Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sex and the City 2 (2010, Michael Patrick King)

Sex and the City 2 [Blu-ray]There is a genuine laugh-out-loud moment in Michael Patrick King’s atrocious Sex and the City 2, but first I will let you in on a few jokes that weren’t.  It wasn’t when Liza Minnelli shows up to perform ALL OF “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” at a gay wedding.  It wasn’t when we are introduced to a hot, bra-less nanny in slow motion while Samantha opines, “Everyone knows you don’t hire a hot nanny.  It’s the law!” Carrie responds “Yeah! Jude Law!”  Carrie even reminds us later how funny it was when she made this joke, but truth be told, what the hell does it mean?  It certainly wasn’t when Miranda yelled “We’ve got a lot of Abu Dhabi to do!  Abu Dhabi Do!”, which I think was supposed to be a Flintstones or Scooby Doo pun, but I’m not sure.  Does it matter?

The kind of cloying writing in the screenplay is absolutely unreal, and it just keeps coming.  It wasn’t enough to let this self-referentially unfold in bourgeois Upper East Side, instead they found a place that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.  Carrie expresses some empathy when she learns her manservant can only save enough money to visit his wife in India a few times a year, but her concern is hollow and worthless:  this is the same character that was upset moments before that she didn’t get the jewelry she hoped for and is clad in so many Gaudi costumes throughout the picture (including some headwear at the opening wedding that looks like a Harry Potter version of Snow White’s Evil Queen crown, a picture of fashion for the sake of fashion), all four women at once seem to have all the money in the world yet make everything around them worthless.  Even the budget for this “romantic comedy” is an unfathomable $100 million.

But really, Abu Dhabi Do?  What is the joke there?  That they are in a funny foreign place with funny sounding non-English names?  The “reference” is pointless because it’s not making reference to anything, it’s just prattle.  The film is full of this entitled drivel that the characters don’t even realize is insulting.  And neither, I assume, do the writers and its audience.

I found myself asking throughout the picture, “who is this movie for?” and I really have no reference point.  I imagine the characters at this point in the franchise are watered down caricatures of what they once were, and the return value for the loyal fans is something they can recognize as diminished.  I don’t know-- I walked into this thing cold.  It was on HBO, I was in a hotel; it was the same way I ended up seeing Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay and, honestly, there are a lot of similarities.

Both films capitalize on their previous success.  Both include multiple, self-referential cameos that serve no narrative purpose.  Both pander to their audience, confusing comedy with references.  Both structure the narrative haphazardly with no need to make ends meet (not in an anarchistic way, but a sloppy one).  Both talk about vaginas a lot.  As infantile as it sounds, Harold & Kumar 2 at least deals with race knowingly and has the decency to leave it at 107 minutes (still a good twenty-minutes longer than a swift comedy should be), a full TWO REELS shorter than Sex and the City 2’s 146 minutes of torture.

There is no attention to pacing whatsoever in this beast, and the synopsis seems unfair because of it.  The way I understood it, the four women were supposed to visit U.A.E., but after fits and starts, they don’t get on the plane for a full hour.  And yeah, they finally ride some camels, and some grand feminine declaration shows how women everywhere love Louis Vuitton even if they are inhibited by their unfair, primitive custom.  And someone says “Lawrence of my labia”, and that’s about all you’re going to get: racist, emetic nonsense.

The women in this film seem completely unrelatable to anyone I’ve ever met.  They have their cake and eat it too.  They sacrifice nothing and expect the world at their feet.  And I suppose there were women among the $288 million in gross revenue that nodded their heads along with every bit of it.  It’s fantasy that waxes postmodern but fails to call a spade a spade.  It wraps up the cliché moral with “you have to take the tradition [of marriage], and decorate it your own way.”  The accessorizing boils down to unfaithfulness, sidestepping the trials of motherhood, and expecting your husband to do all the changing and forgiving (after all, the biggest plight of man in this piece is Big saying he wants to “watch T.V. and do the shit I wanna do.”)  And it gets wrapped up in a neat package.

But back to the moment that made me laugh: Big and Carrie are enjoying a romantic evening together in a hotel when Big gets excited that It Happens One Night comes on the television.  I laughed that this movie has the gall to compare itself in any fashion to the 1934 classic (and even riffs the hitchhiking scene to save them from angry Muslims).  In It Happened One Night, complexly drawn characters learn about the differences in gender wiring and learn the value of compromise.  In Sex and the City 2, the only compromise was what I felt after having sat through it.  Before I even caught my breath I was treated to an even bigger laugh:  Big tells Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) that she is more beautiful than Claudette Colbert.  It’s the epitome of female wish fulfillment in a hodgepodge mess of a film that is already-- sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly-- highly neurotic. -- ZERO/four stars

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