Sex and the City 2
Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth, John Corbett
(New Line Cinema)
US theatrical: 28 May 2010 (General release)
UK theatrical: 28 May 2010 (General release)
As a film critic, you have to put up with a lot - unrealistic deadlines, stubborn studio reps, screening rats, unruly paying patrons, “blank page” syndrome, our dying importance to the medium. Between the daily reports of the latest layoff to the incessant smell of a preview loaded with popcorn, perfume, and ass, it’s livelihood as a constant struggle between belief in one’s ability and better career judgment. So when something like Sex and the City 2 comes along, it challenges the carefully crafted personal equilibrium you rely on to help you get out of bed in the morning. Like the Twilight films (which offer an equal amount of cinematic suicidal tendencies), it argues for attention while acknowledging that it will do little except aggravate and demoralize - and it’s a sequel, which under the standard laws of diminishing returns means its going to be even more mediocre.
So in preparation for my decision NOT to return to this particular franchise, I have come up with three rationalizations (call them excuses) which, I believe, forgive me from further consideration of this material. Call it a bias or an irrational fear of my feminine side, but Sex and the City 2 will surely live without me…and I without it. As a declaration of intent, I offer this clearly male manifesto, beginning with my primary position on the whole ‘sharp dressed girls gone wild’ conceit. Let’s begin with reason number one:
Because I Have An Intellect
There is nothing wrong with stupidity for a satire or spoof’s sake. Laughing at the lame or the ludicrous is a staple of big screen comedy. So if the core concept of Sex and the City is a proposed celebration of upscale humor and cosmopolitan snark, it can’t be criticized for violating such a motion picture mandate. But instead of earning its girl drink giggles, the four ladies at the center of the storylines insult our social commonality intelligence. Okay, okay, so this is all fiction. No one is truly like Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, or Charlotte (although the Real Housewives shows on Bravo argue for a life imitating bad art rebuttal of that thought). But for those of us who believe we are enlightened, who use the years of education and critical thinking we’ve gathered to broaden our outlook, Sex and the City is an insult. It’s like listening to an expert argue over the need and validity of post-modern feminism while she adjusts her fake breasts and puts another layer of gloss on her over-plumped collagen lips.
Indeed, for characters who claim to be fabulously in touch with what’s going on in the current cultural clime, the Sex and the City gals often come across as flyweight flibbertigibbets. For them, the entire meaning of mankind has been reduced to a fashion label, a designer prescience, and a pair of proto haute hooker shoes. In the first film, marriage and some manner of monogamy consistently clashes with fairytale wish fulfillment and a high school level of individual responsibility (and shame…and problem solving…and communication skills). This time around, the gals are headed to that hotbed of gender equality, Dubai, with lots of theocratic hi-jinx ensuing. If you think this dimwitted foursome are flummoxed by the amount of tip to leave after a Cosmo-laced lunch, imagine the collective brain crash that will result when they have to deal with sanctioned second class citizenship.
Because I Have A Complicated Aesthetic Appreciation
Remember, Sex and the City didn’t start out as a movie franchise. It was a long running hit TV show that tapped into a particularly potent zeitgeist (read: horny spinsters, relentless cougars, unknowingly ugly girls, and supermoms to be) and used the open ended censor lines of pay cable television to tap into important social issues like semen taste and pubic hairstyles. Initially, such proposed topics of coffee klatch commentary were revelatory, since few mainstream entertainments addressed over-the-hill sexuality and the size of men’s meatwads. But just because you dress up scatology in a $4000 dress by Donna Karan, that doesn’t make it any less lewd. Sex and the City has gotten by on the subversive snicker quality of their material for years. But once the dynamic moved from the small to the big screen, it was amplified and made awkward. Suddenly, Samantha staring at some hot foreign guy’s 70 foot wang seemed repugnant, not revolutionary - like watching a porno starring your maiden aunt and her even older best friend.
This is not to suggest a prudish, puritanical approach to the subject of guy/gal grinding. In fact, when handled with style and a sense or realism, it can be quite engaging. But the main message of Sex and the City has always seemed to be linked irretrievably to the notion that no woman is complete unless she’s crammed full of…well, you know, and that’s not enough to base a 140 minute movie on, let alone two. Because of its already established origins, because it knows it’s preaching to the preverted, because it doesn’t have to do the typical cinematic heavy lifting of creating character or conflict, it more or less becomes one big softcore commercial for itself. It doesn’t require any audience involvement or investment. All that’s needed is a decent outpouring of the original fanbase and a few disgruntled dates and it’s time to make some money. Not much of a moviegoing experience when you think about it. More like a revival for the romantically rejected.
Because I Have A Penis
Being a man may be a cop out, but in this micromanaged and telegraphically marketed movie paradigm, my mismatched chromosome puts me at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to an appreciation of all things City. I don’t get lathered up over faux romanticism, don’t see myself foaming over a tie-dyed scarf set or a pair of Manolo Blahnik thigh highs. Put it this way, if the movie was called Musk in the Metropolis and featured four men musing over the latest Husqvarna chainsaws, their dick size, or which over the counter treatment gets rid of rampant jock itch, no one would question why a woman would avoid it like the plague. But somehow, because of a sense of entitled tolerance, post-paternalistic dudes are supposed to line up and love every ball busting minute of this irrational estrogen fest. Besides, the studios aren’t actually betting on the bros to bring the dough. Only the henpecked and the hopelessly hard-up will accompany their partner to this particular experiment in entertainment emasculation. The rest of the box office comes directly from ‘dem dames’.
Does this mean I couldn’t appreciate Sex and the City 2 if it weren’t for my wiener? Certainly - if it was a competently made, cinematically sound, and emotionally true example of the artform. In fact, there are literally dozens of films released every year that never once take my testosterone into consideration and they still end up enjoyable and fun. But the continuing adventures of Ms. Bradshaw-Big and her compatriots in aging carnality is like the movie equivalent of a grade school clubhouse with a glitter-splashed sign shouting “No Boys Allowed” on the door - and those are words one should heed wisely. While one can turn off their brain and reroute their cinematic appreciation to avoid many of this film’s obvious failings, challenging personal proclivity should never be part of the silver screen experience. So let female nation have their nonsensical exercise in product placement piffle. It’s really not meant for me anyway.