Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Sex and the City 2
Michael Patrick King, director & script based on the book by Candace Bushnell
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie Bradshaw), Kim Cattrall (Samantha Jones), Kristin Davis (Charlotte York), Cynthia Nixon (Miranda Hobbes), Chris Noth (Mr. Big), Evan Handler (Henry Goldenblatt), Liza Minnelli (herself), Alice Eve (Erin), John Corbett (Aidan Shaw), Art Malik (Sheikh Halid)
There was a time when Sex and the City mattered. The Candace Bushnell book and the first few years of the HBO TV series were daring, funny and often surprisingly heartfelt and smart. Women and even black-clad men with nerdy glasses spouting metrosexual rhetoric (like yours truly) felt like they could embrace the characters and their dilemmas. Yes, it’s fun to be young and single and eligible in a big glamorous city but it can also be painful and terrifying. That’s why those four women—writer Carrie, sexy Samantha, intellectual Miranda and sweet Charlotte–became best friends: there are times when romance alone is not enough.
That was then; this is now. Sex and the City ran out of energy and truthful predicaments by year four of the HBO series. The TV show finally came to a stop but the immensely popular franchise simply moved to the big screen. And—sad but true—the women got older. Three of them married and two had kids. There are truths in this kind of shift but director/writer Michael Patrick King is finding it difficult to dramatize that change.
In a way, Sex and the City got away from all of its creators—Bushnell, Parker included. Part—but only part—of the show revolved around fashion. Who was wearing the best shoes certainly came up in the conversation—but it didn’t dominate every lunch the “girls” had. Now, it does.
Sex and the City 2 is a massive disappointment for anyone who ever loved the show. King never tackles the motherhood issues revolving around Miranda and Charlotte, opting for a stereotypical jealousy plot device, where the aging but still attractive wife (Charlotte) worries that her husband may have an affair with the sexy housekeeper (played by Alice Eve, who certainly deserved a better role.)
Somewhat more interestingly, Big and Carrie are trying to figure out how to keep the romance going in their lives, now that they’re married. And Samantha is dealing with menopause while still yearning after every cute guy in the room.
None of these concerns really ignites the film, which is virtually plotless. Eventually, the “girls” end up in Abu Dhabi, where they get to sort out their problems in the world’s latest glam spot.
Oddly, King—or someone—decided that Muslims should be taken to task for what the West perceives as a sexist attitude towards women. In one scene, the women do a karaoke rendition of the embarrassingly creaky Helen Reddy anthem “I Am Woman,” with a multi-cultural assortment of privileged ladies singing along at Abu Dhabi’s 5-star hotel. In another, Samantha practically incites a riot by giving a group of conservatively dressed men in a local bazaar the finger and moving her body provocatively while screaming “I love sex.”
A critique of the role of women in Arab society certainly is reasonable but this isn’t the way to do it. Sex and the City 2 ends up looking like a tale of overly privileged women desperately attempting to be relevant. Kim Cattrall’s Samantha is beginning to resemble Mae West—or a female impersonator. It’s telling that Liza Minnelli does a guest appearance in a gay marriage sequence early in the film.
Poor Liza, nearly 40 years after Cabaret, is a camp figure and so is Samantha.
Sex and the City 2 gives the franchise nowhere to go. But if the box office is good enough, Mr. King will no doubt create something for “3” and “4.” One shudders at the thought.