There’s no question that vehemently protesting a big screen version of a beloved television series has become so commonplace that it’s now simply a cliché, but when it comes to Sex and the City, it’s not as easy as loudly screaming “NO NO NO” and plugging one’s ears. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s stupid. In short, it’s a lot like the show’s very dubious cinematic legacy.
HBO’s calling card series spawned six television seasons and two feature films, all of which featured the same cast of leading ladies (Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Catrall, and Kristin Davis), and the continued use of Michael Patrick King’s talents (King both executive produced and wrote on the series, before moving on to write and direct both feature films, giving them the sort of continuity of theme and emotion that should have made them both great). While the first film, 2008’s not-so-cleverly named Sex and the City did big business and helped further the story laid out in the series (to jog your memory, it focused on the ill-fated wedding of Carrie and Mr. Big and its wrenching aftermath), the second feature film (2010’s Sex and the City 2) made just about every mistake possible, earning both a crushing 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and nearly sixty million dollars less than its predecessor at the box office. So, yes, by all means, let’s make another one!
Rumors about a third cinematic installment of the series have long swirled, but a recent interview with Parker reveals that even the star of the series is convinced that there may indeed by a third film, because she “thinks there is one last chapter to tell.” Wrong.
EOnline reports that Parker shared her thoughts with InStyle in a new interview, telling the magazine, “A part of me thinks there is one last chapter to tell…But timing is a peculiar thing. It isn’t a decision that can wait forever. I don’t want to have to wear muumuus!”
The outlet has also compiled some quotes from the show’s other stars about a possible third film, with Davis saying back in December, “I don’t think [a third film] is a pipe dream, there is discussion. People talk about it amongst the people who are the players, but I don’t know if it will come together. It would be very exciting if it did.” Yet Nixon seems less sold on the idea, reportedly saying, “I think it’s fine to let it go” when asked about a third film. Davis, however, was not ready to let anything go, as she then said (yes, this does sound like a game of high school telephone), “I’m going to have a little talk with Cynthia the next time I see her!”
Still, this “one last chapter” business is the newest bit to come out of the candy-colored land of SATC and it does come care of the show’s leading lady – so what the hell does it mean? What sort of story is left to tell? What chapter needs closing? Why would anyone want to see a third film, unless it served to erase everything that happened in the dismal second film?
When the second film ended, things were approximately the same as they were at the end of the first movie – despite some big, stupid drama, the ladies didn’t change much, and nothing had actually evolved. Carrie and Mr. Big were trying out happiness (uh, again), Charlotte and Harry were reveling in domestic bliss, Miranda was continuing to get comfy with married life, and Samantha was back on the shagging wagon. And yet, to get to that end point (again, the same end point as the first film), fans had to endure two hours and twenty-seven minutes of ugliness. To say that Sex and the City 2 is not a theatrical experience I want to live ever again isn’t going far enough, it’s a life experience I don’t want to live ever again.
The film made many, many mistakes, the worst of which being the decision to transplant the ladies to Abu Dhabi, where their issues, personality flaws, and petty drama could take wing in a rarefied atmosphere that also smacked of cultural disconnect (and, in a few cases, outright cultural disrespect). The show, of course, took the ladies to other locations at times; there were Hamptons trips, Carrie’s jaunts to Aidan’s cabin, a smattering of episodes that took place in Los Angeles when Carrie thought her book was going to be turned into a movie, and the series-ending Paris-set multi-episode arc, but everyone always returned to Manhattan. Even the first film saw lingering visits end – Samantha came back to New York City after living in LA with Smith, and the girls all went to Mexico in order to help Carrie recover from being left at the altar by Big (the trip was, of course, meant to be their honeymoon) – but those locations never took precedence over Manhattan as an essential character on the show.
Taking the ladies out of the eponymous “city” only works as a small diversion, and SATC2’s insistence on spending so much time away from NYC was a huge mistake. And, again, the film relied on quirky misunderstandings to amp up the “oh, we’re in a foreign country!” drama, and they ran the gamut from shameful to tone-deaf and then back again.
Oh, also, there was the huge problem that each one of the ladies acted horrifically while on their all-expense-paid vacation, and the whole thing was just grating to watch. It undid plenty of forward motion and goodwill – Carrie fell back into an emotional thing with Aidan (John Corbett), Samantha became just plain rabid in her sexual desires, Charlotte seemed too prim for her own good, and Miranda continued to struggle with her work/life balance – making the gals seem like caricatures of themselves. It was embarrassing and more than a little bit awkward, and it seemed to effectively kill off the need to make yet another film about the show.
Despite my continued problems with the show (yes, I still hate this episode with a passion and, yes, I still balk at the particular brand of out of reach aspirations that it sold to viewers for years), I still enjoy it as glitzy, glammy, hammy dramedy, and I will absolutely watch an episode or two without any reservations. And, yes, parts of it do continue to move me – I still cry every single time Charlotte and Harry find out that they are going to be parents.
The second film, however, is one that I hate so much that I purposely avoid it. If the first film pops on the TV, that’s fine, I’ll certainly spend some time with it (and, okay, yes, I’ll cry a bit over it, too), but the second film is so rancid, so humorless, and so off-base that it feels like it must have been made by strangers. I cannot watch it. It is easier (and better) to pretend that the world stopped after the first film, that the second film just never happened.
It is, in short, a bad starting point for yet another film.
What could another chapter possibly look like? Is Carrie going to get bit by the baby bug (that’s certainly something that could not “wait forever”)? Is Samantha going to decide that monogamy is for her and go back to Smith? Is Charlotte going to adopt another baby? Is Miranda going to struggle with married life yet again? There’s hardly a feasible or believable plotline for a third feature that has not already been done to death by both the show and the previous two films. There’s simply nothing honest left to explore, but after the disappointment and disingenuousness of the second film, that doesn’t seem to be a problem for the SATC creative team.