When Sex and the City debuted on the small screen in 1998 it broke new ground with its honest, contemporary take on relationships. Carrie Bradshaw and her friends – Charlotte York, Miranda Hobbes and Samantha Jones – soon became iconic pop culture figures; appealing not only to the fairer sex but also a horde of gay fans.
The series featured a refreshingly intimate and sometimes explicit look at urban sexuality with intelligent, cleverly written scripts that set new standards for a television series about women and their lives.
Those days are over.
Somehow, something went wrong with the transition to the big screen. Carrie’s previously charming and genuine insights have been replaced with clichÃ©s and blandness and the sharp dialogue is now perfunctory and obvious. Wit has been taken over by crass and silly humour.
Sex and the City 2 is set two years after the last movie and sees Carrie grappling with the mundane domesticity of marriage, Charlotte struggling with the demands of motherhood, Miranda being sidelined at work and Samantha obsessing over staving off the ravages of ageing.
A fully paid for luxury holiday in Abu Dhabi for the whole gang might just be what they need…
The film kicks off with a gay wedding in New York: a camp-fest filled with lisping queens, white swans and even Liza Minnelli, looking like a demented plastic surgery Muppet, bleating out Beyonce’s Single Ladies. It’s both the gayest and most tragic thing I’ve seen in years.
When Carrie’s best gay friend, Stanford Blatch, appeared in the series it was refreshing to see a gay character on television. Times have moved on but, while Stanford finally gets hitched, the show’s depiction of gay people has not. In Sex and the City 2 they are little more than slightly lurid queens who can be easily identified by their pout and ‘gay face’.
Time is also catching up with our girls. While I’m all for women asserting their sexuality as they mature, these characters seem stuck in some kind of silicone time-warp. Watching Samantha Jones at 52 simulating a blowjob with a hookah pipe to seduce a man is honestly disturbing. While once there was strength to Samantha’s self-affirming powerhouse sexuality it’s now desperate and pathetic.
The woman-affirming theme of the film also goes horribly off course when the girls end up performing a cringe-worthy karaoke set of I Am Woman in a nightclub. The film’s attempt to comment on women’s rights in the Middle East also falls terribly flat because ultimately the script doesn’t have the guts to take a real stand on any issue at all.
That’s the bad news.
If, however, you’ve been a long-time fan of Sex and the City – like I am – then you’ll most likely forgive these rather glaring flaws and still have a ball. One of the joys of the franchise has always been the likeability of these women and that continues. The fantastic cast make the best of a weak script and manage to pull off some very obvious humour.
There’s much pleasure to be had catching up with the gang, and for fans who remember the girls’ history and baggage many of the seemingly trite scenarios can have some real emotional weight.
But it’s great pity that the potential drama of these situations is not taken far enough; they have no real consequences. The result is that the characters don’t grow or change – despite marriage, children, ageing… and plenty of botox.
Perhaps Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha have earned the right to stop probing and challenging and to instead simply have a good time. Go see Sex and the City 2 with that mindset and you’ll probably be entertained. On the other hand there’s a good argument to be made to simply let the girls retire gracefully and with a modicum of style – before they embarrass us all.