Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Whining and Wine - SATC2

Last week I went to Sex & the City 2.

I am a massive fan of the TV series. Largely because it started out witty and clever, and offered an excitingly different style of television series. Then later, because it was a form of escapism... and despite it's subtle slide away from relationships and towards fashion, I had fallen into a vicarious friendship with the characters.

I want to clarify that Carrie Bradshaw irritated me from series 2 onwards. I understand that as the lead character, everything tends to revolve around her, but Carrie really did think the world orbited her Manolos. Not only was her selfishness towards her friends rather frightful, but she was a terrible girlfriend. Case in point...

Sick of being dicked around by the commitment-phobic Mr Big, she dates the attentive Aiden, who adores her - for reasons which are not clear. He takes her to his country cabin, to which she wears high heels, and screams when she sees a squirrel. They have nothing in common, but he's so good to her that she complains to her friends that her relationship has no problems.
("What was wrong was, for the first time in my life, I was in a relationship where absolutely nothing was wrong. Nothing but calm seas and blue horizon as far as the eye can see.")
So then she cheats on Mr Perfect with Mr Big. They break up. Then, when Aiden finally gets over her, Carrie sees him again, asks him out, and they get back together. In time he proposes but despite not wanting to marry him, she says yes. Then treats him like dirt because she resents having to be engaged.

However, The Problem with Carrie Bradshaw is a whole other blog waiting to happen. Suffice to say, I am not a Carrie fan. I loved Miranda, for her realistic combination of cynicism and emotional fragility. Samantha, for being (especially in contrast to Carrie) an incredibly loyal and unselfish friend, and for her brutal honesty. Charlotte for her hilariously prim and sweetly childlike optimism in happy endings.
The series ended with a wonderful overview of where each of the central characters had ended up, and all of them seemed happy. It was nice.

Then there was the movie.

When Sex & the City: The Movie came out, everyone was curious to see what it was going to offer. Fashion - undoubtedly. Yet I am disappointed that fashion has become its focus. What of the characters?

Quick overview of the first film:
Carrie is now a richer version of her TV self, dating uber-wealthy Mr Big, (who tells her she makes him happy, but doesn't write her poetry, the bastard.) They decide to get married, if he agrees to build her a walk-in closet, and she becomes so wrapped up in the fashion and frenzy of their upcoming wedding that she forgets about her husband-to-be. Oh yeah, that guy. The commitment-phobe she spent six series chasing. He feels neglected. Neither of them talk about this, of course. Mr Big sulks outside the wedding, drives away, changing his mind just too late enough to run into his ditched bride who deigns never to speak to him again. The whole world has now ended.
Miranda is still working hard as a partner in a law firm, married to the ever-likeable Steve and struggling to look after their one kid with the help of their Ukranian housekeeper-slash-nanny. The sex has gone out of their marriage, as these things do. Neither of them talk about this, of course. Steve has an affair. Miranda leaves him, and they juggle custody of their son. She is not allowed to be dramatic about this though, because Carrie has a crisis.
Samantha is now living in LA with her younger movie-star boyfriend. He's away a lot, so they only have sex fifty times a month, and her extremely high-profile PA job doesn't require her to do very much. She feels constrained by her new life waiting around for a man. They actually do talk about this, because Samantha doesn't beat around the bush (excuse the pun). Overall, Samantha is bored, and misses her carefree days of easy sex in New York. This is her big crisis.
Charlotte doesn't have a crisis. She is wealthy enough that she no longer works. She is married to the adorable Harry, who worships her, and they live in their massive apartment with their really cute adopted daughter. The writers tried to be fair though, so in one scene Charlotte poops in her pants.

Everything works out in the end though - Carrie gets back with Mr Big when he sends her poetry. Miranda gets back with Steve after they talk things through. Samantha breaks up with Smith and is now free to sleep around. Charlotte gets her pants cleaned, and has a baby.

