Sex and the City 2
(Michael Patrick King, 2010, USA)
It is hard maintaining any sense of originality when it comes to reviewing a film which has already received unanimously negative reviews across the board. It is perhaps even harder to offer any sense of critique surrounding a film as unabashedly awful as Sex and the City 2, a hasty sequel to the bloated (yet superior) first film, itself an extension of a first-rate television series. Maybe this is because the film is so rife with mistakes that it is hard to know exactly where to begin, but then again, watching ‘SATC2’, it isn’t hard to see where the filmmakers went so horribly wrong, and I find myself wanting to add to the pessimistic reactions to the latest in this less-than critically acclaimed would-be franchise.
Entering the film with an egotistical description of New York City’s history through the ages (“I like to call that New York BC; Before Carrie”), our titular protagonist Carrie Bradshaw reintroduces herself and her three droogs; lawyer Miranda Hobbes (Nixon), mother of two Charlotte Goldenblatt (Davis) and self-confessed sexaholic Samantha Jones (Cattrall). The sequel takes place two years after the previous instalment, and things have changed. Feeling unfulfilled, downtrodden and underused at her top law firm, Miranda decides to flee her sexist boss in favour of spending more time with her family and attempt to answer the challenging question of whether she is actually a fun person to be around. Jobless Charlotte finds motherhood a continuous challenge now she has two daughters to contend with, all the while worrying about her well-endowed Irish nanny constantly grabbing the attentions of both her children and her easily pleased husband. Sexpot Samantha is still, well, Samantha; a glorified singleton who spends her days enticing new bedfellows whilst continuing her career in the world of public relations. And finally, bestselling author Carrie who, after realising her two year marriage with Big has become a little too unexciting, decides they need to work on the missing ‘sparkle’ in order for them to continue their happy every after. This all culminates in an all-expenses paid trip to the lavish climes of Abu Dhabi, where the core four get into more trouble than they bargain for when they clash with the austere culture and gender regulations of the United Arab Emirates.
Taking the flamboyant weaknesses of the first film and doubling them, director Michael Patrick King’s Sex and the City 2 is, for the most part, a dreadfully hedonistic film, a film which wallows in its own scuppered attempts at representing the four protagonists as pinnacles of modern day womanhood. Whereas the show (and most of the first film) had the leading ladies orbiting around some semblance of a plot, the sequel is relatively narrative-free throughout, ambling along at a leisurely pace and dipping far too many times into its tiresome subplots, which are as meaningless as they are incohesive to the overall piece. The film has a runtime of 146 minutes, and boy does it drag along, with the focal point (the restless trip to Abu Dhabi) chewing up most of the screen time and going on for what feels like hours. What is worse is that the filmmakers go out of their way to destroy the positive characteristics built up over the past twelve years. These women used to be funny, mature and interesting to watch, now they are merely childish, selfish and self-absorbed, a far cry from their previous interpretations.
Having next to nothing in the way of anything interesting to do, one-time heroine Carrie is lumbered with the droll exposition to incessantly moan about the wealthy bubble in which she exists in. Living in a sumptuous apartment and married to the much sought-after man of her dreams, she continuously finds something new to whine about, be it Big’s (Noth) preference to stay on the sofa at night instead of painting the town red or his disappointing anniversary gift to her. He buys her a giant flat screen TV to watch old black and white movies on when they’re in bed together; she tells him she’d have much preferred an item of jewellery. Her selfishness doesn’t stop there, when in Abu Dhabi she bumps into old flame Aiden (an uninterested John Corbett), and the two share more than gaping chemistry, forcing her yet again to choose between lust or commitment.
Charlotte persists in being the most annoying character, complaining over passive problems that cause her to look pathetic and spoilt. Despite having a full-time nanny, endless wealth and no job to speak of, she still laments about being unable to cope with her two daughters. This is exemplified in a sequence where she locks herself away and sobs after a disastrous meltdown in the kitchen. If you plan on wearing vintage clothing whilst baking cupcakes with your children, then you can expect it to be ruined one way or another. Samantha doesn’t come off lightly either; she is now just a vulgar temptress who only speaks in immoral terms and double-entendres. The problems Samantha faces whilst in Abu Dhabi proves how disrespectful and rude her character has become, brandishing condoms in public and near-molesting a male dinner date at a restaurant, acts which are frowned upon in their culture. She is trapped in what she believes is a nation of women who just aren’t as sexually liberated as her.
It is Miranda who comes out of the film rather unscathed (save for some duff lines and tepid jokes); she is rational, thoughtful and sensible, all good qualities in a woman of her age. It is strange that within a film trying desperately to promote female empowerment, the sole character that contains all the qualities of what a mature woman ought to be has next to nothing to do, where her characteristics are mostly frowned upon as being dull and boring. Miranda is the one who researches the foreign culture and respects their laws surrounding the application of clothing on women, things the other three selfishly shrug off. We are told to believe that the women of the Middle East are primitive and behind the times whereas women like Samantha are the heights of sexual freedom, though her actions prove otherwise. She basically spits on their culture and the use of the burka, which an assortment of women eventually take off in a superfluously indulgent sequence, only to reveal glamorous couture undergarments.
Sex and the City 2 is at its worst when it attempts to cram the idea of the protagonists being model feministic exemplars down the audiences’ collective gullet, best seen (again) during a bout of karaoke at a nightclub in Abu Dhabi. The four belt out a version of Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman, spurring the local’s to shrug off their gender constraints and join in, because apparently every woman knows all the words to this ode to female empowerment. There are even more elements which make this an embarrassment to cinema; an elongated opening sequence taking place at a bountifully over the top gay wedding, complete with swans, male choir and an appearance from head diva herself Liza Minelli, who progresses to (try) and sing a creepy rendition of Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).
This really is a horrible film, horrible in both its execution and also its moralistic intentions, with egotistical extravagance dripping from every frame, an annoyingly glittery soundtrack and cameo appearances which go from being good (Penelope Cruz) to strange (Omid Djalili). Seen as a farce, SATC2 works perfectly, but as a film to be taken seriously, it misses the mark by quite a mile. Hopefully this will be the final trip this series’ stilettos will be making.
Sex and the City 2, 2010. [Film] Directed by Michael Patrick King, USA: New Line Cinema.