Sex and the City 2

I checked in with Carrie and the girls this week. I liked the movie. There was a lot that the feminine side of me liked but there was a lot that the feminist/activist side of me found infuriating.

As we pick back up with the City gals, Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker,) Miranda (Cynthia Nixon,) Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Samantha (Kim Cattrall) are celebrating Stanford and Anthony’s wedding (in Connecticut, of course, where marriage equality is on the books.) We then spend some time catching up with the ladies, seeing how their lives are and what’s transpired over the last two years.

Ultimately, we see that Carrie is struggling with wife-hood. She and Big are trying to figure out what works for them as a married couple. Plenty of people chime in, but that’s the crux of what she explores in this second big-screen installment. That’s what I liked most about the movie: Two people in love trying to figure out their own way, regardless of what’s the norm, or what society says. (This was also the theme that I loved in the underappreciated Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, (with an hilarious appearance by the wonderful Allison Janney) and directed by Sam Mendes.)

The fabulous four later find themselves in Abu Dhabi. This is where the activist in me got riled up. The ladies are chauffeured from the airport to their palatial resort in separate cars – one car for each of the ladies. Here is why this bothered me: In a previous scene, the girls are at the coffee shop and Samantha is trying to organize this Middle East adventure. When one of the girls says she can’t get away, Samantha protests that for the last two years, the American economy has been in the tank and she needs a vacation to somewhere rich. Well, in my view, the separate cars are indicative of the decadence, greed and gluttonous consumption that have largely contributed to the mess we’re in. True, the ladies didn’t request separate cars (their host arranged it for them,) but, as Carrie might say, I couldn’t help but wonder: If Abu Dhabi continues to spend like American fat cats, how long will they be the rich-vacation destination?

While the story was in Abu Dhabi (though the scenes were actually shot in Morocco,) writer and director Michael Patrick King didn’t ignore the vast differences in culture and social mores. In one scene, Carrie becomes fascinated by a woman in traditional Arab garb, a full-body burka which is open only slightly at the eyes, as she eats French fries. The woman has to lift her veil away from her face – while revealing nothing – to put each fry into her mouth. And of course, throughout their time there, Miranda is constantly imploring Samantha – who’s menopausal – to cover up and remember that her sexually aggressive behaviors are inappropriate for their environment. Being the brazen woman she is, Samantha is reluctant to heed this advice but here or there she makes an effort. However in one scene, the ladies are walking through the shuk when Samantha, who is dressed in shorts and a tank top, accidentally drops her bag, spilling its contents over the ground. True to form, condoms are among the contents falling out. The men in the shuk begin to surround her and shout at her. She escapes unscathed but I couldn’t help but wonder: If this were real life and not a movie, would she have been physically harmed? I think the unfortunate answer is yes – or a very strong maybe.

I may be wrong. I concede that my knowledge of the culture is limited and perhaps the men are progressive enough to not stone, hit or beat a woman in a public market simply for carrying condoms in her bag. But for me, the scene and my corresponding wonderment represented an infuriating reality: In 2010, there are still places in the world in which women are repressed, wholly without autonomy and treated like dogs – or worse. I am reminded of a quote from The West Wing: It’s in the season three episode “The Women of Qumar.” In it, the US is selling arms to (the fictional country) Qumar and CJ is outraged, largely because of their terrible women’s rights record. She pleads to National Security Advisor Dr. Nancy McNally, “They beat women, Nancy. They hate women. The only reason they keep Qumari women alive is to make more Qumari men.” While Qumar is a country Aaron Sorkin made up, the lives the women lead there are all too real. I know that Sex and the City 2 isn’t the forum for a socio-political discussion, though I do applaud the creators for touching on these themes – ever so lightly – but I still couldn’t keep from fuming during scenes like this.

Politics aside, there was plenty of eye candy. My friend who joined me at the screening was thrilling over the shoes. I was thrilling over the theatre folks popping up in each frame. In New York and Abu Dhabi, I kept spotting theatrical ing√©nues, leading men and chorus boys. (Hmm… maybe this should become a drinking game!) In the men’s chorus (on hand to sing at Stanford and Anthony’s wedding, I spied Kyle Dean Massey (currently playing Gabe in Next to Normal,) Van Hughes (an American Idiot swing,) Nick Adams (a current Cagelle) and Jay Armstrong Johnson (who understudies Claude in Hair on Broadway.) As guests at the wedding, I spied once and future Nellie Forbush, Kelli O’Hara, and current Sondheim on Sondheim star, Norm Lewis. Over in Abu Dhabi, I spied Tory Ross (of Crybaby, 9to5 and [title of show]) and Loretta Ables-Sayre, another South Pacific-er (she is still appearing as Bloody Mary.) With all the theatre folk popping up – and Chris Noth in the movie – I felt like I was watching The Good Wife!

Of course there were other, higher-profile cameos, particularly from Liza with a Z and the always smoldering Penelope Cruz. And some old favorites from the series came out to play, including Jason Lewis and the ruggedly handsome John Corbett. (Don’t worry – I’m not giving anything away you don’t get from the trailer.)

Overall, this was a fun romp with some old friends. Though I said in previous posts that Inception would probably be the only movie I see in the theatre this summer, I’m glad I caught Sex and the City 2 at the cineplex: The sparkle of the ladies’ wardrobe, the opulence of their lush digs, and the grand expanse of desert came fully to life on the big-screen, in beautiful, vivid true colors.