For fans who have been following the lives of fictional friends Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha for the past 12 years, through an HBO series and a big feature film extravaganza two years ago, the release of Sex and the City 2 this weekend is a very big deal. Rarely do large studios invest so much time and money in creating fantasy worlds of the magnitude of this sumptuous sequel solely with the desires of women in mind. So is it any wonder that when a movie aimed so squarely at female pleasure comes along, gals flock to it surrounded by gangs of their best friends, dressed to the nines, and in full celebration mode? The Sex and the City phenomenon is a testament to how starved women are for this kind of pop cultural attention. So in those terms, it doesn’t really matter if the film is perfect or well received by critics, as long as the girls counting down to opening night enjoy themselves. That being said, the movie in actuality is a frothy, meandering tale that’s light in the intellectual loafers, but entertainingly told.
When we first catch up with our heroines, we get to see them all living out the promise of the first film’s happily-ever-after ending. It’s two years later, and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her hard-won husband Big (Chris Noth) are living in enviable urban splendor, Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is the cupcake-baking kind of mother she always dreamed of becoming, Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is the working mom who has it all, and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is still up to her old bed-hopping tricks. But beneath these perfect facades, the girls are each struggling with an identity crisis. Carrie is terrified of becoming one half of an old boring married couple. Charlotte is stymied by unrealistic expectations of motherhood. Miranda is fighting a losing battle against a sexist boss. And the specter of menopause is breathing down Samantha’s jewel-draped neck. All in all, it’s a perfect time for the gang to get away and reevaluate this new phase in their lives. So Samantha arranges for them all to embark on an all-expenses-paid luxury adventure in Abu Dhabi courtesy of her newest client, a wealthy hotelier.
What follows is an over-the-top fantasia of high-end travel porn, high-heeled hijinx, couture, and camels. And depending on how much enjoyment you derive from these dramatic devices, the almost two and half hours the film takes to reach it’s conclusion could feel either like a party you wish would never end or a relentless commercial for the UAE board of tourism. I fell into the former category. The length didn’t bother me, and I genuinely enjoyed the familiar friendships and the sumptuous spectacle adorning each of the plot’s emotional twists and turns. That’s not to say, however, that the girls were always able to remain relatable despite their riche surroundings. There were moments when Carrie was kind of a dick to Charlotte and to Big. Samantha’s attitudes towards women’s behavioral codes in religiously conservative Abu Dhabi veered between silly and insulting. And one particularly privileged moment in which Charlotte and Miranda lifted their cosmos in their suite’s private bar to drink a toast to all those poor women raising kids without full-time nannies kind of made me want to vomit in my handbag.
Those quibbles aside, I think the girls counting down to opening night will have a ball at this glittering celebration of female friendship. And if enjoying an already legendary gay wedding sequence in which Liza Minnelli performs Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. [Emily Rems]
Emily Rems is a feminist writer, editor, rock star, playwright, and occasional plus-size model living in New York’s East Village. Best known as managing editor of BUST magazine, Emily is also a music and film commentator for New York’s NPR affiliate WNYC, and is the drummer for the horror-punk band the Grasshoppers. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in the anthologies Cassette from my Ex and Zinester’s Guide to NYC, and her short stories have been published in Rum Punch Press, Lumen, Prose ‘N Cons Mystery Magazine, Writing Raw, and PoemMemoirStory. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for fiction in 2015 and is working on a novel. Follow her on Twitter @emilyrems.