The ‘perfect’ lives of the four New York friends are still proving troublesome, so when they’re offered a luxury holiday in Abu Dhabi, they jump at the chance. But as their relationships continue to falter in a foreign land, their dream holiday may prove more of an adventure outing.
The first Sex And The City movie suffered from a rather mean-spirited plot that undid the happy endings of the series finale in order to put them back together in two hours. This second film improves on that immeasurably, as regards its central quartet at least, offering them a chance to grow and change. The problem is everything else.
So what’s up with the ladies who lunch? Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Big (Chris Noth) are rocking as their expectations of married life begin to diverge; Samantha (Kim Cattrall) is fighting ever harder against the aging tide; Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is questioning her ability to become a domestic goddess, and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) is suffering under a sexist boss at work.
In other words, they’re all experiencing recognisable, real-life dilemmas (albeit while wearing fantastical outfits), and there are moments of beautifully played, compassionate character drama. Like her or loathe her, Parker bounces off the quieter Noth perfectly in their scenes, while Nixon and Davis share a standout barroom confessional that’s almost moving, even if Cattrall’s Samantha continues on her mission to shag everything in sight.
The problem is the setting. An outré gay wedding opens the film and sets a barmy tone (Liza Minnelli growling her way through Single Ladies on a set straight out of Top Hat. Really), but it’s when the quartet head to Abu Dhabi that things get weird. Cultural stereotypes are the order of the day, and for every instance of well-written and borderline acceptable culture shock there’s a moment of uncomfortable naivety. Even an indirect suggestion that the position of women in the Middle East can be improved by a rousing chorus of I Am Woman, or that wearing the burkha is basically okay because there are designer togs under it, is insensitive to the point of offensiveness. It’s cultural blindness not only towards the women of the UAE, but also to the feminist bent that the show always claimed for itself.
This feels bigger and more cinematic than the first film, and sees a progression in the lives of the characters. But many of the jokes are beyond broad, and the Middle Eastern stereotypes are shockingly cack-handed.