Stealing a page from such revered epic masterpieces like The Godfather and The Deer Hunter, Sex and the City 2 kicks off with a wedding. Is it too deplorable of me to have fantasized how this sequel might have further emulated those classics by mimicking their denouements as well? I cannot be the only person to have shelled out $10 for this debacle to be remotely tickled by the idea of these horrid people reenacting Deer Hunter’s climactic Russian Roulette finale, can I?
I apologize for making such a mean-spirited digression before this review even begins, but that was by far the most interesting reaction I could muster from the equally mean-spirited Sex and the City 2, a droningly empty and singularly painful sequel to a 2008 movie I actually sort of dug . But the movie is not actually bad for the same boring, sexism-and-ageism-fueled reasons you might have read in other reviews. The unbridled sex talk is still there, and I am glad it is; if anything, more movies need women – particularly women some years removed from their twenties – talking so vividly about their sex life. What makes SatC2 so truly deplorable is the contemptuous view it has for its audience. It is a faux glam-kitschy, gloriously vapid and borderline anachronistic tribute to awful human beings who languish – without the slightest trace of irony – in lifestyles of masturbatory excess and single-minded materialistic fetishism, proceeding tacitly to scold the audience for having the gall not to be as wealthy or as beautiful as they are.
In spirit of the beloved half-hour program that preceded the movies, each character has her share of issues to face, many of which having been wreaked upon them as punishment for the simple crime of having too much money. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) worries about her already fizzling two-year marriage to Big (Chris Noth) after he requests a two-days-a-week sabbaticals from their marriage in their separate condo (in this crappy housing market, the tortured souls are forced to hold on to two homes). Charlotte (Kristin Davis) feels threatened over the braless endowments of her bosomy Irish nanny. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) struggles with the banality of unemployment upon telling off her chauvinist boss and a pre-menopausal Samantha (Kim Cattrall) employs the power of countless hormones and meds to kindle that eternal fire nestled safely inside her loins. It’s a true wonder that Bergman never thought to ponder the philosophical depths of these issues back in his heyday.
Needing some much-deserved escapism from their bourgeois purgatory, the girls opt to resolve their problems by doing what they do best: buy shit until their problems go away. In a move that makes the Arthur Fonzarelli’s shark-jumping exploits feel like an exercise in Italian neorealism, Carrie and company inexplicably find themselves embarking on an all-expense paid sojourn to a luxury resort in Abu Dhabi. To his credit, director Michael Patrick King – who might as well have titled this Sex and the Emirate – shoots the girls’ exotic new setting with a near-pornographic glee; the resort actually manages to boast more dynamic characterization than any of the four protagonists.
The city looks great, but then the movie arbitrarily decides it wants to make a statement on the oppression of women and sexuality at the behest of religious zealotry. I do not doubt the noble intentions behind making such a bold statement, but I cannot help but question the sincerity of the filmmakers when the emotional climax of this proclamation involves a character furiously brandishing condoms in a city marketplace teeming with outraged bystanders – a scenario played entirely for laughs, I might add. And so the dubious message SatC2 devolves into a half-hearted, lazy critique of non-western sexual politics that meanders dangerously into condescending territory. King may just as well have shoehorned in scenes with the gals screaming “Hey! Look how enlightened we are!”
I know what you are asking: what does Abu Dhabi have to do with any of the aforementioned conflicts for any of these girls? I cannot answer that for you, but if you are worried about the problems introduced at the beginning of the movie not being resolved before the final credits roll, never you fear; each sub-plot is wrapped up with all the concision and ease of a Band-Aid application, supplying for us a neat little coda of happy endings having little to do with the travails these girls experienced in the 147 preceding minutes. But I suppose that is not really a big deal – after all, who needs lessons and story arcs when there are clothes to be bought and shoes to be worn and oodles of privilege to be flaunted?