Sex in the City 2: Could you tell - the bloom is off the rose, somewhat

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sex and the City 2

March 31, 2010

The best way to describe the two-and-a-half hours spent watching "Sex and the City 2," is that it's like spending a week with four people you absolutely cannot stand.

Actually, that was the experience with watching the original "Sex and the City" so I guess at least you can say the sequel is consistent.

I'd like to get that out there right up front because, as my wife flatly told me, "just because you don't like the characters doesn't make the movie bad. I hate Bruce Willis in everything he does, but that doesn't seem to stop you from giving out good grades to action movies like they were candy." So, yes, I'll admit that just because the "Sex and the City" movies aren't made for me does not automatically make them worth avoiding. However, lest you think I agree with my father, who describes this film as a "woman" movie, I'll give you the second part of my wife's comments: "There's way more wrong with this movie than the fact that the characters are obnoxious."

"Sex 2" begins two years after the fairy tale wedding of Carrie and "Big," and, as you might have guessed, the bloom is off the rose, somewhat. Seems he likes TV and she likes going out to fabulous dinners and parties every night - didn't Paula Abdul have a song about that?

When Big suggests to his bride that maybe they'd enjoy spending a couple of nights a week apart, so each could do things they wanted to without the other, Carrie's angst about marriage hits full throttle. She whines that her marriage now lacks sparkle, while elsewhere in the city; Samantha is going through menopause, yet still having sex with anything that moves; Miranda doesn't like her job because her boss won't listen to her, and Charlotte is afraid her bra-less Irish nanny is going to steal her husband.

Naturally, with all this going on, the four spoiled socialites need a break, so Samantha arranges a fabulous all-expense paid trip to Abu Dhabi, new shopping capital of the world. And how do you think these free-spirited modern women will take to the fundamentalist, repressive and patriarchal Middle East? Dripping in vintage Dior couture, of course!

I really didn't like this movie, but as to whether it's better or worse than the original is hard to say. Of the four, I like Charlotte the best, because she's the nice one.

Though I couldn't care less about her nanny troubles, the movie does offer a few nice scenes addressing motherhood and the guilt mothers often feel about needing time away from the kids. It's a good point, and handled fairly well. Other than that bit, however, I was alternately bored and offended for well over two hours.

Leaving off my distaste for the characters, the movie has a ton of problems. The script is abysmal, setting up every conversation as though it were a series of one-liners. At times the dialogue is little better than a Z-grade sitcom. The acting, though not great, is completely at the mercy of the script, so it's hard to fault these admittedly talented actresses too much. But the biggest misstep of this film is to move the action to the Middle East.

There are so many issues wrapped up in this region that need addressing, from women's issues to basic human rights, but the silly "Sex and the City" universe is not the place for that. I can't begin to go through every encounter, but at nearly every turn I was shocked at the cavalier way the film addressed the problems in this part of the world.

At one point, Carrie and Co. note a couple of women in burkas, the traditional head-to-toe outfit most Muslim women from the area are forced to wear. They casually shake their heads at the difficulty these women have in eating French fries, but giggle about how a veil might be a fabulous accessory. Samantha is arrested for attempting to have sex on a public beach and the movie has the gall to suggest that this is a good example of the silly repression that women in the United Arab Emirates operates under.

No, actually, having sex on a public beach is something you'd get arrested for here!

At another point, the girls get up on stage in an Abu Dhabi nightclub to sing a 4-part Karoeke version of "I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar." As the song goes on, all the "sisters' in the club join in. It's a raucous celebration of female empowerment and the dumbfounded men in the club can do nothing but sit back and stare. It's as if the writers are saying, "Hey, all it takes to gain equity is to be bold and fabulous! Look, Carrie and the gang did it, so can you!" Unfortunately, in much of the Middle East today, the only women who get to roar are the rich, foreign ones.

"Sex and the City" is not the place to take on this battle because it's too silly and too frivolous a fantasy to be taken seriously. I'll admit that even my adverse reaction to the movie is too extreme because this isn't in any way reality.

That's what makes the Middle East setting all the more bizarre. It's as if the cast of "Friends" decided to skip on over to Kosovo for some wacky Serbian fun.

In the end, Carrie decides that the solution to both her marriage issues and, presumably, the repression of women in the Middle East, is to take tradition and dress it up with a little sparkle. I'm sure it will be of great comfort to those who have suffered decades of oppression that Ms. Bradshaw's solution is simply to bedazzle their burka.

Grade: D+

"Sex and the City 2" is rated R for language and graphic sexual situations.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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