way too close reads

A Line Reading of Big’s Terrible Eulogy From And Just Like That…

Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) and Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon). Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by HBO and HBO Max

How lucky Carrie Bradshaw must be to have gotten through the death of her husband, John “Big” James Preston, without being investigated by the NYPD. Or perhaps that’s what she was busy with when she wrote the short eulogy given at his funeral in episode two of And Just Like That… on HBO Max. Instead of delivering it herself lest she make herself available to any plainclothes cops in attendance, the famous New York writer asks Miranda to give the speech. Miranda Hobbes, Esq. (Cynthia Nixon), despite being awful at speaking one-on-one with her Black professor, is used to giving speeches to rooms full of bored Caucasians in her former capacity as a lawyer. So why was this the worst eulogy since Connor Roy attended Uncle Mo’s funeral?

Since he first appeared in Sex and the City, portrayed by Chris Noth and his flirtatious eyebrows, Mr. Big has been defined by his absence. His life, as expressed in his nickname, was larger than Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), larger than her group of gal pals, and perhaps larger than the show’s other main character, the city itself. He had more investment in the things pulling him away from Carrie and he took almost every opportunity to pursue them, even in the new reboot. In And Just Like That…, his radius goes no farther than their uptown apartment, but he still finds ways to alienate her. He likes smoking cigars out the window and riding his Peloton, alone. He likes going to the Hamptons for the weekend and declining invitations to events with Carrie’s friends. And Just Like That shrank Big down — barely allowing for him and Carrie to have a copacetic marriage — in order to make his absence loom larger. But it doesn’t do anything for fans of the show who wanted Carrie with someone else *cough, cough, Aidan* or for Carrie’s friends, who saw her get her heart broken by this nameless behemoth for six seasons and two movies. Miranda was being a good friend by agreeing to give the eulogy at the funeral, but her distance from Big, whom she probably called “John James Preston” for the first time, is clearer than the acrylic pulpit throughout every line of the speech, making it almost more ambivalent than Connor’s censored eulogy.

You’ll recall that Succession season-two episode where Connor has to speak on behalf of the family at Uncle “Mo” Lester McClintock’s funeral. But an author (played by Jessica Hecht) writing a book on Logan Roy shows up, and Connor’s partner Willa (Justine Lupe) quickly edits the eulogy to only feature facts about the controversial Waystar executive. It combines short platitudes (“I am here as a fellow human”) with objective truths (“All of us will die one day”), the obviousness of which is almost underplayed by Alan Ruck’s sincerity. (What writing a bad speech means for Willa’s skills as a playwright, well, that’s for a Sands review.) Despite reading directly from the desk of John James Preston’s widow, Miranda’s delivery lacks that commitment to the vague, general descriptions of Big’s allegedly big life. Below, a line reading of Carrie’s eulogy for Mr. Big, performed by Miranda Hobbes, as it compares to Connor Roy’s only success: a eulogy for a rumored pervert.

How lucky. 
Miranda does not introduce herself, probably for fear that her name appear in a New York Times piece about any bad business Big was involved in or the secretaries he undoubtedly shot inappropriate looks at. We don’t really know where he gets his money! He could be in Epstein’s black book for all we know.

How lucky we all are to have known this amazing man, John James Preston.
Again, there’s no way she has ever called this man by his government name and it’s evidenced by every bit of hesitation. Here, she acknowledges the reason we’re all here and also that he was a man.

How lovely to have shared dinners, drinks, deals, and, for some of us, cigars with this one of a kind. 
It’s as though Miranda can’t recall a single one of those occasions personally. “Lovely” could be passably substituted for “fine.” As is the case with the late Lester McClintok, this part simply restates the only things we know about the deceased. They could’ve told us anything about Big here. He’s donated millions to global water equality. His company distributed the COVID-19 vaccine! Anything! But no. Steaks, business, tobacco, and Peloton.

How long it seems that we have known him. How very long. 
Just as neutral as “Lester was alive for 78 years but no more,” this bit sounds like a complaint. Are we sure Carrie was happy in this marriage?

And yet not near long enough. 

How large he was in all of our lives. He will leave a big … hole. 
Carrie isn’t known for being a poet, but I still don’t feel bad noting how the rhythm absolutely tanks in the second half of this thought in an effort to reference the nickname only Carrie and her friends called him. Maybe the pause is meant to be the realization that Big, the man whose entrance sparked the series, is no longer the backbone of Carrie’s existence, but how do they expect anyone to get over the emphasis on “hole”?

And how sad, how very, very sad. 
As Connor would say, “When a man dies, it is sad.”

But for today, let us remember how lucky. 
In the repetition of “how,” you can hear Carrie grappling with her new reality as a single woman once more. How could this happen? And it too moves us to ask, how … did this speech not get cut?

A Line Reading of And Just Like That’s Terrible Eulogy