Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone

Sex and the City 2 | Green Zone

Sex and the City 2
Rating:

Directed by Michael Patrick King. Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Chris Noth, David Eigenberg, Evan Handler, Mario Cantone, Willie Garson, Alice Eve, Jason Lewis, John Corbett, Liza Minnelli, Art Malik, Shiekh Khalid, Dhaffer L’Abidine, Penélope Cruz, Miley Cyrus. Written by Michael Patrick King, from the TV show created by Darren Star and characters from the book by Candace Bushnell.


As I was watching Sex and the City 2, it struck me that Carrie and company were modern day variations of the characters from Caligula or Luchino Visconti´s The Damned: their extravagance and gross indulgence has long gone unchecked, and it will eventually lead to their violent downfall. The only difference is that Sex and the City is a celebration of gross indulgence, and the payoff is not a downfall, it´s more indulgence.

Look, I don´t want to pour on the hatred, there been enough of that already (just check out some of the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes). I´m not in the target audience for this movie, I´ve never seen the show; if you´ve built up a relationship with these characters from the years on TV, then sure, you can forgive their sins. I get that.



But getting past my personal distaste for the material, Sex and the City 2 is still an awful film. It´s an endurance test at a plotless 2.5 hours, with little to engage the viewer. The characters just sit up there on the screen, bathing in their extravagance for the duration; even if you like them, I have to imagine you expect a little more here.

The film opens at a gay wedding. Ministered, of course, by Liza Minnelli, who performs Beyoncé´s Single Ladies with two lookalike dancers after performing the vows. This is the high point of the film; afterwards we have to actually confront the characters and all their “problems”.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) seems to have an issue with her ridiculously boring husband, Mr. Big (Chris Noth); she wants to, I don´t know, go out and do something, and he wants to order take out, take a load off, and watch some TV. Which is what he proceeds to do throughout the rest of the film. He seems like a nice enough guy, but he´s trapped inside this caricature of a lazy husband.

Charlotte (Kristin Davis) has a little girl who won´t stop crying. Oh, she has a full-time, live-in nanny to actually take care of the kid, but still: won´t this goddamn kid shut the hell up? Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), uh, she quits her job. Samantha (Kim Cattrall), she just wants to have sex. Of course, none of these characters will actually confront their problems or change during the course of the film. Their lifestyle won´t allow for it.

The big plot point, though, is a trip to Abu Dhabi. There, the girls surround themselves with exotic indulgence. And offend the locals with their blissful ignorance. The writer/director, Michael Patrick King, seems to be confronting the idea that Sex and the City and the way of life it promotes is the reason terrorists hate the US.

Comedy in the film is limited to bad puns. “Bedouin, Bath, and Beyond,” and “Lawrence of my Labia.” Yechh. Drama fares no better. The big climax is when Carrie briefly kisses someone, then feels really really bad about it.

As they age, with the Botox and collagen and worldly possessions, these women are actually becoming Barbie dolls. Parker fares the worst, with a waxy plastic complexion and those soulless blue eyes. They´re no more than props in their own lives; I wonder if they´ll ever wake up one day and wonder where it´s all gone, what was the point of it all.

You’d think the filmmakers might want to address the economic concerns that have hit since the last movie. Nah. It’s just more shoes and designer handbags.

***


 

Green Zone
Rating:

Directed by Paul Greengrass. Starring Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Yigal Naor, Said Faraj, Nicoye Banks, Jerry Della Salla, Sean Huze, Raad Rawi, Michael O’Neill, Allen Vaught, Paul Rieckhoff. Written by Brian Helgeland, from the book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.


Green Zone was sold to a diminished audience as Bourne in Iraq. The surface elements are there, sure: star Matt Damon, director Paul Greengrass (Supremacy and Ultimatum), and his trademark frenetic camerawork and editing and kinetic action sequences. But first and foremost this is a surprisingly dense and effective political thriller about the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in newly-liberated 2003 Iraq.

Of course, the WMDs weren´t there. After coming up empty on raid after raid and suffering casualties in the process, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Damon) sits in on a WMD conference overseen by slimy Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear), in which the intelligence sources are confirmed and a new target is given. Miller protests, having turned up nothing more significant than a toilet factory. “Sir, there´s something wrong with the intelligence.”

And that´s the rub. Green Zone argues that the intelligence was wholly manufactured by Poundstone (a stand-in for Paul Bremer, US Administrator to Iraq who oversaw reconstruction from 2003-4) and company, who needed the war and used the threat of WMDs to justify it.

Proving any wrongdoing, however, isn´t an easy task. Looking into it are Wall Street Journal journalist Lawrie Dayne (Amy Ryan), who printed the information leaked to her by Poundstone without any verification of its credibility, and CIA official Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), whose department was kept in the dark. Brown recruits Miller to help him uncover the lies; “aren´t we fighting on the same side?” Miller asks him. “Don´t be naďve.”

It isn´t all politics, though. There´s a good deal of Bourne in Green Zone as we follow Miller and his team on the ground as they track down a high-ranking Iraqi official and a potential informant. They encounter Freddy (Khalid Abdalla), an English-speaking Iraqi who was glad to see the old regime kicked out and wants to help; he serves as Miller´s translator, and their bond forms the heart of the film.

It´s all been said before, but Greengrass is the most effective action director working in Hollywood: his shaky-cam style isn´t exactly popular, but it´s masterfully employed to give us a sense of order amongst the chaos. While everything seems to be happening at the same time and too fast for us to follow, the shots match, the editing flows, and our eyes are able to pick up the necessary information required for the scenes to work: we´re always aware of the characters and where they are in relation to their surroundings, and a natural tension arises from this basic knowledge. I wish I could say the same for all the other recent action films that have shanghaied the shaky-cam aesthetics.

Green Zone was written by Brian Helgeland and sourced from the non-fiction novel Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran. How much is fiction, I cannot say, but most of it feels authentic enough for the movie to work.

Except for my one complaint: the final scenes reek of Hollywood formula, and try to wrap everything up in a nice little package. If only things turned out so clear-cut in real life…

***

Also opening: Furry Vengeance (showtimes | IMDb), a family comedy starring Brendan Fraser that was savaged by critics and audiences in the US. Screening in a Czech-dubbed version on Prague screens.

Also: Kung Fu Cyborg (showtimes | IMDb), a sci-fi comedy from director Jeffrey Lau. Screening in Japanese with Czech subtitles.

And: Hurvínek na scéně 3D (showtimes), a Czech-produced 3D animated film starring the classic puppets Spejbl and Hurvinek. Screening in Czech.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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