Friday, 28 May 2010

Sex and the City: Sinking in Quicksand?

Tonight, I went to see 'Sex and the City 2' and I had a blast. The reviews for the sequel to 2008's smash hit silver screen adaptation of the long-running HBO series have been mostly negative. Criticism ranges from charges of racism (a large chunk of the movie is set in the United Arab Emirates and the way these American women view the traditional Muslim culture of their host country is surprisingly condescending considering that they are supposedly cosmopolitan New Yorkers), misogyny (due to references to Samantha's desperation to maintain her youthful vitality) and being cultural irrelevant (for a film that was conceived, written and produced during one of the worst global economic downturn in recent history, the film's blatant materialism could be viewed as either much needed escapism or a film about four white women with the kind of problems that the rest of us could only dream of having). Worst of all is the charge that the movie is completely lacking any genuine drama. Considering that the movie has already earned $14.2 million at the North American box office on Thursday alone (presumably from midnight screenings since the movie officially opened on Friday), it looks like what critics have to say won't affect the film's commercial success too much.

As someone who loves the legacy of the groundbreaking original series and was genuinely moved by the dark places the first film dared to go, I must confess that I found it slightly disappointing that this movie does not have the same emotional impact as its predecessors. Furthermore, it was not the smartest decision for Michael Patrick King, the writer and director of both films and the main creative force behind the latter, and arguably best, seasons of the show, to lose the so-called fifth lady of this group - Lady New York herself. When I saw the preview for the film for the first time, I thought that the trip to the desert would be a brief retreat from the Big Apple but I was wrong. Still, there is so much to enjoy. The movie is a visual feast with lush cinematography and production values truly worthy of an old Hollywood musical. What the movie has to say about the challenges of sustaining romance and 'sparkle' in a marriage when domesticity starts to take over is interesting and there are some very enjoyable moments that shine in their high camp appeal, like the four stars singing karaoke to 'I Am Woman', Liza Minnelli performing 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)' at a gay wedding (the film's not so subtle wink to its gay audience) and a fun flashback sequence when we see what the women looked like in the 80s.

However, the film's biggest assets continue to be the four actresses who have brought these characters to life for almost 14 years. After all this time, these ladies can work miracles with even the most limiting of material. Sarah Jessica Parker is never less than engaging as the iconic Carrie Bradshaw (now Carrie Preston, as Stanford reminds her) while Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis are endearing in a scene where they discuss the pressures of modern motherhood. Best of all is Kim Cattrall as the insatiable Samantha Jones who refuses to give into both menopause and the conformities of a conservative society. Seeing these four women continue to be fabulous as they grow older is a testament to the lingering theme of female empowerment of the original tv series and honors what fans have always loved about this enduring cultural phenomenon.

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