SATC2: I see your true colors?

On Wednesday night, I, along with a handful of other women (and one or two men) watched the midnight showing of Sex and the City 2 at my local multiplex. I had not planned to see the film on opening night, but when I found myself drinking martinis with four other women at 10 pm at a bar across from the movie theater, I simply couldn’t resist. It should come as no surprise that I, true to my demographic– single women in their twenties– am a big fan of the SATC franchise. I have my critiques of the show (SATC is classist, racist, ridiculous), but I also think it makes for really good television. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda may be hopeless caricatures of real women, but at this point, they feel like a part of my extended family.

The story is obviously better suited for the half hour format than the feature-length film, but still, the first movie was OK. Yes it was long, but it had a couple of wonderfully poignant moments. I’m thinking of Carrie, destroyed by heartbreak, staring into that mirror in the bathroom in Mexico, revealing an aging face. Or Carrie and Miranda, significant-otherless, watching the ball drop in their PJ’s on Miranda’s couch. These moments of friendship are why the show was so popular. Yes, it’s fun to watch women talk about sex, but it’s also fun to watch women talk to each other about all the other things real women talk about. It’s fun to watch a show where the plot revolves around the strong bonds of friendship that bind women to each other, as boyfriends and husbands come and go. The first movie maintained the integrity of the show; it had a plot, and the characters experienced growth through their 145 minutes of screen time. You will find no such plot, let alone growth in the sequel.

The film is basically one long montage of outfits, locales, and stars you always wanted to see on the show but never did.  The script appears to have been written on a weekend retreat at the Hampton’s, designed to include as much fun as possible, at the expense of plot, narrative arc, or logic. Before I move on, a brief list of some such moments:

The girls when they were in their twenties: In the opening monologue of the film,  we get to see each character donned in the clothes she was wearing (20 years ago) when she met Carrie. I have to admit, Miranda’s 80s look made me laugh out loud. Words cannot describe the fantastic bob-like hairdo and suit to match.

A gay wedding!(+ Liza Minelli & show tunes): Stanford and Anthony, the gang’s two gay best friends are getting married (because there are only two gay men in new york city). The ceremony includes an all male show choir performing classic show tunes. I seemed to be the only one in the theater interested in singing along with “Sunrise Sunset.” It gets better… Liza Minelli performs the ceremony and the opening number at the reception: “all the single ladies.” As A.O. Scott puts it in his his review: “it is somehow both the high point of and a grim harbinger of what is to come.” I tend to see this performance as more high point than harbinger– it’s LIZA– but his point is well taken.

Celebrities!: There’s Liza’s cameo, as well as small appearances by Miley Cyrus and Penelope Cruise.

Karaoke: The American girls, on their Abu Dhabi trip, perform “I am woman hear me roar” on a silvery stage, greeted by a standing ovation.

Burka clad women donning designer labels underneath their conservative dress: I kid you not. After rescuing our heroines from a group of angry men, a gaggle of Arabian women share their love of Susan Summers’s menopause book, and their love of fashion, pulling open their burkas to reveal Dior, Gucci, Versace, etc. As one explains, though they have never been to NYC, they love the fashion. Need I say more?

The “plot” of the film involves an all expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi for Samantha and her fabulous friends. Samantha’s been invited to check out a PR opportunity for a luxury hotel. There in Abu Dhabi the American girls find old flames, traditional values, and luxury beyond their wildest dreams. Each woman is assigned her own personal butler, her own personal white Maybach, and her own wing of a luxurious suite. In the Middle East, Charlotte and Miranda commiserate about the difficulties of parenting, raising a glass to those women “who do it without help,” reminding us yet again, that these women, and their paid domestic servants, are nothing like us. Carrie confesses that her marriage is losing its sparkle… Big likes watching TV on the couch, he has taken to ordering in rather than going out! And you think you’ve got problems! But not to worry, this is paradise, and whatever appears to trouble it will soon disappear.

The only legitimate ‘conflict’ that occurs in the film takes place when Samantha gets arrested for indecency on the beach of their resort. Suddenly, the ‘all expense paid’ trip has been cut short, and it appears (just for a moment) that the fab four might have to pay for their accommodations, or worse still, fly home coach instead of first class. There have been wonderful films made about exclusively THIS conflict. But the joke only works when the character in the luxurious suite ACTUALLY can’t afford it, it falls flat if the character (wearing Dior) is just annoyed that her all expense paid trip fell through.

The soundtrack of the film is equally ridiculous, concluding with Cindi Lauper singing “True Colors.” It’s a great song, but it feels a bit out-of-place here. This is the song that concluded the (admittedly flawed) 2001 film, Save the Last Dance. Remember this movie, starring Julia Stiles, about a white ballet dancer who moves to the ghetto and learns how to dance to hip hop music. But no matter. <em>Sex and the City 2</em> is about seeing your true colors too, right? SATC2 is full of moments of excess. When the show came out in the late 90s, such excess was everywhere, but in our current economic climate, it’s actually hard to watch. However, people will flock to the theaters, because in spite of the terrible reviews (and they really have slammed this film) you will of course want to see what happens for yourself. Luckily, the film doesn’t ask to be taken seriously, so you are free to sigh, grunt, hiss, laugh, and boo as the film takes you places you never thought it would go.

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