The film is an epic eyesore. It’s as if they set out to make a movie that said, “You’re right! We are hideous!” It begins with the nightmarish manic gaiety of Mamma Mia!, with strenuous lockjawed smiles that make you think you’re watching stroke victims. Then Liza Minnelli shows up to perform a gay marriage. Heralded (and hooted at) as the embodiment of camp unreality, she looks more human—nervous but happy to belong somewhere—than the four leads.
The thinking behind the movie (written and directed by Michael Patrick King) is undisguised. Let’s start with an over-the-top gay wedding! Then we’ll send the girls to Abu Dhabi so they can rile up the fundamentalists with their sexuality! Then they’ll make fun of women in niqab (“Certainly cuts down on the Botox bill!”) but later show (campy) feminist solidarity! Won’t they look great swishing around the desert being waited on by smooth young Arab men?
Amy Odell, of nymag.com’s The Cut, accompanied me to the screening and was kind enough to whisper that a particular dress of Carrie’s cost 50 grand. But what’s the point of spending that much when the cinematographer, John Thomas, lights Sarah Jessica Parker to bring out the leatheriness of her skin? How did he manage to mummify the lovely Cynthia Nixon? Kim Cattrall, fresh off her witty, subtle work in The Ghost Writer, is costumed to look like a cross between (late) Mae West and (dead) Bea Arthur. Kristin Davis gets by (just) pulling little-girl faces, probably for the last time.
For all the sniggery double entendres, virtually all of Sex and the City 2 is a pale shade of vanilla. But there is this one moment … Cattrall, in short shorts in the Arab marketplace, has a flurry of hot flashes, drops to the ground, and writhes around screaming, “I have sex, yes! I quite enjoy it!” People coming out of surgery with bad reactions to the anesthesia have been known to behave like that, which gives it some fleeting connection to real life.
Go to my blog The Projectionist for a review of George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead, a rambling but surprisingly handsome, well-acted mix of lefty sociology and militant nihilist splatter.