I went to watch SATC2 last night with a couple of friends, after finding a cinema in Mannheim that had English-language screenings. To be perfectly honest, I wasn't overly excited about it. I enjoy the series, the first film wasn't great, and I had a feeling that this one would be just a step too far in trying to milk the franchise for all it is worth.
Thr film opens with the 'gay wedding' of Anthony and Stanford, and is genuinely funny, with Liza Minelli officiating the wedding, laughing about her own bad marriage choices, and finally performing a hip-replacement shaking version of Beyonce's Single Ladies. The male choir in silver top hats, the swans, and the excess of white, with a few good lines thrown in all help to get the film off to a promising start. However, from there on in, the problems start to take over.
We all know that Carrie, in her own words, is more 'Coco Chanel than Coq au Vin', but her nagging demands that Big take her for dinner every night and not try to cook, order food in, or sit watching T.V (like most normal blokes after a day at the office) soon become grating, and I found myself on Big's side pretty quickly. Similarly, Charlotte is not coping well with the demands of motherhood, even with a full-time nanny, and she is also paranoid that said nanny will want to sleep with her husband. Miranda's sexist boss won't give her a voice in the office, causing her to quit, and Samantha is popping pills to keep herself from feeling the effects of the menapause. High time for an all-expenses paid trip to Abu-Dhabi, don't you think?
The fashion in the desert is quite overpoweringly full of 'eastern' influences, with turbans and harem pants a go-go. Aside from this, most of the clothes are gorgeous, and I have no problem with the way the women look as they age - who really expects them to look the same as they were in the nineties? Similarly, I don't think that they are mutton dressed as lamb, even if some of the wardrobe choices of stylist Patricia Field are misguided. Clearly, the focus is on luxe living, with a large section of the film devoted to showing off just how wonderful the decedence of the Middle East is, and how our four girls absolutely cannot countenance the possibility of flying coach. Alongside the decadence comes the product placement. Oh my, the product placement! Alongside the allowable fashion names, are Rolex, various electronics companies, HP Computers (yes...Carrie's Apple has been replaced by a lower-grade type of laptop because HP had the money to do it), and most bizarrely, Pingles. Yes, PRINGLES. As if any of those women eat Pringles.
I also found the way Abu Dhabi was depicted to be really quite strange. At times, it was as though the Abu Dhabi Tourism Bord had bankrolled the film, but in truth, it was filmed in Morocco as the Abu Dhabi authorites didn't want the filming to be done in their country. There are lush, lingering tracking shots over the desert, and a huge demonstration of luxury, with turbaned butlers and individual private cars, as well as impressing on the audience the honesty of most of the local people, with a lost passport being held on to (rather than sold for a decent amount, it being an American one) and returned by a poor market stall holder. Miranda's research and cultural factoids dispensed throughout the film are meant so show a willingness to learn about other cultures, but really just serve to make the women look like idiots with no sense of cultural awareness. I mean, who doesn't know what a niqab is? Even tabloid readers know what they are due to the hate-mongering from that particular outlet.
The cultural issues are what really annoyed me about this film. Although no-one ever comes out and clearly says it, there is the idea that men are opressing women, that the way Muslim women dress is wrong, and that everyone should wear what Carrie and the girls do, and act the same way as they do. This is shown most in two adjacent scenes, where Samantha, suffering from a hot flash in the middle of the call to prayer, has her handbag ripped and spills the contents (mainly condoms) all over the street. She shouts about not being ashamed, and about how the men are pigs, culminating in a screeched "I have SEX", thrusting violently at the men around her. There is no sense of what Samantha has just done being vastly insensitive and offensive, even when Miranda tells her so. We are too busy being fed the 'empowerment' line. This outburst may be funny to watch, but it is also painful in its non-caring, stereotypically 'American' offensiveness. And as if this wasn't enough, the following scene has the girls among veiled Arab women, who then strip off to show current-season New York fashion - JUST like our heroines! I sat in the cinema in disbelief at the cheesy, cloying nature of the scene, thinking that the film was playing a dangerous game with the Arab world.
All in all, I think that as a piece of fun, light, pretty froth to go and watch with a gaggle of girlfriends, the film is fine. There are a few great one-liners, with Samantha's "Lawrence of my labia" being one of the best, and the film feels more in line with the series in terms of the humour than the first film. We get relationship drama, a stolen kiss from Carrie, some great humour from a drunk Charlotte and Miranda, and Samantha on top form. I just wish that it had embraced what it is, and managed to cut out the subliminal political conditioning that jarrs so badly. I understand the benefits of promoting empowerment. I understand that many people feel that Muslim women are opressed my men. I don't understand why anyone would think that a Sex and the City film was the right place to go about adressing that. The tone of the film does not match the tone required to deal with issues of that depth. Even if Carrie does place her latest book next to one of hers on her bookshelf, Carrie is not, and never will be, a Susan Sonntag.