As Carrie and Big sit at home, snuggling close to watch black and white classics like It Happened One Night, I'm reminded of the fact that 80 years from now I'll be longing for the same simple delights: a film where the subtlety of an exposed leg during a cross-country fling exuded all the sexuality and cinematic sparkle lacking when a character fellates a hookah, and riding a camel becomes obvious punning of someone's camel toe.
A film like Sex and the City 2 shouldn't be treated with the scathing reviews it's getting perhaps (such as the one you're currently reading), when it so aggressively thrusts its superfluous extremes in our faces. We're told by the marketing that this franchise is merely an excuse for women to get together and hang with their cinematic girlfriends. Go shopping without leaving the theatre, cruise men too hot to meet in public, and relish in the daily drama. We're supposed to relate to this fabulous foursome, but it's really hard to emotionally connect with a piece of clothing. Fun to look at, good for a night out, but so easy to hang back in our closet and forget about. And I've absolutely no desire to wear it a second time.
Our dire economic woes are a narrative excuse for these characters to splurge and spend innocuous amounts of money in other countries. So why is this massively popular, escapist entertainment acknowledging the strife of the American people, all the while making excessive consumerism its central draw. Does a third world country need to go broke so I can see cute handbags on a thirty foot screen? The fifteen dollar ticket price seems to coincide. I'm bitter and penniless as I watch these women spend their annoyingly endless incomes with reckless abandon. They buy thousands of dollars worth of cute, over-dramatized dresses to ride camels across the Abu Dhabi desert. Who are these women trying so desperately to impress? More importantly, why is anyone impressed?
Any vulgarity comes less from the stale innuendos than it does from the lack of awareness in these characters. Where once this series had massive heart, wit and style, there's a giant cardboard landscape tacked with glitter. As the celeb cameos come fast and furious, the fantastical flights of fancy a constant, it exposes the hollow core of these films. Such a great ensemble, admittedly opulent design, once sharp and savvy writing (Michael Patrick King needs a comeback Valerie Cherish style) has been traded for lavish consumerism and a shred of plot here and there. This isn't so much a movie as a gaudy catalogue of things you don't need and can't afford. For a film that's purely light fluff, it's as bulky and awkward as one of Carrie's eye-searing hats.
I'd be sold on the spectacle if it were tied to some emotional restraint. Simply put: Stop shrieking, Charlotte! Your child won't stop screaming with good reason: it's genetic. Stop overcompensating, Samantha! If you're a strong, sexy, independent woman who can have any man she wants, you probably don't need to deep throat whatever's in your vicinity to snag a man who already bought you dinner. Stop being a know-it-all, Miranda! Just because you quit your job doesn't mean you're now a Wikipedia entry on fucking everything. As for Carrie, she pretty much stays true to her character. Falling into old patterns of deceit, fear of being boring (if she only knew), and running from relationships right at the point when real feelings start to translate.
Even the admirable attempts at female empowerment are consistently undermined by the fixation on finding ways to show off their tits in designer gowns in a country that views it with disrespect. No self-respecting American woman would argue the limitations of a country that forces women to eat french fries from behind a veil, but it's a hideous thought that behind these burkas are the same vain, materialistic women and Dior labels. Please ask your Muslim girlfriend if she's a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte or a Samantha. A love for excess and fashion shouldn't be on par with having a voice, and when it comes to Carrie's neurotic prattling and Charlotte's judgmental breakdowns, there are times when a vow of silence should be honored. The vitriolic New Yorker reviews in the film are about the only shred of self-awareness offered up.
So what to take from the overpriced popcorn drama that is Sex and the City 2? What once was seminal series about strong women and stronger cocktails is now just another manufactured label. And all women, as this movie will tell you, are obsessed with labels. A certain level of excess was always part of the series, but I always sensed the creators were more invested in emotions than in promoting the new iPhone. Until these women officially become The Golden Girls they were inspired by -- trading in their platforms for polyester -- we can expect more generic tourist pamphlets for the mega rich. What's left then? The men, ironically. Gorgeous bodies, winning smiles, and a whole lot of subtle sex appeal (Samantha's new Danish man, Max Ryan, is worth her incessant raving about hot flashes). As just another of the film's superfluous visual delights, at least they're not hidden by labels. Or clothing for that matter.