All in all the first film was fun - ridiculous in parts, and disappointing in others, yes (for all Jennifer Hudson's charms, she felt too much like the token young/black/not-a-twiglet character) - but fun. I even cried when Steve announced his affair, because I care about these characters, y'know? The movie ended with an even bigger, shinier bow than the series had, and that, we all thought, was the end of it.

It wasn't.

When it was announced they were shooting a sequel, I knew things were really going to go downhill (although clearly none of the character's jowls or bank balances). What tricky problems could they come up with now that everyone was living happily ever after? How far fetched were they going to have to go?
At the end of the day, there is little point in exhuming the corpse of a horse and continuing to flog it, because it can't go any further. Really.

Yet, the release of Sex & the City came and went, and the reviews were predictably divided between "OMG loved it THE FASHION!" and "I want to throw up in my mouth at this visual pit of shallow overconsumption."

The trailers revealed that the four women go to Abu Dhabi, all expenses paid, for reasons nobody is really sure of, except it was more convenient to set the movie there. Apparently releasing a movie about rich women in America during the recession was a bad idea, so they went somewhere they could get away with expensive and over-the-top fashion. I guess that makes sense... but did anyone stop to consider the plot? And, you know, the characters? The ones draped in the expensive and over-the-top fashion? I began to feel afraid.

The reviews started coming in, and statements of disgust were showered all over the internet. I heard stories of Samantha throwing condoms in the marketplace and screaming "I have sex!" Of Mulsim women throwing off their burkhas to reveal couture. Of Charlotte crying because her life is too hard. Of Miranda quitting her job to become a stay-at-home mother. Of Carrie whining about being married. That Aiden comes back. And something bad happens.

Despite my hesitation, I knew I would have to see this film eventually, and so I did. I went with my best friend, and the decision to get blotto on wine before (and during) the movie seemed like a good idea at the time. I felt it would at least allow me to not take it all too seriously. Right? The only problem with this plan was that it resulted in my inability to see straight, and for most of the movie I had to close one eye to stop seeing two of everyone.

So if my judgement is slightly skewed, or I get facts wrong, this is why. That's my disclaimer and I'm sticking with it.

Sex & The City 2: The Overview

(Spoiler alert: although really? are you that worried?)

The film opens with quick flashbacks to how each of the characters looked when Carrie first met them all those years ago. It was disappointing that, with all the CGI available these days, they were happy to let us pretend they didn't all look like middle-aged women in 80's get-up. (I suppose to be fair, the film budget was set aside purely for the designer labels, rather than special effects). Oh, but it was a bit of fun, I guess. I did have to laugh at Miranda's appearance.

The girls are getting together to buy a wedding gift for someone from Bergdorf Goodman. This particular scene offends my intelligence. There, I said it.

The foursome walk up to the registry desk to buy a gift for what we discover is "Carrie's-best-gay-friend" Stanford Blatch's wedding. I guess there is meant to be some sort of suspense here about who he is marrying, and lo and behold, he's betrothed to "Charlotte's-best-gay-friend" Anthony Marintino. In case this is lost on anyone, Charlotte squeals, "Her gay best friend is marrying MY gay best friend!"

If you haven't watched the series, I shall take a moment to clarify that Stanford and Anthony spent the entire series HATING EACH OTHER. Their rivalry was deliciously bitchy and completely believable and I loved it. Yet here we were, shopping for their wedding gift.

At this point, standing in the store, Miranda asks the question that is on every intelligent person's mind -
"How did this happen? I thought they hated each other?"
THANK YOU Miranda. Thank you for asking the question we're all wondering ourselves. However, you would think that someone would have asked this before this point? Perhaps when they got the invitations? Or when they discussed meeting up to buy the wedding gift?
The writers are not even trying.
This is proven further when Samantha answers Miranda's question with,
"It's like musical chairs: the music stopped, and they were the last two left standing."
Really? Is that how it works? Because frankly, this OFFENDS MY INTELLIGENCE AS A HUMAN BEING!

