Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, John Corbett
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Michael Patrick King
New Line Cinema
Revisiting the '80s
SATC2 Soundtrack: Behind the Scenes with Alicia Keys
I have to be honest.
There was something that I truly enjoyed about Sex and the City, the first film based upon the long-running television series.
Okay, okay. It was a bit bland and featured the same widely drawn, thinly constructed characters as the television series...a series I never, never enjoyed. Yet, the first film had enough light humor, enough humanity and a certain grounded storyline that made it all rather enjoyable.
Heck, I even enjoyed Sarah Jessica Parker. That hardly ever happens.
Everything that was charming, funny, humane and grounded in the first Sex and the City film is gone here, giving way to the shallow and the silly, the woefully unfunny and narcissistic and it's all wrapped up by a pretty bow of superficial feminism and outright racism.
The mild smattering of applause following the preview screening of Sex and the City 2 suggests that this won't be one time when audiences disagree with film critics, but more than likely even diehard Sex and the City 2 fans are likely to consider this an ill-conceived misadventure in New York and Abu Dhabi (actually Morocco, since there's no doubt even the cast would have been jailed for their insensitive antics in the real Abu Dhabi).
In case you've been living in a nuclear shelter for the past few years, Sex and the City centers around the lives of four women including writer/famously single Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), perpetually lustful promoter Samantha (Kim Cattrall), work obsessed lawyer Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and happily married Charlotte (Kristin Davis), whose antics here primarily consist of worry about the family's new Irish nanny, Erin (Alice Eve), who has acquired the tiresome moniker of "Erin Go Braless."
Fans of these four women have always celebrated their sisterhood, even if it has always seemingly centered around an abundance of impossible to obtain fashion and hyped up big city drama. At its best, the Sex and the City television series managed to find the humanity in these women and relationship dramas. At its worst, Sex and the City has been not much more than a thinly drawn out sketch about a group of women turned orgasmic at the sight of Louis Vuitton and other Cosmopolitan designers.
With the first film, writer/director Michael Patrick King managed to capture both the best and worst of this quartet but, for the most part, managed to keep in check all those narcisstic quirks that became tiresome by the time the series itself ended.
In Sex and the City 2, Carrie has now been married to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) for a couple of years but is feeling the strain of a marriage where her desire for going out is conflicting with his comfort at watching old black & white movies on their flat screen telly. Samantha is still happily single and living off the basking glow of a former boyfriend turned Hollywood superstar, while Miranda's satisfaction and family life are suffering as her workaholic tendencies are flagging under the pressure of a new boss (comic Ron White) with sexist tendencies.
For some unfathomable reason, all the festivities are kicked off with an elaborate, larger than life, really big, have I mentioned big, super white, have I mentioned white, gay, gayer than gay, have I mentioned gay, wedding of longtime guypal Stanford (Willie Garson) officiated over by an appropriately campy extended cameo by Liza Minnelli.
Have I mentioned it's a gay wedding?
It's important, ya know. It's a gay wedding. 'Cause they can. Seriously. They're gay. They get married.
There are a couple big issues brought up during this big gay wedding (Sounds like a South Park episode, doesn't it?), but these are quickly forgotten when Samantha gets called out to Abu Dhabi by the funder of her former boytoy's film and becomes interested in seeing if Samantha can promote his new resort. So, he flies her out for a week-long, all expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi. Can the girls come along? Natch!
So, here we get the core of the film where our fearless foursome heads off to the conservative Middle East for desert adventures and cultural confrontations. The only problem is that what could have been played as a hilarious clash between two very different cultures, as in a film such as Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, is instead a remarkably uninspired, tired and insensitive take on Muslim culture in which all things American and sexual and commercial are celebrated and anything that remotely disagrees with it is wrong, just plain wrong, wrong I tell you. It gets so bad that one climactic scene has Samantha practically writhing in a local market proclaiming that she is a sexual woman.
