- Sex and the City 2
Directed by Michael Patrick King
Screenplay by Michael Patrick King
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw
Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York Goldenblatt
Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes
Chris Noth as John James Preston / Mr. Big
John Corbett as Aidan Shaw
David Eigenberg as Steve Brady
How the Mighty Have Fallen:
“Sex and the City 2” is a Cringe-worthy, Insensitive,
Sex and the City is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last twenty years, you are surely at least peripherally aware of the main characters. When cell phones first started to come into vogue, you couldn’t go more than a day without hearing the show’s theme bleeping out of someone’s Motorola. The show, while sometimes vapid and occasionally downright silly, was smart, well-written, and progressive. Its decadence—Manolos, Cosmos, hot sex in NYC penthouses—was pure wish-fulfillment for a generation of American women who could only hope for that kind of frivolity.
The first Sex and the City movie was a gleeful addendum to the series with enough substance to be interesting and enough heart to be fun. The second movie, which released Thursday, is a headache-inducing, culturally insensitive, horribly written piece of trash. The film, set two years after the first, follows our girls Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) as they take an impromptu vacation to Abu Dhabi. Carrie’s marriage to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is growing boring; Miranda’s sexist caricature of a boss silences her at every turn; Charlotte finds motherhood with a full-time nanny to be entirely too stressful; and Samantha’s success as a publicist is tempered by the onset of menopause, which she desperately staves off by taking forty-four hormone and vitamin pills a day. So when Samantha purrs, “We need to go somewhere rich,” who are they to argue?
Abu Dhabi, in case you were unaware, is the “new Middle East” and Dubai is “over.” With its blinding ivory dunes, gold-tipped mosques, and shimmering blue oceans, the possibilities for beauty here are endless. But we’re meant to remember that the loveliest things in the frame are the shoes, the clothes, and the four main characters, so DP John Thomas drops the ball on the scenery, opting instead for decorator porn and an “ooh shiny, diamonds and beautiful cars!” sensibility (because, you know, women love the shiny). In Abu Dhabi Charlotte wrings her hands over her nanny’s ample bosom (it’s okay, the nanny turns out to be a lesbian), Carrie runs into Aidan in a spice market and rekindles that old flame accidentally, Miranda does her best to educate herself on the culture, and Samantha fights off hot flashes after customs confiscates her pills.
The screenplay, written by director Michael Patrick King and based on Candace Bushnell’s books, is truly awful. The puns, one-liners, and chemistry between the four actresses are severely flawed; what used to be witty and edgy has officially gone off the deep end of tacky. Charlotte got Montezuma’s Revenge in the first movie and pooped her pants; in this one she gets camel toe after falling off a camel—hilarious, no? No. “Lawrence of my labia?” Really? And ladies, please stop trying to make “interfriendtion” happen. The girls aren’t homophobic—at the beginning of the film they attend a fabulous gay wedding emceed by none other than Liza Minelli, whose performance of “Single Ladies” is one of the film’s only redeeming moments—but for all their education and New York openness, they have not a freaking clue how to respect other cultures.
Isn’t it funny that the woman at the next table has to lift her veil to eat? Hilarious that Muslims are offended by public displays of affection? (Samantha is arrested for kissing on the beach.) Isn’t it just uproarious that an ankle or a bare arm is scandalous to these backwards people? Note to the writers: unabashedly lampooning the traditions of a conservative society is not the best way to point out its myriad differences from (and similarities to) our own. Samantha’s sexuality is one of the progressive aspects of the show and the movies; a woman who enjoys sex with multiple partners and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks is still hard for Americans to stomach, and the terms “cougar” and “slut” are already being thrown around in other reviews. There are a few jabs at American prudishness along with the winking “how silly this is” reactions to Islamic conservatism, but these would’ve been easier to swallow were it not for the blatant impertinence toward Muslim culture. Jessica Simpson’s ridiculous TV show “Price of Beauty” is more culturally sensitive—and that’s not saying much.
On a shallower note, costume designer Pat Field dropped the ball on this film, too. This reviewer is not immune to the charms of great shoes or a gorgeous dress, but in Sex and the City 2, fashion turbans, harem pants, gauzy cloaks, full color-blocked skirts, and artfully deconstructed “J’Adore Dior” tee shirts are the girls’ uniforms of choice in Abu Dhabi. None of it’s attractive. There’s eye candy in the form of bulging Speedos and glistening pectoral muscles on the Australian national rugby team, and the art directors created a lovely set for Carrie and Big’s shared apartment. The movie is excessively long at two and a half hours, after which you may need a stiff drink (but not a Cosmo). Certainly there will be people who love the movie for its flaws. Those who long for the comfort of those characters will take the playfulness and bad jokes in stride, and find redeeming qualities. Nothing’s above criticism, though, and any movie that treats its subject and viewers with so little respect deserves none itself.
At one point in the film, Carrie narrates, “That’s the thing about tradition…it sneaks in whether you like it or not.” The show was anything but traditional, and that’s what made it great. Samantha’s rollicking sex life, Miranda’s career-oriented lifestyle, and Carrie’s reluctance to traditional marriage made them fantastic foils for naïve Charlotte’s conservatism. The characters offered something for everyone. Now, tradition, in the form of romantic comedy tropes and atrocious jokes, is seeping between the cracks (or gushing if you prefer). What used to be a fun and funny series about intelligent, sympathetic, albeit sometimes shallow, characters that enjoy sex as much as their respective careers, has degenerated into movies that beg us to laugh at the stupid, shallow American women. If this is what feminism in film is supposed to be, we need a sea change.