The gay wedding goes by with gay cliche after gay cliche, and everyone making snide remarks about potential cheating. Ah, love. Then Liza Minnelli appears, because apparently, if there is this much gay energy in the room, Liza has to show up. (Miranda's words, not mine).
She sings Beyonce's 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)' which was.... interesting. And kinda fun. I can't really knock Liza. She did her best. Word of warning, though - Liza doing a Beyonce requires a two drink minimum.

Back to New York, where the real plot begins - ie. everyone's lives are now so much more stressful and problem-filled than ever before!

Life in Carrie & Big's world continues in a haze of dripping wealth; Carrie continues to go to the shops in full designer garb. It's their two-year wedding anniversary, and Carrie gives Big a vintage Rolex (because what else do you give the man who has everything?) Then Big presents Carrie with her gift, which is a flatscreen TV, so that they can curl up in bed and watch old movies together. Carrie is visibly appalled.
"A piece of jewellery would've been nice," she says.

Overall, Carrie feels stuck in a married rut, and hates the fact that Big just wants to stay in with her, eat takeout food and watch TV.
Carrie: "It's become all about the couch and the take-out."
Stanford: "Count your blessings. Remember when you couldn't even get him to sleep over?"
THANK YOU Stanford. I've always liked you. I'm sorry they married you off to your arch nemisis.

Carrie doesn't discuss her concerns with her husband though, or suggest things they can do together. She sulks, and spends a weekend at her old apartment (yes, they keep her old apartment as a spare) writing her column.
[Tangential question: can anyone really keep a job writing a column about sex after 20 years? Columnists? Editors? Your thoughts?]

Life is tough for Carrie Bradshaw

When she gets back from apartment number two, Big admits he liked having the house to himself  - no doubt because he was free to watch TV without Carrie whining - and suggests they make it a regular thing.
Carrie: "So you're telling me that you want two days off a week from me?"
Big: "You know.. so I can watch TV, do all of the shit that bugs you."
Yes Carrie, so he can get some space from all your whining.

Carrie takes it personally. And as usual, she doesn't discuss it with Big, she whines to her girlfriends.
Of course, her girlfriends all have Major Issues of their own.

Miranda, the kick-ass lawyer, has had her views at work cast aside one too many times and she's fed up. Rather than change firms, or - as the Miranda of old would have done - stand up for herself, she takes Steve's suggestion and quits her job altogether. To be fair, I can understand this because I've been there myself, and like all Miranda's plot-lines, hers is actually the most realistic. Although apparently Steve's bar is making a KILLING because money doesn't even seem to be an issue.

Charlotte is struggling to be a mother to her two kids, despite a team of hired helpers, and has also just employed a nanny who for some reason doesn't like to wear a bra. And she SHOULD wear a bra. I spent a lot of the movie shaking my fist at the screen and yelling "WEAR A BRA!!" whenever the nanny came on screen.
I am not sure why Charlotte hired someone who dresses so inappropriately in the first place, or why she didn't just have a quiet word to this person she has hired to take care of her children. Most likely she is too stressed out trying to handle those few snatched moments where she actually has to look after the children by herself and they vie for her attention. This is shown in the scene where Charlotte is baking with the two girls, and Lily puts her dirty hands on Charlotte's skirt.
"AHH! My vintage Valentino skirt!" screams Charlotte, and then hides in the pantry in tears.

I like Charlotte, and I want to try and sympathise with her struggle, but I just can't. Not even when she says, for the sake of the viewers, "How do people without hired help do it?" I don't know Charlotte, but they probably don't wear vintage in the kitchen. This entire scenario INSULTS MY INTELLIGENCE AS A HUMAN BEING.

Samantha, meanwhile, is struggling with menopause. Well, by struggling, I mean fighting against it like ageing is the scourge of the devil. Which, according to this film, it is. She pops so many pills and has so much botox, and spends a large part of the film ranting and raging against anyone who dares question her age-appropriateness. It just sounds like insecurity to me, and I wish she would just grow old gracefully.
When she looks at a skin-tight dress in a store, the shop assistant asks,
"Isn't this dress a little young for you?"
Clearly that shop assistant deserves a slap upside the head - although she was only saying what we were all thinking. Samantha replies,
"I am fifty f***ing two and I am going to rock this dress."
Well, fair enough, and I want to back her up (sisterly support and all),
but just because you say it, Samantha, doesn't make it true.

