So despite briefly considering a personal boycott of your film “Sex and the City 2” in light of my disdain for its predecessor and the horrendous reviews that came on strong late last week (this one being my personal favourite), I did in fact contribute $15 to its disappointing opening weekend box office. Mostly because I wanted to have an educated opinion, and the opportunity to write this letter in expression of it. And, well, because me and a couple once fans of the TV series had one too many beers within walking distance of a theater playing the film, and thought it would be fun to go heckle the screen.
Anyway, so my severely low expectations were somehow not met, but I guess first of all I should get a few mild compliments out of the way before I get to that. I mean, I do kind of appreciate that this intensely gay pandering, female character-dominated film can be a highly anticipated summer tentpole. And I guess I kind of appreciate that you were a big part of making that happen, and that at least you didn’t shy away from the gay pandering part (crotch shots, Liza, that wedding, “Abdul”, etc…).
But somehow those considerations just make everything worse now that I’ve actually seen the damned thing. Because you had a huge opportunity to make something somewhat special and totally fucked it up. For 2 hours and 21 1/2 minutes of the film’s 2 hours and 25 minute running time, I rolled my eyes or cringed or found myself mildly-to-severely offended or simply struggled to stay awake. The 3 1/2 minutes that did work for me (a sweet conversation between Miranda and Charlotte re: motherhood; one or two examples of Kim Cattrall’s fantastic line-delivery capabilities; and those crotch shots) simply reminded me that this movie was adapted from a show I actually really kinda liked some time ago, and that you, Mr. King, are the person I’m pretty much solely blaming for its demise as a (albeit flawed) cultural institution.
First and foremost, why did you decide to write and direct it? Money, I assume? You must have known when that finished screenplay was in your hands that it was a piece of garbage. Or that – when you saw the first film – that you aren’t exactly a great filmmaker and maybe someone else could at least direct the thing this time around. You had a team of AMAZING directors on the series, some of who had actual experience with feature length films: Charles MacDougall, Allison Anders, Michael Engler, David Frankel, and Nicole Holofcener (!). Why didn’t you ask one of them if they wanted a cut of the millions upon millions of dollars you’ve manipulated women and gays into forking over to you. And better yet, why didn’t you get some help from the series’ other writers? You know, the ones who wrote some of the best episodes. Like Jenny Bicks or Cindy Chupack or Julie Rottenberg or Elisa Zuritsky or Allan Heinberg.
Maybe a collaborative effort would have resulted in something that was a bit more of an emulation of the series’ charms, humour, and relative realism instead of turning it into this hollow shitshow of your creative flaws, from your inability to produce worthwhile camp, worthwhile one-liners, cultural sensitivity, or come up with anything the series hadn’t already covered 10,000 times. I mean, for something that was so fucking long, barely anything even happened in “SATC 2.” And of what did? You should be ashamed. I could go on and on about how embarrassing unfunny your script was. Or how trite and shallow your take on sex and women’s issues in the Muslim world felt. Or how you somehow topped the series and the first film’s ridiculous emphasis on materialism, selfishness and questionable fashion as cornerstones of your characters’ humanity. Or how, as a gay man, you seem to have such a dated, warped and honestly, kinda homophobic idea of what gayness means. Yeah, you gave the mainstream summer movie season its first gay wedding. And the flimsiness and stereotyping of its over-the-top-ness would have been mildly redeemable if you’d actually made any of it funny. Instead, it was just kind of inorganic, strange and offensive. I still don’t quite understand why you’d explain that two characters who HATED each other in the series would get married simply because “they were the last two guys standing.” Or that you had the “Sex” quartet shrieking “my gay best friend is marrying HER gay best friend!” like they were the girls’ little gay toys. Your own relationship with homosex and romance must be pretty fucked up. Not to mention while you tried your sad best to discuss the issue of women’s rights in Abu Dhabi, you gave the film another stereotypical gay facet with “Paula” Abdul, Samantha’s Abu Dhabi butler (who you tried to get laughs out of simply with close ups of his effeminate facial gestures!?), and never bothered to make reference to how horrific life for a gay man there (where homosexuality is illegal, in case you didn’t know) would be.
What’s arguably worse, though, is that you lost touch with these characters – perhaps because that was one thing you definitely were good at at some point. You got so caught up in the ill-advised decision to set the film in Abu Dhabi and open with it a gay wedding and have all these celeb cameos that you forgot to give Carrie, Miranda, Samantha or Charlotte a plot that would do them, or their fans, any justice. I mean, after she quit her job (which happens in the first 20 minutes of the film… and is a questionable anti-feminist plot decision in itself), you didn’t even bother giving Miranda a plot. She just sort of sat there making bad puns. And as for Carrie – let me ask you an honest question – do you hate her? Or is she just a representation of your sorry self, which I guess would be even worse? Because you turned her into such a shrill, unlikeable, selfish, unawarely privileged nag of a bitch in this movie that I genuinely wished for her death by the film’s end. She makes Stanford’s wedding about her stupid hat and outfit. She whines and bitches her way through a marriage that was allegedly everything she ever wanted and seems pretty romantic and functional to me (what couple that’s been together for that many years can’t wait to embrace once they get inside a doorway). She immaturely wigs out when she gets a bad review for a book that, from what the film suggests, is clearly a self-help-by-way-of-puns piece of crap (that The New Yorker never would have reviewed in the first place). She demands her friends drop everything to deal with a lame, high school-like crisis in which – as the film’s pathetic climax – she kisses an ex-boyfriend for like 2 seconds. Yeah, she’s always exhibited some of the tendencies these examples suggest, but never in such a dominating fashion. There wasn’t a second of screen time where I thought, ‘oh yeah, I used to kind of like Carrie.’ Instead I just kept imagining her tripping on one of her stupid dresses and then sustaining a head injury that resulted in her death.
Anyway, I’ll pretty much stop here, even though I feel anxious that I didn’t get to half of what I wanted to express to you. I just really want to make clear that if you end up getting the chance to make the third film (which the overseas box office suggests you probably will), to hand it over to someone else. Someone that will make a film about the real women these characters once almost represented. Someone that will make me laugh at something other than how bad the writing is. Someone that will give me escapist fun that has at least minimal substance. And someone that will kill off Carrie in the opening act and send Miranda, Samantha, Charlotte, and a replacement character (a working class butch Asian lesbian, perhaps?) on an adventure through New York City that doesn’t just remind me that I used to love the TV series, but that actual good use was put to this unheralded opportunity of a new medium with an impressionable built in audience.