[Editor’s note: I am quite possibly the biggest Sex and the City fan ever. I have watched every episode at least 12 times. I adore it all.]
Sex and the City 2 seemed ripe with possibility at first. That glowing “Carrie On” poster. Trailers of glitter and light, piles of more of what we loved. The glitz and glamour, the fabulous city, and the four girls who started it all. Right? Wrong. First of all, the “girls” are definitely not girls anymore. They’re middle-aged women now. Sex and the City was stories of single women in their thirties and their dating escapades and trials with love and life. The show was witty and insightful. The first movie was a peek into their lives as real grown-ups. Miranda and Charlotte got married and have kids, Carrie finally marries Mr. Big, and Samantha–well, she’ll never change. The first movie was a love letter to the series. It had real heart-wrenching moments, good times in the Big Apple and of course, great outfits. It was an extra shot to fill our Cosmopolitan cups, if you will, another fix because we missed our fab foursome. Perhaps Michael Patrick King (writer, director) saw some untapped loyalty in the rabid SATC fan base and decided to milk it for all it was worth.
Milk it they did, creating a film with unreasonable excess ($10 million wardrobe budget: Patricia Field’s ultimate coup!) and a tissue-thin plotline. Suspend all that you once knew about Sex and the City. The characters here might be played by the same actors, but they seem like cardboard cutouts. The movie’s first big event? A white, rhinestone-crusted gay wedding (Stanford and Anthony), replete with swans and a cringeworthy cameo courtesy of Liza Minnelli. Here we set up our general plot points: Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is 2 years deep into marriage with Mr. Big (Chris Noth), and just came out with her 4th? 5th? pink and black fake relationship book. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is still with Steve (David Eigenberg) and is struggling to be present for son Brady, while also dealing with a sexist boss (Ron White). Charlotte (Kristin Davis), also still married to Harry (Evan Handler), is deep into mommy-hood with a big-boobed, braless nanny to contend with. Samantha (Kim Catrall) is facing the onset of menopause–or rather, avoiding it at all costs with pills and creams galore.
PR genius Samantha gets a business offer from a business-savvy sheik so slick she can’t turn it down (courtesy of hot ex boyfriend Smith, who has one scene and then vanishes from the film with no resolution): An all-expenses paid trip for four to Abu Dhabi. Noteworthy is the fact that the United Arab Emirates refused to let the crew shoot on location due to the offensive script, so the desert scenes, which comprise the majority of the film, were shot in Morocco. The ladies, dressed in their Manhattan-goes-to-the-Middle-East-finest, descend upon the city. The whole premise is a huge culture clash and eye-rollingly unrealistic. Even as well-off New Yorkers, the wardrobes are out of control and would make Paris Hilton suggest toning it down. Their gilded suite is the epitome of opulence; they have personal butlers and are waited on hand and foot. None of the girls fit in, least of all Samantha, who eventually gets arrested for public indecency. The film blithely pokes fun at burqas and Muslim modesty, and Samantha literally gives their culture the finger. This aspect of the film–not a mere scene but a huge portion–is culturally inept and painfully shallow.
Plot-wise, things bumble along. Anyone who saw a full-length trailer will know to expect Carrie to cross paths with ex-flame Aidan (John Corbett) –she’s shopping for shoes (of course!) and spices in a foreign bazaar; he’s buying rugs for his NYC furniture store. The sheer chemistry between Parker and Corbett is magnetic. The two wind up sharing a dinner and a kiss–which is quickly smothered by Carrie’s guilt, and we don’t see Aidan again, only Carrie confessing her sin to a wounded Mr. Big. Carrie and Miranda share a heart-to-heart on the woes of being a mother with live-in help (Kristin Davis does give one particularly honest scene and it involves baking cupcakes and vintage Valentino). Samantha is a caricature of herself. Sex-crazed and delirious, she spends the film chasing after dick or smearing herself in yams (since her menopause “supplements” were confiscated at the UAE airport).
The series centered around Carrie, and now there’s nothing left for her to do. At the wedding, a fellow guest gushes about how she “is” Carrie, until she realizes that Carrie and Mr. Big aren’t planning on procreation. They say it’s “me and you, just us two,” but never bring up the baby talk or even explore the topic. Granted, making Carrie a mom would be so cliche, it would break the soul of everything SATC used to be about: Make your own rules. Do what makes you happy, and love yourself. Carrie still writes, but it seems like more of the same. Her marriage to Mr. Big is placidly vanilla; evenings with takeout and a flat-screen TV. Even if that’s what happened, we don’t need to see that. Our Carrie is forever adventurous.
SATC 2 is a fun romp, if you can forget the well-crafted masterpiece that was the HBO series. It’s a chick flick on speed. There’s no sharp narrative or insight here. Nothing but a dervish of self-indulgent “girl power” and decadence from women who are simply too old for their roles, no ageism intended. The show wrapped up the stories perfectly; the first film put a bow on top. It would have been better to go out on a high note. There was simply no story left to tell–continuing the saga leads into the banality of lives that many women are already living, coated in a glamour lifestyle most are not. SATC 2 makes a mockery of the Sex and the City franchise, dumbing it down to avante garde fashion and bawdy laughs. The show had its moments of glamorous excess and was no doubt laced with innuendo, but now it’s gone trashy. SATC 2 utterly lacks authenticity. You won’t see Carrie typing at her window eating a popsicle, and you won’t see Miranda at home in her Harvard tee shirt hanging out with Fatty. SATC 2 is a faint echo of what we once loved. True fans are best to get lost in reruns of the TV series.