sat 10/12/2022

Sex and the City 2 | reviews, news & interviews

Sex and the City 2

Sex and the City 2

The horror, the horror: Sex and the City without the sex, or the city

There are, in urban myth, those moments when a runway model – leggy, impassively superhuman and dressed in some impossibly haute garment – catches a heel and collapses, foal-like, into a heap of fragile legs. It’s a moment that Sex and the City the series neatly turned on its head, urging us to celebrate the beauty to be found in human flaw and error; yet, watching the self-assured sass of this once-mighty franchise sprawl headlong, it wasn’t beauty but a sense of raging frustration that dominated. The fashion, the friends, even the puns are all still in their place, but where (as Carrie herself might ask), where is the love?

Following the 40-something adventures of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, we pick up two years on from their last cinematic outing. With Charlotte struggling with her daughter’s “terrible twos”, Miranda disenchanted with work, and Carrie and Mr Big going through what she terms a “mid-wife crisis”, it’s up to Samantha to stage an “inter-friend-tion” (a joke belaboured even further by three separate outings), and whisk the women away on a pilgrimage to their own personal Mecca – the Middle-Eastern capital of conspicuous consumption, Abu Dhabi.

When the women decide to get away, they cut themselves off from the beating heart of their drama, the fifth heroine – New York herself

After a frothy bauble-heavy opening section, which my companion likened to the scene-setting advertisements at the front of a glossy magazine, we launch forth into the main story. The results are not pretty, either sartorially or, dare I say it, morally. A film with pretension to wit that can write off the global recession in a single parenthetic justification of a second Manhattan home – “The last two years weren’t exactly the best time to put an apartment on the market” – deserves to be booed off the stage, not least when it follows up with a painfully patronising toast to all those mothers who manage to raise their children without the assistance of full-time live-in help (or, presumably, quantities of Cosmopolitans).

Then we turn to the Middle East itself. Teeming with token native turns from actors who should have known better – to dive headlong from The Raj Quartet to this, shame upon you, Art Malik – this is the complete Arabian Nights fantasy of Kismet or The Thief of Baghdad, and about as politically correct. Everything worthwhile that can be acquired from the East, we are laboriously instructed, can be fitted into your hand luggage, except the good giggle that you and your girlfriends can have at the quaint customs of those backward Muslims. Rarely have I spent so much of a (non-horror) film hidden behind my hand for fear of what might assault me next. For the first time (and not just in the opening flashback sequence) we see the small-town, small-minded girls beneath the New York sophistication, girls who scream with increasing desperation as the film progresses: “Look at us, aren’t we clever!”

The joy of the series was its barely half-hour episodes – the taut, tight, perfectly manicured writing poured into a Herve Leger body con dress with not a bulge of surplus flesh in sight. Sprawling and splurging over two-and-a-half hours, the film’s fashion equivalent doesn’t bear thinking about. But I suspect it involves leggings, animal print and a woman of a certain age.

Sex and the City was a show whose ample cleavage and salacious wisecracks hid not only a sharp social agenda but also a deeply old-fashioned warmth of heart – a warmth that here is effectively scorched out of existence by the glare of the Abu Dhabi sun. When the women decide to “get away”, they cut themselves off from the beating heart of their drama, the long-acknowledged fifth heroine – New York herself. When we lost the originary City, we lost not only the sex but also, filthiest of taboos, the romance. Cruelly, we are taunted throughout the film by glimpses of everything that is lacking. When Carrie and Big lie in bed watching the inimitable Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable in It Happened One Night, the comparison is painfully acute. To recognise romance is one thing, to recreate it quite another.

A paean to consumerism, with brash product placement that renders it little more than a catalogue with narrative, this film would have us believe that all that glitters really is gold – that a lack of “sparkle” in a marriage can be fixed with a rare black diamond, and that the worst fate that could possibly befall us is having to fly economy class. This is Sex and the City by numbers, and sadly they just don’t add up to the sum of human happiness.

Watch the trailer for Sex and the City 2

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