Is it time for Carrie Bradshaw to hang up her Manolos?
Two years have passed since the first feature film, two years since Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) married Big (Chris Noth) and went off into the sunset with him. Now should be Happily Ever After, except Carrie isn’t happy, because Big likes to stay home, order take-out and watch TV. These are her problems. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is struggling with motherhood. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) has hit the glass ceiling at work and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is heading kicking and screaming into menopause. Clearly the girls need a change of air. That comes courtesy of a rich Arab sheik who engages Samantha to do some PR work for him in Abu Dhabi. So with barely a nod to the economic crisis, the gals pack their bags (oh so many bags) and head off on the private jet for a week of cocktails and camaraderie.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before the oohs and ahs over the luxury hotel, private limos and personal butlers in the desert, come the oohs and ahs over the wedding of Stanford Blatch and Anthony Marantino (Willie Garson and Mario Cantone), who sadly, barely rate much more than a line of dialogue each. The wedding serves as an excuse for writer/director Michael Patrick King to make every obvious gay joke possible, to stuff the screen with a lavish production number featuring Liza Minnelli no less, and to show off his four heroines in their natural habitat of designer gowns and attendant fawning males. But somehow I wasn’t buying it anymore. The witticisms and zingers of the TV show have evolved into stale banter and forced one-liners. I cringed watching Carrie and Big “flirt” and cringed even more when Carrie topped a men’s tuxedo with 80’s crimped hair and some awful tiara thing that made her look like one of the witches from “Macbeth” via Bob Mackie.
And perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but did every gay guy in the movie have to be a fashion-forward style maven who adores shopping? Give me a break.
I am the target audience for this film, in that I am over 40, have children and struggle with demands of marriage, motherhood and career. I admittedly do not possess the shopping gene and feel pain just seeing all those high heels, but I am a huge fan of the TV show, enjoyed the first film and was looking forward to spending time with these four women again. My first shock was seeing how they had aged. (Do I really have all those laugh lines too??). Not that there’s anything wrong with aging. But the film asks us to accept that Carrie can still get away with micro-minis and four inch heels . . . and that Samantha at 52 can still attract a 20-something hottie from across the room. As I said, I’m not buying it.
Arriving in Abu Dhabi, the women react with shock and awe to their extravagant, luxurious surroundings and I felt my jaw ache with all the tight stretched faces and forced smiles. The girlish giddiness was starting to grate. Jokes about Spanx, Samantha’s sex drive and hot flashes seemed old and stale. The reappearance of Aidan (John Corbett) tempting Carrie from her dream marriage was unimaginative, a retread of old familiar ground providing barely a frisson or hint of danger.
A couple of scenes made me laugh . . . a funny slow motion scene of a well-endowed nanny who gives Charlotte pause was reminiscent of the daring of the TV series. Charlotte and Miranda having a heart to heart about being mothers was a well-written scene and hit home. Even the girls singing “I Am Woman” at a karaoke bar stirred up the right amount of you-go-girl pride.
But it just wasn’t enough.
Michael Patrick King has said that he wanted to offer escapism with this film and have it be a party for all involved. But frivolity and excess can only get you so far. It’s hard to empathize with Carrie in this film, with her Park Avenue address, ridiculous clothing and walk-in closet the size of a studio apartment. And the problems of four over-privileged fashionistas in a repressed Arab Emirate don’t amount to a hill of beans when the only socio-political comment comes via a ridiculous scene of sister-bonding and borrowed burkas.
Sex and the City 2 doesn’t feature the city . . . or that much sex for that matter. There was more substance in a half-hour episode on HBO than in this embarrassment of riches. At two and a half hours this exhausting sequel makes a convincing argument that Carrie should not only hang up her Manolos . . . but her Louboutins and Jimmy Choos too.