Review: Sex and the City 2
More poignant than the airy 2008 original, if not nearly as funny, Sex and the City 2 is another two and a half hours of fun with female friendship that offers one huge oversight and a gem of an insight. As long as you take this schlock as it is—30 minutes too long like the original—you’ll have a fine time.
Starting with a musical number courtesy of a legendary performer, pulling off an overcooked tune largely on chutzpah, the four women reunite at a wedding. The scenes embarrassingly ridicule gay men by portraying them as limp-wristed stereotypes, made worse because it’s supposed to be acceptable coming from liberal New York women. It’s not. The caricatures are neither true nor humorous.
But it’s all about women, again, with men, gay or straight, more or less tossed under the bus and do these broads play it broad. There’s neurotic Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), manhunter Samantha (Kim Cattrall), sensitive Charlotte (the most dimensional character, played by Kristin Davis) and misfit Miranda (Cynthia Nixon, glamming it up and having more fun this time around). They frolic and fret within a demographically-driven plot structure.
At the center is Carrie, of course, narrating again and struggling in the early phase of her marriage to “Big” who should be handed a get-out-of-jail-free card for putting up with one serious nag of a wife. Carrie has apparently learned nothing in the past two years, refusing to settle down, let her husband be who he is and stop complaining about everything from take-out food to television. She manages to sound whiny even when she has a point. This from someone who has two homes, a hardworking husband, and whose biggest worry is a deadline for Vogue magazine to promote her new book, what to wear to the movie premiere and whether her hat’s too much for her trip to Abu Dhabi. Yeesch.
The other women are also less than sympathetic. Charlotte, in the most developed subplot, worries about the well-endowed nanny and her mothering abilities, which is fine, but she talks about it in front of her kids. Lawyer and mother Miranda decides to quit her job, be a housewife, and kvetch about the challenges of raising a child while on vacation away from her husband and son. Samantha, godmother of sexual liberation, has menopause and a fear that she’s lost the desire to rock the bedposts. They’re hardly the sweetest let alone happiest bunch.
That they do all of this in what feels like 17 wardrobe changes per scene, between flirting with male houseservants, while on their women-only vacation in the Middle East doesn’t help. Soon, they are riding camels, guzzling down booze, and showing more cleavage than Madonna on a sticky and sweet tour. The gimmick of the foursome kicking up their heels in an Arabian emirate is a kick at first, until the manufactured climax of four idle dames singing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” presents itself with the nuance of a studio focus group.
The whole movie feels that way—with gags, one-liners and digs about Jews, Italians, and Irish—and there’s measurably less candor and humor than in the first picture, until Samantha, of course, delivers the best line: “new Middle East my a--!” (before and after condoms spill from her purse).
But the lavish sets, scenes, and clothes—Charlotte in red, Miranda in paisley, Samantha in bold blue, Carrie in a tux—are enjoyable to watch and the focus on friendship does pay off. The best scene is an old-fashioned dialogue between two friends in a bar, talking about the strains of parenthood, coping with fallibility, and letting loose. Sex and the City 2’s theme that each couple needs to make their own rules and do what suits them is a well-learned lesson and Carrie finally figures out that refusing to update herself reduces to living the past, which can ruin the future.
Add fashionable eye candy—and stunning opening shots of the Chrysler Building—and it’s a visual showcase with a thoughtful if overwhelmed point. Now that we know these tacky, petty, prickly women, it is easier to accept for them for what they are, and to indulge in their sense of escape.