In defence of Sex and the City 2
So shoot me, I didn’t hate Sex and the City 2. In fact, I think I enjoyed it more than the first one, although the two raspberry cocktails I downed before going in may have helped. All the girls in high-heels and gay boys who dressed up to go to the cinema (when else do people dress up for a movie?) got me in the right mood, and my friends and I had an absolute blast. I’m not going reiterate my misgivings about setting it in the Middle East. Nor weigh in on ongoing newspaper battle of the sexes (male reviewers hating it, female writers crying sexism, female reviewers saying they hate it too), but I will point out that if it caused people to talk about it so much Michael Patrick King arguably did something right. I’m not even going to discuss the fashion. Well, not exclusively. Instead, I’m going to describe my favourite scene which early on connected the film with the universe and ethos of the original series.
The movie begins with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (if you’re still reading this I needn’t tell you he’s played by Chris Noth) are finally married, living a chic and childless Nick-and-Nora-Charles classic-Manhattan existence. What is the ultimate single girl to do when she is officially off the market? Well, she writes a book titled I do, Do I? and switches from spending all her money on fashion to spending it all on interior design. And, like many wives, she worries that they’ve lost the sparkle when her husband buys a TV for the bedroom, spends every night laying on the couch and flirts with Penelope Cruz. (Rich people have problems too, and although yes, I’m disappointed that all four main characters, none of whom started out as ostentatiously wealthy, now have lots of money, but I was disturbed by suggestion by critics that because Carrie has a beautiful condo with a walk-in closet she has nothing to complain about. But moving on…)
When at one point Carrie needs a break from her marriage and their shared living space, she quietly sneaks downtown to a familiar brownstone. As she unlocks the door to her old apartment, I literally gasped with delight. She walks around, turning on lights and running her fingers over book spines, as the narration explains that the housing market being what it was, they decided to keep Carrie’s old apartment for the time being. She sits down by the desk and turns on that celebrated lap top. I absolutely loved that Carrie, despite getting married, was allowed to hold on to her twenty-something apartment (“An apartment everyone’s had,” the creators described in the Sex and the City book) and that she has a quiet place to write: as Virginia Woolf would say, “A room of one’s own.”
Later, when Carrie glances out her window to see Big waiting downstairs in his limo as he did so often in the show, I was bowled over with nostalgia for the series and what it had meant for me watching it late nights on ‘Bravo’, and then sharing the DVDs with my university friends. It was icing on the cake when Carrie exits the brownstone in a fantastic Dior dress patterned like old newspapers that, if you were a major follower of the show, you would recognize from the third season. It was the exact kind of tribute a movie based on a beloved TV show should throw to their fans.
Compare it to this scene in the first movie, which is ostensibly about the ladies helping Carrie clear her out closet but actually is an excuse for them to drink Champaign, dance to Aerosmith and play dress-up. I love the concept of the scene (who wouldn’t want to play dress-up in Carrie’s closet?) but the clothes featured were not just never on the show but predate the show’s existence (as Carrie calls them, “the worst of the 80’s”). Especially when the other women join in the dress-up fun (seen in the extended film but not the theatrical release because preview audiences balked), costumer Pat Field missed an opportunity to have Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha wear quintessential Carrie looks and even (if I directed it) making fun of Carrie’s stiletto-strut and girlish yelps. I visualize Cynthia Nixon in a giant crinoline, maybe with three flower-pins, tossing her hair around. True, the scene ends with Carrie wearing the famous pink tutu from the opening sequence, which the other girls seem to recognize despite the fact that she never wore it on the show. That’s a funny meta joke, but it’s another example of how the first movie treated the show as a concept rather than build upon the universe that had been real for fans for eight years.
One of the sequel’s themes was ‘making traditions work for you’ (marriage, motherhood, Muslim niqabs) which was much better, and more feminist, than the first movie’s theme of ‘you should forgive people if you love them, even if they cheat on you or leave you at the altar.’ Still, as I’ve said before, the series will always end for me with the last episode, which reminds you to never lose yourself in your relationships, and that “If you find someone who loves the you that you love, well that’s just fabulous!”