The Knot

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SATC2: Embracing Your Outer 40s

I resisted seeing Sex And The City 2 with the media scrum because I wanted to see it as the makers intended: with a group of girlfriends my own age.

Five 40-something women left our partners and children at home for the evening, slipped on our favourite heels (that would make Carrie proud) and swanned down to The Verona in Paddington for a spectacular ride.

From the extravagant gay wedding and references to eighties fashion, to Carrie's to-die-for maxi dresses in a multitude of colours (I’m about to embrace my outer emerald green) SATC2 is a visual fantasy. But it’s not for everyone.

Unlike the series and first movie, where the girls are in single land hoping to find Mr Right (or in Carrie’s case – land Mr Big), time and lifestages have moved on in this second instalment. Carrie is still married to Mr Big and is experiencing the slump of the terrible twos (the Gen-X version of the seven-year itch; we have always been such an impatient lot). Charlotte has two little girls and is living the parenting hell of the original terrible twos (I’m allowed to express this as I’m a mother, PC or not). Miranda is smashing herself against the glass ceiling of her law firm and the reality of having it all: the husband, the child, the career, has resulted in battle fatigue (and for the first time I realised that although I have identified with Carrie throughout the series, my life is really Miranda’s). And Samantha is going through menopause.

SATC2 is generational, meaning that it would be hard to identify with the girls in their new lifestage unless you were over 40. We post-40 girls laughed, nodded, oohed, aahed, and averted our eyes ...only slightly...when Samantha's legs were in the air yet again. I loved that the film kick-started with the Liza Minelli version of Beyonce’s Single Ladies and wound up with Carrie and her BFs singing karaoke to Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. If those two songs don’t divide a generation, then nothing will.

Carrie’s clothes were breathtaking, thanks to the clever stylist Patricia Fields. I love that Carrie visited a traditional souk market in Abu Dhabi wearing a Dior singlet and cinderella-style ballskirt. Carrie didn’t sacrifice her extraordinary heels for her time in the desert. There was nothing she wore that I didn’t immediately want to own. Hell I even adored the headband she wore as best man at Stanford’s wedding.

Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha are representative of women post-40, if you can ignore the glamour and exotic location. What woman hasn’t harboured doubts about her marriage? What mother hasn’t wanted to lock herself in a room away from her screaming child? What career mum hasn’t felt pulled and pushed, unappreciated and guilty? And what menopausal woman hasn’t worried about maintaining her sex drive? Those are the honest truths of ageing, characterised for the big screen in a way that we want to see it: glamorised rather than raw. If I have to go through all of those things then god damn it, let me be frocked up to the nines wearing the best shoes my money can buy.

No one is holding them up to be role models: apart from the critics who do so for target practice. These women aren’t pretending to save lives, they aren’t developing anti-cancer drugs in their spare time and they aren’t kicking goals at the World Cup. They are merely providing much-needed escapism from the reality of most 40-something lives. What's wrong with a lot of fantasy?

I have a number of favourite scenes: Miranda and Charlotte being honest about enjoying their break away from their children, every scene with Aidan (you're either a Big or an Aidan woman) and when the women of Abu Dhabi strip off their burquas in female-only confines and display the very best of Louis Vuitton. I was in neighbouring Dubai a few years ago and was delighted to see some of the world's most divine and expensive shoes: the very latest Manolos, Jimmy Choos, Louboutins poking out from beneath burqas. Those women love fashion as much as we do. The difference is they can actually afford to wear the very best of it. While we wear our style as a badge, they strip down to high fashion only for each other and for their husbands. Vastly different cultures can still bond over fashion.

SATC2 has been panned and praised in equal measure - well actually it's mostly been panned by the critics and celebrated by moviegoers who have voted with their pockets.

If I have one criticism? Not enough shoes.


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