DISCLAIMER: This post is a little spoilery but trust me, it's not much more than what you learn in this extended trailer.
I am a semi-fanatical Sex and the City lover. The opening theme song is the soundtrack to my undergrad and grad school years, when I would often binge on episode after episode while cleaning my house or doing homework or while doing nothing at all. I started doing a rough calculation of how many hours I have spent watching the 94 half-hour episodes--all of which I have, of course, in a sweet hot pink box set--and the initial figures were so damning that I elected not to calculate any further.
So fanatical, in fact, is my love of this show, that I sobbed through probably 80% of the first movie in fangirlish delight when I saw it on opening night at Alamo Drafthouse with my long-suffering husband, starting with the moment in the opening credits when you first see Charlotte with her child at long last:
and peaking at the moment when Charlotte is telling Big to stay away from Carrie after he ruins the wedding.
break. my. heart.
SATC1 had a lot of problems, but it also had a lot of wonderful moments. If nothing else, it was really satisfying for the fans.
And then they made a sequel. For some reason.
What is left to say about Sex and the City 2 after you read this review from the Stranger? I mean...
kind of says it all. The only word I could come up with for it was 'grotesque.' Wikipedia says grotesque is a "general adjective for the strange, fantastic, ugly, incongruous, unpleasant, or bizarre, and thus is often used to describe weird shapes and distorted forms such as Halloween masks." EXACTLY.
Critics have by and large skewered this movie. It has a pitiful 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But I haven't read a single review yet that points out one particular flaw of this movie that really bugged me as a fan: many of the plot points are recycled from old episodes.
Naturally, the movie hits on some classic SATC tropes: Samantha is old and lusty, Miranda is overworked, Charlotte is jealous, Big is emotionally unavailable, Carrie is basically a horrible person who is absolutely impossible to please, etc. But SATC2 does more than refer to recurring themes from the show. It recycles storylines from the show, and worse, handles the storylines hamfistedly while they're at it.
Since I'm kind of a frustrated academic, I gathered some evidence to support my thesis.
In SATC2, Carrie just hates that her rich husband likes to get expensive gourmet takeout sometimes instead of going out to eat at an expensive gourmet restaurant. I knew I never liked that man.
As I watched Carrie berate Big over a paper sack of Japanese food that almost certainly cost more than I make in a day, I had a distinct sense of déjà vu. I was taken back to the good old days of Carrie and Aidan, Season 4, the days of Aidan stripping Carrie's floors and taking her to Suffern and being inexplicably saintly despite Carrie being, as usual, insufferably selfish. All That Glitters (s4e14) finds Aidan longing for a night in with his lover and the TV and a bucket of chicken, and Carrie longing for a hot night of grinding on shirtless men and her girlfriends (including pregnant Miranda) at a gay club.
When she comes home drunk and ready to get it get it, she's disgusted to find Aidan splayed out and glazed in KFC grease. She finds his request to rub his belly repulsive in the extreme.
Next to unctious, shirtless Aidan, swollen and comin down with the itis, Big looks absolutely portrait-worthy with his probably spotless black leather shoes on the gorgeous couch and tidy box of Japanese food on the table. You could kind of feel Carrie's pain when she's torn between a fun night out with her girlfriends and rubbing the belly of her beached, greasy boyfriend. But Carrie, seriously? After "eleventy decades of chasing his emotionally abusive jowls through the streets of Manhattan" you've finally landed Mr. Big, and now you're nagging him to death because he doesn't want take you out every single night of the week? That's crazy even for you, Carrie. And that's saying something.
At this point in the movie, the drunken audience in the theater started to get kind of restless and pissy. Carrie asks Big (rhetorically, of course) if she's a bitch wife who nags him all the time. One particularly disgruntled moviegoer shouted YES and the entire theater cheered.
The girls are thrilled upon arriving at their expensive suite in Abu Dhabi, but kind of weirded out when a bunch of turbaned men line up attentively and inform the quartet that each one of them has been assigned a personal manservant. The women must learn to negotiate all the tricky situations that come with having someone wait on you hand and foot. Or something.
They did an entire episode about this in Season 2 called The Caste System (e10). Remember? Samantha dates a rich dude who has a servant, Charlotte hooks up with a movie star, Miranda buys Steve an expensive suit, and Carrie just hates that Big brought her to a fancy party with extra-rich people?
In both SATC2 and The Caste System, the girls are uncomfortable with the machinations of the class system. For about a minute before they go back to being waited on hand and foot.
Even though neither iteration of this storyline wraps up in a way that even begins to reconcile the massive social issues they've raised, The Caste System at least attempts to offer multiple perspectives on living in a class-stratified society. We get to see the women both as the regal upper-class Manhattanites they are and, through Carrie's storyline, as people who don't quite qualify for the tippy-top of society. SATC2 doesn't give us anything beyond the fleeting, cringing guilt of rich white ladies who are being waited on.
On their trip to Abu Dhabi, only do the ladies have to deal with having a quartet of manservants, but they also have to negotiate the complex social mores of Muslim culture. While none of the four seem to excel at this particularly,
Modest isn't the first word that springs to mind
Samantha in particular struggles to comport herself properly. It's hard to stop grabbing the packages of virtual strangers on a dime, you know? I'm sure it will not come as a surprise to learn that Samantha ends up publicly shamed by the locals for being an Independent Woman who happens to carry condoms by the dozen and dress like a fourteen-year-old on a hot day.
Samantha is no stranger to this kind of unjust treatment. In Four Women and a Funeral (s2e5), Samantha philanthropically gropes a married man as she's fundraising for a nonprofit, and is subsequently blacklisted from Everywhere That Matters when the wife busts her and besmirches her reputation. In Are We Sluts? (s3e6), one of Samantha's one-night-stands lets a robber into her building, and the other residents ride her so hard about her promiscuous lifestyle that she moves to the Meatpacking District. (Har. Har.) And in Cover Girl, Carrie walks in on Samantha providing a valuable service to the Worldwide Express guy in her office, and for once even her good friend Carrie has to agree that she's taken her sexual openness a step too far.
When we see Samantha screeching I HAVE SEX! crazily at a group of elderly Muslim men in the street while wielding fistfuls of condoms, it's not just awful because we've seen it all before, again and again. It's offensive AND stale.
Here's the big spoiler of this post. Are you ready?
Carrie loses her passport. And it's a problem for about 10 minutes until she finds it again exactly where she left it. Cool story, Carrie. I think I get the symbolism. You're far away in a foriegn country trying to figure out your ever-shifting love life and in the process you briefly lose your passport and therefore YOURSELF.
This is heavy stuff, Michael Patrick King. But you wrote this already, remember?
The final episodes of Sex and the City, where Carrie is in Paris with Baryshnikov? She loses her Carrie necklace when she's feeling all lost and sad and then, in the final episode, An American Girl in Paris: Part Deux (s6.2e8), she finds it again before she works up the nerve to break it off with Aleks.
The American Girl in Paris episodes are some of my favorite episodes of any television show ever. I've seen them dozens of times and still find myself breathless in anticipation of Big and Carrie finding one another. I still sob gratuitously through basically the whole thing. But Carrie's ordeal in SATC2 has really no tension and no stakes at all. Maybe she'll miss her first-class flight home that afternoon? How did this pass as the climax of a 2.5 hour movie? HOW DID THIS MOVIE HAPPEN AT ALL?
I am so utterly disappointed in my favorite franchise.
Cute jacket tho.
oh come on let's just talk about how dumb this movie was