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FILM REVIEW: Sex and the City 2

It's a case of the fashion, the fanciful and the farce, says Rachel Winterbottom

Written by . Published on June 2nd 2010.


FILM REVIEW: Sex and the City 2

SEX and the City 2 might as well have the subtitle: GIRLS LIKE SHINY THINGS. And it’s true, we do. Costing around $100m to make, with roughly 75 per cent of that being spent on wardrobe, femme fresh and the best HRT money can buy (some of this may not be strictly true), Sex and the City 2 has been raking in more bad reviews than Carrie’s latest book. Possibly because it gave away the fact that women are sexually active well into their forties. Shocking.

Some things will never be explained. How Carrie is able to fund her New York City apartment and a fetish for Manolo Blahniks with a weekly column and a few books. The lack of calories in any of the food or alcohol the four
women consume. Samantha’s ability
to still have whoever
she wants - and stay
clear of STDs...

Based on the SATC series featuring characters created by Candace Bushnell, the sequel begins two years after the events of the first film. During which, Charlotte finally had a baby, Miranda struggled to come to terms with her husband, Steve, cheating, Samantha decided to forgo a character arch and revert to her former philandering, and Carrie and Big answered the ‘will they/won’t they’ question after months of heartbreak that could have been averted had Carrie read her emails.

The women are all introduced by their most obvious character traits: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the kooky, neurotic, fashion-loving writer; Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) is the dependable, workaholic control freak; Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) is the perfect housewife and mother, and Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) is about to be/ is being/ has just – fucked.

Their latest problems are introduced in much the same manner: Carrie is struggling to come to terms with a marriage to Mr Big (a well-aged Chris Noth) that might spell a lifetime of TV dinners and minimum drama. Miranda has a sexist boss and a husband who seems to be getting progressively smaller (David Eigenberg), Charlotte realises that being a mother isn’t all sunshine and cupcakes and fears Harry (Evan Handler) might have designs for their bra-less Irish nanny, and Samantha is facing Mother Nature’s last laugh – menopause.

The plot is minimal – it starts with the marriage of Charlotte and Carrie’s bezzie gay mates, Anthony Marantino and Stanford Blatch (squeal!) and a satisfying set up of the four women’s latest ‘real life’ problems. There's a heartfelt insight into Charlotte’s struggle to be the perfect mother (despite 24 hour help), a teasing sojourn into Samantha’s not-too-distant Jerry 'Smith' Jerrod past, a glimpse into Miranda’s now-happy marriage and her finally breaking free from work, and an interlude about Carrie and Big’s decision to stay just the two of them, write their own rules and not grow staid. Their apparently happily child-free marriage is met with such disgust from one bystander that you’d think Carrie had declared that she was only going to use children as accessories from now on.

Unfortunately, all of these problems, however small, are merely a cursory nod to the usual SATC storylines, because as soon as Samantha bags an all expenses paid trip to Abu Dhabi (AKA Morocco for the film locations) for the four, the film descends into pantomimic farce and the rest of the 146 minutes is a well-heeled version of the ‘Here Come the Girls’ Boots advert.

The women leave their partners and problems behind them, only breaking from gasping at the unaccustomed (having forgotten their abnormally luscious pads back home) luxury, to either moan about the menopause or wail into an iPhone at their poor, sidelined men-folk.

This film is utterly, almost disgustingly opulent, flaunting lifestyles only slightly less possible to attain than in the series. The clothes are, of course, even more fabulous, the four have impossibly indulgent lifestyles and product placement is rifer than ever. Much like the series, however, some things will never be explained. How Carrie is able to fund her New York City apartment and a fetish for Manolo Blahniks with a weekly column and a few books. The lack of calories in any of the food or alcohol the four women consume. Samantha’s ability to still have whoever she wants and stay clear of STDs...

If there can possibly be viewers who are still on the fence about the ‘Aidan vs. Big’ debate, this film will unite both sides with a universal desire to kick Aidan in the teeth. Even if Big’s only function is to occasionally appear on screen with a tiny cup of coffee in his hand, as if to illustrate the reason for his nickname. Was there ever really any question about who Carrie chooses, when Aidan seems to be in the film merely because they put him in the trailer?

The four actresses can sleepwalk their parts by now, but the women they’re playing have become caricatures of the strong, tangible characters they once were and the plot skirts around any real issues out of fear of disturbing the conclusion the series so carefully fashioned. But even so, this film does not quite deserve the outraged criticism it’s been receiving. It’s lightweight fun at best – not as good as the first film and a shadow of the series. So what if it portrays middle-aged women who have never and will never enter a Marks and Spencer? It even tries to be about female confidence and empowerment (mainly through karaoke and a possibly culturally misguided scene where a group of Muslim women reveal what they’re wearing beneath their burqas).

There will always be people who view the SATC series as nothing more than women gabbing about sex and shoes, and unfortunately this film only reinforces that misconception. Writer/director Michael Patrick King, who’s worked on the series and films throughout, should really have known better (insert your own ‘Carrie-d away’ joke here). If you want excellent writing, razor-sharp dialogue and your heart-wrenching, go dust off your shoe box set and bask in the series – it’s an oldie but a goodie.

5/10

Sex and the City 2 (15) is on general release now.

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