At long last, The Super Bowl for Women has descended upon us, except here we don't have to sit through a boring Halftime Show and wardrobe malfunctions. Instead, Sex and The City 2 takes things to a new level, rewarding us with Liza Minnelli covering Beyoncé (Gays 1, Straight Men 0) and a very deliberate Nip Slip or three. Even better, I'd say.
The Sex and the City franchise is something you either get or don't get. Sitting in on a Media Screening early this morning, it was clear who got the some of the film's subtly humorous moments -namely female reviewers- versus some of the male reviewers whom I hardly heard a peep from in the film's two and a half hour duration. I however, am Man and I love Sex and The City - and I enjoyed this sequel a great deal.
Picking up where 2008's Sex and The City The Movie left off, the sequel explores the central themes of adapting to married life, fidelity, Menopause, coping with Motherhood and cross-cultural perceptions of sexuality. Carrie Bradshaw or Carrie Preston (Sarah Jessica Parker) now, makes it clear to Mr. Big (Chris Noth) that she's always been more "Coco Chanel than Coq au Vin". That is, she refuses to live a boring Cookie-Cutter life, being content at home watching television with her husband. "I did not sign up for this", she refutes when Mr. Big presents her with an Anniversary gift of a television set in their bedroom. She wants romance and sparkle and as Mr. Big feels an increasing need to settle down and live low-key, Carrie still craves excitement, opting for Movie Premieres over sitting at home eating Take-Out with Mr. Big. It's apparent that the couple has hit a roadblock, resulting in the proposed resolution of perhaps taking two days off a week from one another. Being overly analytical as usual, Carrie begins to worry that their marriage may be headed for trouble.
At this stage in their lives, sexy Samantha (Kim Catrall) is single and loving it. At the back of her mind though is the imminence of Menopause and she does everything in her power to fight aging, downing Vitamins and Yams by the handful. Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is beginning to feel the pressure of raising two young girls, recruiting the help of an effervescent Irish Nanny (Alice Eve), earlier said culprit of the violating nipples. Feeling somewhat threatened by her Nanny's beauty and motherly prowess, Charlotte develops insecurities in her own ability to be a competent Mother and also, a desirable Wife. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is fed up with her chauvinistic boss at her Firm and quits, awakening a new carefree streak.
Samantha is given the opportunity of a lifetime by a wealthy Sheikh who sees what a fantastic job she has done with ex-boyfriend Smith Jerrod's (Jason Lewis) acting career. She is then hired to do Publicity for his Hotel in Abu Dhabi, The New Middle East and she whisks Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda off to that faraway land of decadence. Need we mention Costume Desiger Patricia Field's outstanding work again here, opting for timelessness and luxuriance rather than current trends? She utilizes flowing fabrics and decadent jewelry/accessories to complement the Desert backdrop.
Director of Photography John Thomas captures the girls' getaway beautifully with scenic Morocco-disguised-as- United Arab Emirates Desertscapes (the same one made iconic in Laurence of Arabia), festive Souks (Markets) and evening shots which give the city just the right combination of ambiance and intrigue. Like a Mirage, Carrie's former boyfriend Aidan (John Corbett) resurfaces in the bustle of the Souks, opening up the dangerous possibility of temptation, yet also answering the age-old question among Sex and The City fans, "What if?". And his appearance couldn't come at a more perfect time, with Carrie trying to gain some clarity in the direction her relationship with Mr. Big is headed.
One problem I have with Sex and the City 2 is that more than ever, this story has become too Carrie-indulgent. I love her more than words could describe, but it appears that all other story lines here have been sacrificed somewhat. While Screenwriter/Director Michael Patrick King places a great deal of focus on the girls' escape to Abu Dhabi, we forget pretty much that Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte have husbands back in New York. And we love those guys, don't we?
Also, with the exception of one scene with Miranda and Charlotte having a heart-to-heart about Motherhood over Cosmopolitans in gold-rimmed glasses, we somehow lose a sense of their relation to the overall story other than being Taggers-along. Samantha on the other hand, is on fire and ever present again with her sexual fearlessness, giving Sex and The City fans just what they want most. Samantha illustrates almost single-handedly the sharp contrast between sexual norms in the Middle East versus those in America.
I'll be the first to admit that the addition of musical numbers in the film seemed out of place. Firstly, I think Liza Minnelli must not have received the memo that her performance of Single Ladies was meant to provide campy humour, but the result is a bit awkward. It is as if she didn't know she was in on the joke. And I found the same with the girls' Karaoke rendition of Helen Reddy's I am Woman - not quite funny enough to be campy, thus deemed moot point.
Nonetheless, everything gets tied up neatly in Sex and The City 2. Beneath the glamour and superficial sheen of it all lies the undeniable life truth that instead of concerning ourselves with norms and customs, love is something each person sees in a unique light. And because this is so, we have the right to create our own twists on tradition. Love takes work to survive and we can only live for today because really, it is all we are certain of.
If I had to compare this sequel to its predecessor, I'd say that definitely it improves upon that last effort, which took a turn towards the Dramatic more than I would have preferred. Sex and The City fans want to be "Carried Away" on a fun mindless escape - and more importantly, reconnect with our old friends Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. And that in itself is enough, wouldn't you agree?
Warner Bros.' Sex and The City 2 hits theatres Thursday, May 27, 2010. Upon speaking to Sarah Jessica Parker in her Toronto visit in March she assured me, "You're gonna love it!". She was so right. Grade: B+