You go, girlfriends

Alright, I admit it, I was a bit tipsy when I went to see Sex & The City 2 on Friday. I came straight from a bar already filling up with people who had clocked off early due to the glorious weather, and rolled up at the Curzon for the 6pm showing of SATC2 in what experts are calling “the right mood”. The staff at the Curzon, more used to showing foreign arthouse movies to discerning audiences of five or six, had really thrown themselves at SATC2 – a) by showing it, and b) by laying on a special menu of cocktails and fizz. I ordered a Socialite – presumably made up: champagne, elderflower liqueur, single ice cube – and settled down into a cinema almost exclusively populated by women, most of them in gangs. I counted five other men. I was the sixth man. I experienced exactly the same sensation when I went to see SATC1. I wonder if any of us six weren’t gay?

Here’s my relationship with SATC: I used to leave the room when it was on telly, made uncomfortable by the frank, HBO-certificate talk of spunk and juice coming out of the ladies’ mouths and surmising that this programme was “not for me.” Naturally, I was falling into the heterosexual male stereotype and as this is not my style, I eventually stopped leaving the room once I’d latched on to just how funny it was. To swerve it would have been to miss some terrific comic writing and four spirited female performances. I wasn’t into Carrie to begin with, and the designer labels and fashion fetishism went right over my head, but Miranda and Charlotte intrigued me, and Kim Catrall created a superb female character for a more enlightened age. Also, the men were not all bimbos and models and cutouts; indeed, skilled actors like Evan Handler, John Corbett, Kyle McLachlan and David Eigenberg really helped to paint a fuller picture. This show was not just about those big, stiff, square bags from clothes shops and wedding magazines.

Ironically – and I say that only because the same creators and cast were behind it – the first SATC film was all about those big, stiff, square bags from clothes shops and wedding magazines. In it, Carrie almost married Mr Big and then didn’t, and then did. I’ll be honest, I enjoyed it, but only as I might have enjoyed two reasonable but not classic episodes of the series. (I’ve seen many episodes twice, or more, as they are constantly aired, on a loop, on Comedy Central. The best ones bear repeat viewings, always a good sign.) Advance word on SATC2 was bad: more of the same, even less like the TV series, arbitrary location filming in Morocco (standing in for the United Arab Emirates), etc. But I thought, sod it, let’s have a look. How bad can it be?

Well, high on the occasion, the oestrogen and the champagne bubbles, I couldn’t have been a more sympathetic audience. Nor could I have been in better company to cast aside my critical faculties and just enjoy the shallow, materialistic, fetishistic, consumerist, post-feminist fun. And I did. It’s worse than SATC1 on every level. Once we’ve moved on from an opulent gay wedding at the beginning, at which Liza Minelli shows her legs, the action shifts all too soon to Abu Dabi, where the recession is even further from view and the accent all too parodically on wealth and comfort and luxury. I know the girls always eat and drink in fancy places in Manhattan, and live in ludicrously well appointed apartments, but their lives always used to be about problems that eclipsed the cushiness of their income brackets. By packing them off to the desert and have them emerge from the heat haze as idiot Western clothes-horses, utterly oblivious to local religious and cultural customs, we see the worst in Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. And there’s not enough of the men, who are left at home, holding various babies. (Alice Eve I think gets one speaking scene as Charlotte and Harry’s bra-less “Irish” nanny; all she is called upon to do otherwise is bounce. It’s a waste. And reduces Harry to a potential letch.)

Oh, there’s plenty wrong with SATC2. It’s like two very poor episodes of the TV series, with less frank sex talk, and uninteresting dilemmas mostly played out on holiday, and a cavalier attitude to economic reality (Carrie can’t sell her other apartment so has to keep it on as an empty crash-pad – how the credit crunch bites, eh?).

But, frankly, it’s not for film critics. And if you’re seeing it at a preview screening with – let’s face it – loads of other middle-aged male critics, it’s going to seem even more heinous – hence: the reviews. To get past its deficiencies, you must experience it in a cinemaful of women; otherwise, there’s no point in trying to judge it. This is not about whether it’s as good as the series, or as good or bad as the first film, it’s a night out. It’s not a film. It’s a way of life. To pick critical holes is, I think, to misunderstand SATC‘s appeal. I’ve read Natasha Walter; I understand why it’s intellectually and politically dangerous with its accent on decoration and retail therapy, but show me a cinema where that many people (the Curzon had two simultaneous second showings at 8.30 and 9pm, whose excited patrons filled the lobby as I left) are having that good a time on a Friday night and I’ll burn my bra.

