Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Kattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon; Director: Michael Patrick King; Producers: Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Melfi; Screenwriter: Michael Patrick King, Candace Bushnell; Editor: Michael Berenbaum; Genre: Drama/Comedy/Tourism: Cinematography: John Thomas; Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Location: New York/ Middle East; Running Time: 135 mins.;
Sex and the City 2: sugar coated poison
By Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS
Those who have become fans of the cable-TV series will no doubt find something to like in the movie... but for audiences who regard movies as powerful shapers of values particularly of the young, Sex and the City 2 is sugar-coated poison.
After two years, the quartet of long-time gal-pals Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) reunite and update one another on their woes, their joys, etc. Lawyer Miranda grumbles that she is pushed around by her male boss simply because she’s female. Housewife Charlotte thinks she’s a happily married mother of two kids. PR agent Samantha swears happiness is looking 35 when she is 50.. Writer Carrie (who narrates the story) chooses marriage without children as most fulfilling for her. They are so close that when Samantha is gifted by a potential client with the opportunity to travel first class and spend some days in style in Abu Dhabi, she wouldn’t go without the other three. In Abu Dhabi, situations invite them to confront their insecurities otherwise unexamined back in America.
A sequel to the 2008 feature by director Michael Patrick King, Sex in the City 2 is candy for the eyes, especially if viewers relish high end fashion, high end travel, high end living, high end everything. There’s a story all right, a story of women who represent the ultimate consumer, and everything else in the movie backs this up. The pace is snappy and so is the script, and with the frequent costume changes, fancy settings, “beautiful people” and exotic locales, it’s hard to get drowsy or bored watching this 145-minute bloated version of the TV sitcom. In this technically polished production, acting is sincere, but the characters are contemporary and seem too close to home to challenge one’s acting skills. Besides, when the movie is almost fashion-porn, who needs to act?
Those who have become fans of the cable-TV series will no doubt find something to like in the movie, for it is indeed entertaining in its own right, but for audiences who regard movies as powerful shapers of values particularly of the young, Sex and the City 2 is sugar coated poison. If the movie is candy for the eyes, it is also toxic for the impressionable soul.
While sound values are presented—like fidelity, family, sexual equality, tolerance and respect for alien culture—these are glossed over when contradictory values forcefully grab screen time, making us wonder whether the movie is pushing a hidden agenda or is simply being dismissive and downright contemptuous of people who are not “in”.
A lavish gay “wedding” eats up nearly half an hour, with the Best Man being a woman (Parker) in a tuxedo, and the pastor another woman—60-something Liza Minelli doing a whole song and dance routine (I’m a Single Lady) in a glamorized man’s shirt and fishnet stockings. That number in itself trivializes the pastor’s ministry and makes of the marriage ceremony a vaudeville show.
Also inserted into the story is a tour of a luxurious hotel suite—mouthwatering to many no doubt, but may be thought-provoking to some who may wonder how much the five-minute plug is actually costing the hotel owner. Five minutes in a movie where fates are sealed in a matter of seconds must cost quite a fortune.
While the gang of four fashionistas do care to be there for each other, they are too self-absorbed, pathetically unaware that there breathes a world outside of their own sparkly little bubble.
Carrie prides herself in juggling career and marriage with elan, but she’s a writer who has no “give and take” in her vocabulary.
Charlotte is the picture of a contented wife and mother, until her two-year old daughter impatient for her attention imprints red paint on her prized Valentino skirt.
Lawyer Miranda plays safe and does some research on the local customs before they fly off to Abu Dhabi but the movie does not take her seriously; instead it gives the youth-obsessed Samantha license to mock with impunity the sex and dress issues of the Muslims. In fact, Samantha is the kind of American tourist no self-respecting American traveler would want to be identified with, uncovering her profound maleducation by openly defying mores of Islamic modesty and seducing a man in public in full view of a traditional Muslim couple. In real life, Samantha could have been stoned, but in the movie the director lets her go scot-free, her neck saved by burqa-clad women who literally unveil themselves as clones of the fashion-obsessed quartet from New York. (Uh-oh… insult upon injury! Let’s see how this movie performs among Middle Eastern audiences).
It is doubtful whether Sex and the City writer and director King intended to portray these four friends as conflicted human beings struggling for enlightenment, but if he believes film ought to serve as a tool for man’s growth, he needs to transform his heroines from women of (dubious) style to women of substance. From lauding these women’s avarice he should now challenge them to get real and outgrow their narcissism.
In Sex and the City 2, women empowerment means the entitlement to la dolce vita, the privilege to shop on a husband’s largesse, and the freedom to carry condoms in your bag as a basic necessity. In spite of everything they have, these women can’t seem to have enough. We’d love to see Sex and the City 3 do justice to women, real women. Miranda will now be running her own law office and rendering legal services pro bono to cuckolded husbands on welfare. Charlotte will be shown happily conducting healing sessions in a facility for battered wives in Harlem while her children play with her patients’ children in a crying room she’s built out of her own pocket. Realizing that a novel of import is never written from atop an ivory tower, Carrie will move to Brazil to write while living alone in a favela and managing a soup kitchen for its residents—because has husband has now claimed his right to enjoy in solitude black and white movies without talkies. Samantha who will have (finally) fallen in love, will now be residing somewhere in Afghanistan as the fourth wife of a handsome 80-year old sheik who demands that she wear a burqa for life, or else… (The author is Founding Board Member of the CBCP/CINEMA)