, the audience of this particular couple has already experienced this particular ending. The last episode of the series had Big and Carrie reunite after a period apart for their "happily ever after". Not only is it disingenuous to fans to leave them in practically the same place as they -fans and characters- had been four years earlier, but what is to say that this is any more permanent than their previous attempts to reunite? Nothing. Since the two of them consistently vacillate between being together and being apart, this being the true "end" of their particular cycle to be unlikely. Especially with the possibility of a sequel in the future. So, again, why should we in the viewing audience be any happier or more hopeful for this couple at this juncture than we were at the beginning of the film?
Even more horrifying for me than the idea that this is "the" happy ending is the idea that we as women should be swooning over a guy who would leave us practically at the alter because he was not comfortable with a 200+ wedding; and that after he deigns to come back to us we should capitulate entirely to what makes him comfortable in regards to the wedding. It is profoundly disturbing for me to have Carrie Bradshaw lose every semblance of her own dream wedding and substitute in its place Big's ideal wedding. It seemed beyond odd that it would not occur to Big that a woman who would spend 500+ dollars on shoes may also be the type of woman to throw an extravagant wedding. And as Big tells Carrie that this is his third wedding, does it not occur to him that this is her first? If Big wanted the City Hall wedding and that is what he expected, then he shouldn't have picked a "Carrie" for his bride. This isn't to say that Big should have completely capitulated either. Carrie -as Carrie tends to do- went more than a bit overboard in wedding plans and Big had every right to tell her that he would prefer a smaller wedding -and for his preference to be respected. But the end of the film doesn't show respect for each of their perspectives and does away for the need for compromise. Instead, Big's wishes rule the day. And that, along with the fact that Carrie is once again won over by this man who couldn't man up at the appropriate juncture, riles me so.
There is nothing romantic about a man and woman who continually cycle between breaking up and being a couple. There is nothing sweet or aw-worthy in the idea that we should wait for a man to "find" himself or "discover how much he really loves" us, especially if it impacts our self-respect and happiness. There is nothing worth celebrating or exalting in the message that we should, as women, continue to forgive men who abandon us and our relationship when times get rough because after all, they did think to build us an awesome closet for our shoes. But that is the end of Carrie's story, at least for the moment. She is a strong, smart, unconventionally beautiful woman; she is a woman who deserved a different, better, partner than a "Big". And maybe Big deserved a better partner than a "Carrie" as well. But instead, this movie is heralded as a triumph for women's film, and Big and Carrie and the film are celebrated as being almost everything their audience expected them to be after all this time.