Incidentally, I’m not patronising the target audience by suggesting it has no critical faculties – it would be the same as seeing an arthouse film with a dedicated arthouse audience who might be equally “on side” – I’m just saying: a good time is a good time.

So, I enjoyed Sex & The City 2. But it’s not a very good film. Oh, and I shouted out, “You go, girlfriend!” when the lights dimmed and the film started, and another woman behind me shouted it too! I am in touch with my feminine side!

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13 thoughts on “You go, girlfriends

  1. I was at the UK premiere on Thursday night (my wife won tickets) we had loads of fun beforehand on the red carpet and then headed inside to watch the film. I’ve watched every episode of the TV series, which I enjoyed so I went in with a fairly open mind. It’s about having fun and escapism, it’s not supposed to be a cinematic masterpiece. Except it was just a bit, well, boring to be honest. The whole Abu Dhabi thing went on far too long and I totally lost interest. Even my wife thought it was pretty poor and she LOVES satc more than you could possibly imagine. I did enjoy Liza though, she’s ace : )

    I’ve posted this under my wifes username because I couldn’t be bothered logging out of her account.

    Love the show Steve

  2. Oh Andrew, I didn’t have you pegged as a rowdy drunk! 🙂

    I haven’t seen the movie and I don’t intend to, but i’ve heard about a scene involving Muslim women casting off their burqas to be more like these sassy New Yorkers…which sounds slightly distasteful.

  3. Anyone who goes shopping in a fricking SOUK in a J’adore Dior t-shirt and a massive tutu needs hanging. Not just for being an affront to Abu Dhabi values (and she SO is) but to women in general. It is so lacking in a thinking woman’s ‘when in Rome’ attitude it beggars belief. You’re not in touch with your feminine side here Andrew, you’re in touch with your inner bimbo. Gah!

    Anna

    • Which is why I said that the film presents the four main characters in a very bad light.

      I don’t mind my inner bimbo – Christ, I hope I qualified every single remark I made, as is my usual tiresome wont – but my point was more about the fact that the film doesn’t stand up to the traditional criteria of film criticism. Did I not get that across?

  4. When is the female of the species going to get of the high horse and behave with some dignity?
    We are equal, not an inferior bunch of twats or nasty users.
    All men are not idiots, and please PLEASE, stop putting out the myth that people love men with heart and a feminine side. It never ever helps.

    • Fascinatingly aggressive response, Stuart. Do you think that the “female of the species” ie the entire gender, sits on a “high horse”? I’m all for the equality you yearn for, but the male characters in SATC are not “idiots”. And Big is certainly not painted as a man with a feminine side – far from it, he’s some macho corporate raider type, but whose strong, almost paternal appeal keeps drawing Carrie back to him. Not quite sure who you’re furious at?

    • Hello, real life woman here. I do love men with heart and, if you want to put it like that, a feminine side, so that’s not a myth. I DON’T like the SATC film (first one, unlikely to see the second). And I don’t like sexism against men: all those adverts that paint men as incompetent, not able to cook, oblivious to common sense and so on REALLY piss me off. So I don’t quite see what you’re getting angry at. We’re all on the same side!

  5. So the film is only worthwhile if you don’t stop and think about it? Hmmm. Seems like cocktails beforehand is a good idea then.

  6. Good write up – my one observation would be that these films seemed to have diminished your concept of the passage of time. This is the shorter of the two at 145 minutes – that’s not two episodes of the TV series, it’s nearly seven with the commercials taken out. And the original film was even longer, like A Clockwork Orange brainwashing with added shoe closets. (Or was the alcohol maybe more responsible for your temporal misunderstanding?)

  7. Andrew, at least you’re consistent. I remember when SATC 1 was out and you were on Simon Mayo’s show. Every man and his dog had slated it blah blah blah, I remember you saying pretty much what you said about this one and the sort of ‘oh..’ response from Simon. Then I think the cricket came on or Tony Blair interrupted you to make a speech about something or other…

  8. Saw this last night – I was (slightly) drunk and am a woman and I really hated it, as did most of the other women I heard talking about it afterwards. I heard words like “shallow”, “embarrassing” and “racist”, to which I would also add “too bloody long”…

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