Written and Directed by Michael Patrick King
Starring – Sara Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, Chris Noth, John Corbett
One gets the feeling, watching 4 very distinctive, yet alternately shallow (at the beginning) and unconvincingly deep (always just before credits roll) women, that Michael Patrick King must watch an incessant amount of E! and The View. How else can one deduce the reason for each movie to be a checklist of hot button topics, dismissed with a quick joke (if it is at all conservative) or celebrated with longing praise (if it is more liberal)? The result can be funny, is rarely sexy, and disappointingly lacking in real character development. This was not such a problem when the show was on TV, because the not as much was expected to develop with each episode, and the fact that it was not released to all day theaters allowed for more varied sexual adventures. By the second movie in the series, as you watch characters re-learn lessons they learned more organically in the TV show, the sex has become a series of shots of Samantha on her back, and “The City” is now, presumably, the world: a myopic world, at that.
I have always viewed SATC with a certain amount of amused detachment. My wife is not brought to laughter easily, and the show had the ability to draw laughter out of her routinely. Episodes I watched seemed to me to be a slightly more adventurous version of Seinfeld, with the occasional gay character sprinkled in for color. Even though each episode had plenty of hugging, and plenty of learning, you got the joy of seeing women as delightfully depraved, materialistic and sexual.
SATC2 starts out, surprise!!!, with a gay wedding, officiated by SURPRISE!!! Liza Minelli. By the time she’s singing “All the Single Ladies,” carefully walking about the stage in what is supposed to be a dance, you have more sympathy than adoration. Liza was brought in from the pasture for a gay prop. Awesome. Now you can leave her in peace. The whole gay wedding mantra wears out its limited gimmicky welcome fast. Did they really have to bring together two gay characters who really don’t like each other (a novel, original idea in the show) to make a political point? Can you say “forced?” Before they can back out of that topic with any amount of grace, they already have one of the “brooms” (bride and groom combined) agreeing to let the other cheat in exchange for the other allowing a tacky and garish wedding. To further beat the dead horse of an idea, the cheating can only happen in the 45 states where gay marriage is not legally recognized. The point being? They wonder why 45 states scoff at the notion of gays marrying: my guess is they are the least sophisticated and fashionable states.
Onto the next hot “topic”: hot nannies. In the SATC2 version, the girl from She’s Out of My League, Alice Eve plays a bra-less nanny
for Kristin Davis’ Charlotte. As soon as the girls remind Charlotte of Jude Law, her wheels get to working, and a few well placed leers later, she is extremely worried. This goes off and on for half of the movie, with Carrie and the rest of the girls telling her how she should feel about it in only the most superficial way when, inexplicably, in the last act, it is dropped, except for one line in the wrap up.
Moving on, Samantha (Cattrall) is offered a free trip to Abu Dahbi, I presume, to give prospective tourists (and the rest of us slobs) a free glimpse at how the other half lives, at $22k per night. Of course she isn’t going without her friends, so they trade New York for the Middle East. Giving a passing nod to the inconvenience of having to cover up certain parts of their bodies, and getting arrested for kissing, the rest of the trip amounts to wearing different fashions in the sand dunes and looking at all the other women forced to wear burkas. As they sit there and wonder why, one can’t help but wonder how long it would have taken in the real world for the girls to be incarcerated and their lives threatened if they really carried on that way in such a repressed part of the world. One thing’s for certain, there would be no gay weddings in Abu Dhabi.
Now, Miranda (Nixon) is not my favorite character. She is so incredibly severe that it is tough to ever sympathize with her at any time. I keep waiting for her to leave her husband and marry a woman that she works with, but in this movie, she just wants to spend more time at work. Save the marriage to the woman at work for SATC 3. To be fair, Nixon is allowed a certain amount of latitude to smile, do her job, and complain about her family in this film. Okay, well, she smiled at least. I guess it is not as annoying when she does that other stuff with a desert backdrop.
As for Carrie Bradshaw (Parker), I guess I had always just taken her character for granted. She was a necessary part of the show as narrator, so when I was not all that thrilled with her choices and was not moved when she was happy or sad, I did not think much about it. I even forgave the false crisis that dominated the end of the first movie just because I knew it was a necessary evil to be able to thoroughly enjoy Charlotte, somewhat enjoy Samantha and put up with the severe Miranda. Watching this movie, I was finally forced to face an awful truth: she’s really not that likable.
Starting out the movie in domestic bliss, she is irritated just because her husband wants to enjoy their cool apartment and spend the occasional night at home. She says she doesn’t want to lose that “sparkle.” This reads, quite simply, that she wants to go out with Big after he gets home from a hard day at work. When he resists, she pouts. She gives him an antique watch, he is grateful. He tells her to come in the bedroom for her gift and she blithely says that it had “…better not be anything I have already seen.” It’s a flat screen, that they can watch old movies on. She says the only thing she heard was the word “old.” Fun.
For his part, Big is well drawn by King and effectively acted by Noth. He is always offering to compromise, or to at least give in to an acceptable extent. His demands are very few. By contrast, Carrie seems to thrive on conjured drama.
By the end of the movie, she has kissed an old flame, immediately demands that her friends drop what they are doing and convene for a conference about it, unburdened herself on Big, and then made up, tolerantly watching “old” movies on top of her husband.
I asked my wife:
“Why don’t I like her?”
Without missing a beat, my wife tells me, “Because she’s selfish.”
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
(** out of *****)