Samantha gets a PR deal which involves flying to Abu Dhabi all expenses paid. This includes bringing the other three girls (I need to know someone in PR who gets these kinds of opportunities. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) and given how stressful their lives are these days, they all agree to go.

While in their first-class luxury in-flight sleeper pods, they all deal with the shitty hands life has dealt them:
* Carrie reads a negative review about her latest book in the New Yorker - it effectively tells her to stop whining. THANK GOD.
* Samantha has her hormones confiscated at customs and as a result loses her libido. THANK GOD.
* Charlotte starts worrying about her husband running off with her bra-less nanny. COME ON!

With problems like these, I'm amazed they haven't all committed hari kari by the time they land in the United Arab Emirates.

At the resort, Carrie talks to her manservant (yes that's right) and learns that he only sees his beloved wife every few months because he can't afford the airfare. The next bit irked me incredibly. Carrie then tries to EMPATHISE with him by comparing it to her husband wanting some space once a week, which means she has to go hang out in her spare apartment.
[Cue more shouting from me at the cinema screen, and some violent popcorn-throwing.]

At some point, the girls all go into the desert. They ride camels. Charlotte falls off the camel because she's trying to talk on her cellphone. I shout at the screen some more.
They meet a man named Rikard ("Dick") Spurt - which is bad enough, but Samantha nicknames him, "Lawrence of my labia."
I regurgitate popcorn and wash it back down with some more wine.

The girls go to a nightclub, and Samantha wears spikey things on her shoulders. They sing karaoke, despite this actually going against all four character types... none of them would sing karaoke. Are you kidding me?

Afterwards Dick Spurt asks Samantha out, but she turns him down to hang out with the girls, (although she gives him her card and the offer of a good time the following night, natch). As he leaves, Carrie praises Samantha's sacrifice of (yet more) easy sex. Samantha says of her friendships with the three women,
"We had a deal. We're soulmates."
Wow. She gave up an easy lay? What a soulmate!

The girls all go out into the souks of Morocco - I mean, Abu Dhabi. (It was filmed in Morocco as they couldn't get filming permission in the real Abu Dhabi. Maybe it's just me - I was in Morocco only a couple of weeks after they filmed there - but I can't help but see Morocco all over it.)
Anyway. There Carrie bumps into Aiden, the man whose heart she has trampled on more than once, and for reasons which are not clear, he is happy to see her. They even make dinner plans. The other girls learn of this and try to tell Carrie it's a bad idea. As usual, Carrie ignores them and meets Aiden where they complain about how mundane married life is. They kiss.
The details are hazy because I was onto the second half of the bottle of Pinot, but suffice to say, this is bad news. Carrie then panics, and calls Big to tell him what happened. A part of me couldn't help but think this is her trying to play the jealousy game with the husband who has neglected her for the television.
[Another part of me yelled this at the screen.]

Meanwhile, Miranda and Charlotte have a heart-to-heart about the difficulties of motherhood... it wasn't too bad, and it didn't want to make me throw popcorn, but it did make me shout, "YOU HAVE HIRED HELP AND YOU DON'T WORK!"

Meanwhile, Samantha has a date with Dick Spurt and is caught being intimate with him on the beach and, this being Abu Dhabi, she's promptly arrested. The Sheik, who had been funding the whole trip, called off the PR deal and withdrew all the perks. The girls were now destitu... no, wait, they were wealthy in Abu Dhabi. Sorry, no sympathy.