Horrid. Truly horrid.
Even if you count yourself among the many Muslim-hating Americans (most of whom I doubt ready my reviews) based upon commonly held American stereotypes celebrated by the media, Sex and the City 2 is a bit much.
Think about it.
The four women are flown out to Abu Dhabi for an all expenses paid trip in an effort to woo business from a guy whose pockets are seriously deep. This trip could set Samantha for life financially doing work she enjoys doing.
What does she do, ultimately supported by her galpals? She throws it all away despite the fact that at no point does anyone actually criticize, harass or otherwise knock the Americans? She flaunts her style, brings her sexuality to the forefront and takes an "in your face" approach to cultural confrontation despite being in a $22,000 a night penthouse with three of her friends, each of whom has their own butler, own vehicle and all traveling expenses paid.
Am I just being old-fashioned here? Someone spending over $100,000 has the right to be treated with respect, don't they? Isn't that a basic business skill? Even if you disagree with the culture, and most (not all) Americans would at least find it uncomfortable, Isn't there a common ground?
That wasn't actually a question. Yes, there is. Unfortunately, returning writer/director Michael Patrick King seems to find it hilarious that Samantha deliberately flaunts the differences and confronts in her vapid, self-serving style until, oops!, she gets called on it and the girls are sent back home.
Unfortunately, virtually every aspect of Sex and the City 2 is this ugly and the most attractive aspects of the film (They are named Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon) are relegated to secondary, cartoonish afterthoughts.
Carrie, being Carrie, has written an ill-conceived book on marriage. After all, two years does make one an expect on the subject. In Sex and the City 2, Sarah Jessica Parker is back to being irritating and self-absorbed, especially when an old beau (John Corbett) arrives on the scene in Abu Dhabi. Besides being horribly photographed in her least positive light by D.P. John Thomas, a problem that plagues the film throughout and nearly sinks the performances of both Parker and Cynthia Nixon.
Never again will I question the importance of the cinematographer.
Cattrall, when restrained, can bring delightful humor to Samantha. Here, she's unrestrained and tremendously unappealing when Samantha gets a bit too lusty for the locals in Abu Dhabi and the film takes a serious turn for the worst.
Amidst all of this, Cynthia Nixon, despite horrid cinematography, and Kristin Davis manage to have a few delightful scenes that are refreshing and funny and remarkably real. Why couldn't Sex and the City 2 been about these two actresses who are more gifted than given credit for and who have always added a nice depth to an otherwise exercise in excess? While Charlotte's storyline about nanny concerns is played out with a few too many heaving breast shots of her nanny, she has large breasts ya' know, the issue itself adds some decent opportunities for Charlotte to vent and process realistically about marriage, parenting, etc.
It's likely too much to hope that Sex and the City 2 will crash and burn at the box-office, a victim of its own excesses. The first film was so wildly successful, that it seems to go without saying that this second film, no matter how disappointing, will at least open well before eventually falling victim to poor word-of-mouth.
Again, it bears repeating, there's simply no doubt that those of you who enjoyed Sex and the City will find yourselves at least modestly disappointed by part deux.
Maybe if part three happens King can do an old take on the Ma and Pa Kettle films and we could get Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda down on the farm?
Oh, wait. Did You Hear About the Morgans? covered that territory.
Here's what I learned from Sex and the City 2:
Diamonds may, indeed, be a girl's best friend. Sex and the City 2 is a lump of coal.
- Diamonds really are a girl's best friend. Really. They even solve marital problems.
- Gays can get married in some states. In the states where they can't get married, they can cheat.
- Muslims just don't understand us. If they did, surely they'd want to be like us. Giggle.
- Bad photography can make an average movie much worse.
- Mr. Big is a stupid, stupid name.
- A spouse should not be calling a spouse "kid." It's just plain wrong.
- You can be a really awesome parent, but actually get tired of your kids!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic