Joe’s Blog

Archive for August, 2011

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

August 1, 2011 4:11 am

Ok, how can I put this? It’s something I really need to get off my chest before I go any further. Right… here goes…

I used to watch, and enjoy, Sex and the City.

Oh my… that feels good to get that out there. Now that’s out in the open we can continue.

I wasn’t a massive fan. I watched the first few episodes, and thought it was a very refreshing show. It was great to see a US TV show throwing inhibitions out the window and making the kind of show us Brits had been making since the 70s. All frank language, swearing, and boobies thrown around with gay abandon.

I stuck with it until around series 4 (it’s hard to say really) when Carrie inexplicably dumped Aidan (nice guy character who, rather understandably, had a problem with Carrie’s on-off ‘dream guy’ and sleaze, Mr Big). That for me was the final straw. I’d always viewed Carrie as the kind of self-absorbed, consumer-obsessed, lazy, twee, irritating, clothes horse that in real-life I would avoid like the plague. Now to see her taking it personally because her perfect guy didn’t like the fact she still hung around with a guy she used to sleep with and, ultimately, is far richer than him and therefore more likely to woo her away, made me want to take a Stanley knife to every pair of her precious Manalo Blahniks. That would show her.

From here, the series seemed to turn into a camp caricature of itself and seemed to playing more to its massive gay audience than to the sophisticated female audience it once courted. It was always a bit camp, sure, but never lost sight that it was a show about four independent women in the big city.

I didn’t watch the first big screen incarnation, figuring it would just be a desperate attempt to prolong its lifespan for another few million dollars. By all accounts it was more of the same. Very little attempt was made to open it up to a wider audience (bar introducing a black character into the group, now conspicuously absent from the sequel) and was just an exercise in giving the fans what they wanted.

Sex and the City 2 however is something quite different.

Briefly, it is pant-wettingly bad. More than that it’s cynical, offensive and amateurish. It’s an hour too long, and cost about the same as six series of the infinitely superior TV show put together.

For those who don’t know here’s the deal: our heroines comprise:

• Samantha: slightly older than the other girls, sex mad, PR whizz,

• Charlotte: prissy, inhibited, obsessed with babies, was a gallery owner in the TV series, now appears not to have a job, married to a stereotypical fat short Jew

• Miranda: uptight, control freak, lawyer, was originally there for the lesbian audience with her short hair and trouser suits before finally developing a bit of a character, but not much, married to a bartender, Steve, who is the only normal character in sight

• Carrie: self-obsessed shoe hoarder who thinks her ruminations on relationships are deep and edgy because they don’t make any sense, best-selling author apparently though seems incapable of finishing more than half a page in a week

So, things start crassly with a gay wedding. No, no… a GAY wedding. It’s so gay, Liza Minnelli officiates and sings that Beyonce song about rings. THAT gay. There’s swans, a 20-man chorus of gorgeous bloke singers, lots of sparkly things (sparkle being the ‘theme’ of the film overall), cravats, the works.

One of the couple announces he’s still allowed to sleep around. “Because you’re gay?” asks Carrie “No, because I’m Italian!” is the response. Uh? That’s about the level for the first 20 minutes. I’m fully aware that Michael Patrick King (writer, producer, director) is gay, and this somehow gives him licence to create the most crass, stereotypical gay wedding imaginable. Fine, go for it. You might want to reconsider the notion you helped create that a ‘gay best friend’ is just another ‘must have’ accessory like a handbag or a pair of shoes.

And the married couple are such good friends with the girls that they are never seen or mentioned again for the rest of the film.

Anyway, from this monumental car crash of an opening, we move onto the tedium that is the second act, wherein the girls all decide their lives are worthless and meaningless despite having endless amounts of cash, nice apartments (or two in Carrie’s case) and devoted husbands (except Samantha, who prefers not to have anyone devoted to her).

Carrie gets upset when Big buys her a TV instead of some expensive jewellery, and moves out. Miranda hates her job and just quits with nothing lined up (to be fair, that was Steve’s idea). Samantha is going through the menopause and is rattling from all the HRT she’s taking, and has her personal trauma when she shows up at a film premiere wearing the same dress as Miley Cyrus. In real life of course, Cyrus’ people would have ushered her away from this middle-aged cougar stealing her thunder, but this being film land NYC, Miley instead gives her ‘sister’ a big hug.

Perhaps most shocking of all is the fate of Charlotte. Suffering awfully from the strain of having to look after two kids but not appearing to have a job, she has a hot, large-chested, bra-less, full-time nanny who she’s convinced will want to sleep with her short, fat, bald husband. On top of this she thinks it’s a good idea to do cooking in a vintage Valentino dress and then shout at the kids when they make it messy. The stress is obviously two much and she hides in the pantry for a cry.

Luckily Samantha has just been offered a trip to Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid to help promote a hotel, and can bring all her friends for an all-expenses paid jolly for a week.

Yes, like all those horrible 70s sitcoms that got turned into films, they are off to shake up some tourist destination, where hilarity will doubtless ensue.

Unfortunately hilarity, far from ensuing, seems to get lost somewhere over the Atlantic, and the second half of the film consists of awful puns (“Abu Dhabi-Doo”, “Lawrence of my labia”), dreadful physical comedy (falling off camels) and contrived situations that don’t just test the boundaries of credulity, but smash right through them like a wrecking ball.

This section of the film is so bad, in every way possible, it manages the impossible feat of making you wish they were still at the gay wedding.

The $22,000 a night hotel is also hosting something vaguely called “the rugby world cup trials”. Obviously, this being an American movie they have no idea what rugby players look like. These guys may have nice bodies, but they would probably wet themselves at the first sight of a Haka. And not a broken nose in sight. There also only seems to be about three players from each country who all mingle together like some horrible stag do from hell.

Each of the girls has their own personal butler. Of course, sex-mad Samantha’s is gay (and is therefore great at picking out nice clothes for them, because all gay men automatically know about ladies fashion obviously). Carrie’s is a likeable chap from India who only sees his wife every three months when he’s saved enough for the airfare. Carrie thinks this is sad, but doesn’t realise that its exactly her kind of lifestyle which helps create situations like this. She does leave him money when she goes though. But leaves it in the room for anyone to pick up rather than actually give it to him.

There’s ‘hilarity’ with camels (and yes, they make a gag about camel toes); shenanigans with lost passports; mischief with old boyfriends… well, just about every cliché you can imagine involving going on holiday. Carrie is amazed to see Arabic Pringles on the plane. You live in New York woman! Have you seriously never seen a famous food product with foreign writing on it?

What’s slightly less clichéd, but more disturbing, is the idea that consumerism and sex can liberate Arab women from the oppression they face. Yes, it seems all they need to make their lives complete is condoms and this years spring collection. Luckily they already have the latter in a jaw dropping scene toward the end, where they reveal that they all wear the latest fashions under their niqabs.

It doesn’t quite the match the sheer horror of the rather ostentatious karaoke bar where the girls sing “I Am Woman (Hear me Roar)”, in one of those horrible movie-karaoke situations where no one really wants to sing, yet they are all note perfect, have dance moves prepared, and even work out solos and harmonies.

You may be thinking that I’m rambling on a bit now about nothing in particular. And you’d be right. But that’s exactly what this film does.

It’s not really even a film. Michael Patrick King is a TV writer and director, and it shows here. This is essentially one episode (the gay wedding) followed by an overlong Christmas special. There’s hardly any continuity between the two threads (apart from a dreadfully contrived reference to It Happened One Night). It just lumbers from one scene to another making as many poor jokes and crass comments as it can.

Most of the jokes aren’t even jokes in any conventional sense. Take as an example:

“Everyone knows you don’t hire a hot nanny. It’s the law.”

“Yeah… Jude Law.”

I’ve been informed that this is a reference to that fact Jude Law slept with his kids’ nanny. So? How is that a joke? At best it’s a pun. And a bloody dreadful one. It’s just ‘that word is the same as this word’. It’s comedy on the same level as those god-awful spoof ‘Movies’. It’s laughs by association rather than any inherent humour.

There’s so filmic logic to this thing either. There’s no over-arching narrative. Nobody learns anything, nobody achieves anything, nobody goes ‘on a journey’ (in a metaphorical sense). Everyone ends up exactly where they started, all wrapped up in a neat little sparkly bow. But nothing has changed. What were issues two and a half hours ago are still issues, they just don’t seem to be as big of a problem now because of the wacky escapades they’ve been on.

Watching SATC 2 you do occasionally get the feeling that everyone involved knows this is dreadful. Certainly Kim Cattrall appears to have to have just the right amount of contempt for her dialogue and the fact that she suffers the indignity of spending most of the movie looking flushed and sweaty. The big scene illustrated above where the girls sashay across the desert, is a publicity shot. Cattrall (left) certainly does not beam like that in the movie. In fact she looks openly bored.

If you were feeling generous, you could suggest that SATC 2 is aiming for the kind of ironic-bad movie loving audience that dress up and flock to midnight screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show, or Showgirls. Two things though: firstly SATC 2 was far too successful to generate the kind of reverential fandom reserved for films that flop on their arse and die when first released. While it just failed to make its money back domestically, it still racked up almost $300 million worldwide. That’s summer franchise movie numbers! And it will pretty much guarantee another one, if Cattrall and Sarah Jessica Parker ever stop fighting over money.

The second reason it won’t achieve bad movie cultdom is because it generates nothing but hate and contempt from its audience. Imagine going to an interactive midnight screening akin to Rocky Horror. Instead of talking to the characters and throwing rice and whatnot, the audience would have to hurl abuse at Carrie because of her outfits, openly laugh at Charlotte as she breaks down over her cupcakes (and maybe throw a couple of cakes at the screen), or vomit uncontrollably at the liberation of Arabic women everywhere. I think I’ll pass, but if anyone wants to steal the idea feel free. I’ll take 25% of whatever you make.

Cynical, soulless sequels are nothing new, but this reaches new unplundered depths the like of which I didn’t think existed.

As well as conjuring nostalgic pangs for Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach and Holiday on the Buses, it also reminded me of Hearts of Darkness, the wonderful documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now. As Francis Ford Coppola says:

“We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.”

Substitute jungle for desert, and I think you’ll understand what was going on behind the scenes. Although I think the going insane bit probably refers more to the audience than the film-makers.