As they prepared to leave, Carrie realised she'd left her passport in the souk. Amazingly it was still there when they went to find it. (No comment). And hey, since they're in the souk, Charlotte decides she should get some last minute presents for the family. Shopping for bags, they are taken into the back of a shop and pressured into making a purchase.
For reasons I can't remember (*cough* wine haze! *cough*) they decline, and leave. However, one of the shopkeepers thinks Samantha has stolen the bag she is carrying and they chase after her. They grab her bag and the contents spill onto the ground, including her standard collection of condoms. The men in the street take offense and start yelling.
Samantha says, "Yeah, I have condoms! I have sex!"
Fair enough, Samantha, although I don't know that any of the locals were surprised by this revelation. I do have to say that this scene was in no way as offensive as everyone had made it out to be.

With the men in the marketplace enraged, the foursome make a quick exit, but are beckoned down an alley by some burkha-clad women. There they meet some Muslim women who reveal that under their burkhas they are wearing modern, fashionable clothing. This wasn't shocking to me either - Muslim women DO wear modern clothes under their burkhas. They have pride in their appearance too, you  know. Does this mean they all want to be like Americans? No! Ladies like a bit o' pretty, is all. No matter where they're from.

The foursome escape the souk by borrowing some burkhas to wear. And before too long, the women are safely back in the land of the free - good ol' recession-hit New York. Carrie goes home and finds that Mr Big has got rid of the offending Black Diamond flatscreen, and replaced it with a black diamond ring. Ten points for style, Mr Big.
Now Carrie has the jewellery she wanted, she is happy and the crisis is over.

Charlotte's crisis is solved when she realises her bra-less nanny is a lesbian, and therefore her husband won't run off with her. What a relief!
Miranda does the smart thing and finds a new job where she is appreciated. What a relief!
Samantha.... well, she does what she's always done. Fighting old age and having sex.
Carrie deals with the daily grind of her two apartments, rich husband, new diamond ring, and accepts that watching movies isn't so bad after all.

I wish I could say the same about this movie.

It was a bit of fun, it was entertaining - but mostly because I was lacquered - and, frankly, I don't ever need to see it again. I know it's not a film I'm supposed to take seriously, but as a fan of the TV series, I would at least have liked it to have kept some of its original wit and reality. Instead the humour was predictable, the characters cartoons of themselves, and the plot completely unrelatable. Don't the writers realise that this is what made the series so popular? That women could relate to the characters?
I'll stick to watching re-runs of the TV series. I shouldn't have to get drunk and wake up the next day with popcorn in my bra in order to be entertained.

(Not at the movies, anyway).

[NB: Apologies to anyone who attended the same screening as me and therefore had to witness my shouting and popcorn-throwing first hand. I can only hope you agree it was justified... or that you joined in - admittedy, my wine haze prevents me from remembering if you did.]


  1. *sweeping noises* begone tumbleweeds! Seriously, a hilarious piece of writing. Fully appreciate the waving-fist-at-screen-after-too-much-wine. At least you didn't do it in Batman, with lots of nerds glaring at you...

    Didn't see the movie, exactly because of the likelihood of it INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE AS A HUMAN BEING...ahem. Good stuff :)

  2. Rofl, sounds even worse than I expected!

  3. This is, quite possibly, the best blog post ever. Not only have you managed to keep my attention for more than three paragraphs, which is rare, but you manage to do it with wit and style whilst also removing any tiny scrap of need for me to see SATC2 because I now know what happens. I love the fact that you were drunk when you watched it (sounds like the only way to sit though it, tbh) and it still insulted your intelligence.

    I love the way that you've picked the movie apart in an intelligent and thought out manner, but are also a fan of the original show. So many reviews of that film simply attacked the actresses for being, in the reviewer's opinion, too old and simply focussed on the fashion whilst pondering if this is why all women are vacuous bints. It's nice to see some balanced rage with an actual point for a change.

    Btw, if you need more writers for your new blog "The Problem with Carrie Bradshaw", you know where to find me.

  4. Great bit of writing. I watched the first 10 mins of the first film on a plane and the smugness of it all was impossible to stomach. They had a good thing going with this gig so how they made such a hash of keeping the loyal fans interested beats me, although the boatload of money the product placement would have made is probably reason enough for the producers. Greed rules in this game.