Sex and the City Carrie on!

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The vivacious girlfriends we know and love are back in the sequel to the immensely popular film and TV series to help jumpstart the summer movie season back into high-fashion. “Sex and the City 2”proves that sometimes you just have to get away with the girls.

Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte (Kristin Davis), and Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) are whisked away from their darling Big Apple homes on a glamorous, sun-drenched adventure to one of the most luxurious, exotic and vivid places on Earth: Abu Dhabi. This escape comes exactly at the right moment for the four friends since they are finding themselves fighting against the traditional roles of marriage, motherhood, and more.

Twelve years, six seasons and one hugely successful feature film, “Sex and the City” has grown into an international phenomenon, with audiences around the world feeling so close to Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda that they practically consider them more like personal friends than fictional characters.

Michael Patrick King, the writer, producer, and director, recalls that when the movie first opened he would see women standing in line all dressed up:

 “I would see lines of women at the theaters all dressed up as if they were going to a party, not just a movie. It felt to me like they were excited to celebrate this special time with their girlfriends—both the ones in the seats and on the screen. So when I thought about the sequel, I knew I wanted it to be the continuation of the party. I wanted the movie to be the party.”

“These four women are not traditional and never have been. Miranda had a baby out of wedlock, then got married late, and she’s the alpha spouse. Charlotte converted to Judaism, adopted an Asian daughter and had another daughter. Samantha has tried relationships and decided she’s always going to be single. And Carrie is somebody who has tried everything she can to make her relationship work and still be a self-employed writer,” said King.

“At the start of this movie, each of these four characters has found herself beginning to feel boxed in by one of those ‘female’ roles,” King says. “Carrie Bradshaw, the eternal single girl, now finds herself struggling with the title of wife. How does the title of ‘Mrs.’ affect a woman whose identity, not to mention career path as a writer, has been tied to the idea of being single?  Miranda, a partner at a prestigious New York Law firm, has discovered that despite all her years to prove otherwise, there can be a glass ceiling for women who work. Charlotte, who always dreamed of being the perfect mother to a loving family, now has the loving family and is discovering just how far out of her reach being the ‘perfect’ mother really is. The outrageous and outspoken Samantha takes on the taboo of menopause and aging by fighting the idea that when a woman goes through the ‘change,’ she should have to change,” said King.

In bringing “Sex and the City,” to the big screen, the filmmakers and cast felt a great sense of responsibility to their characters, especially Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda, because each of the women is reflected somewhere in the audience. Therefore, in “Sex and the City 2,” even though they vacate their daily lives and take an exhilarating romp in a stunning locale, the women continue to face very human, true-to-life concerns, as voiced by the ever-questioning chronicler, Carrie.

“Carrie is truly the heart and soul of it all,” says King. “Even when the story focuses on the other women, we hear and see it from Carrie’s perspective to some degree.”

When we first glimpse Carrie and Big in their home together, Carrie Bradshaw—now

also known as Mrs. John Preston—is feeling a bit unsettled in her settled, married life, wondering “what happens after you say ‘I do.’” And because Carrie is also a writer, she has even gone so far as to express her feelings about the idea of marriage in her new book, I Do, Do I?, a collection of comic essays in which she lampoons the idea of traditional wedding vows.

“Carrie has spent her career writing about being single, and for the first time she’s writing about a different topic, being married,” Sarah Jessica Parker observes. “The truth is, she doesn’t know a lot about it yet. But she’s learned that there’s a difference between having a wedding and being married. She’s been married for a very short time and she’s not quite wearing it as comfortably as she wants to.”

Miranda Hobbes, having gotten past Steve’s infidelity in the last film, finds herself finally comfortable and secure at home. It’s her job that’s causing her grief. She’s grown increasingly frustrated at work, where her obvious talents are being thwarted by her arrogant and clearly chauvinistic boss.

“Miranda has always defined herself as a career person,” says Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda. “Men might come and go; maybe she would be a mother, maybe she wouldn’t, but she was a lawyer. Now she’s made partner in a great law firm, she has a terrific salary, but she has a new boss who can’t stand the sight or sound of her. We all have our breaking point, and Miranda is reaching hers. To all of a sudden be set adrift and to try to figure out, ‘If I’m not a lawyer, who am I? What else is left of me?’ That would be a big deal for anybody, but particularly so for someone who has defined herself through her career for her entire adult life.”

“An intriguing subliminal thought about the Miranda storyline is that in the first half of the movie she is tied to her job, her face always buried in her BlackBerry. But once she makes the decision to put down the BlackBerry, she sees the world,” says King.

Also a wife and mother, Charlotte York-Goldenblatt has spent the last two years in the midst of her growing family, and now finds herself in the middle of the “terrible twos” with her daughter Rose. “Things are not going smoothly for Charlotte,” admits Kristin Davis. “She still really wants everything to be perfect, and it’s hard for her to accept the fact that it’s not…and that she’s not perfect either. It’s been her ongoing struggle throughout the life of the character. It’s a continuous battle as to how overachieving she can be and how many surprises have to be thrown her way before she can actually let go a little bit and stop this pursuit of perfection. And now baby Rose is the biggest challenge of all, even if Charlotte can’t admit it.”

Another thing Charlotte doesn’t see is how attractive her new nanny, Erin, is. After Samantha points it out, she wonders whether her husband, Harry, may stray in that direction.

“Charlotte’s storyline has a lot to do with trust,” says King. “Because of the exhaustion that can come with the demands of motherhood, she is too worn down to trust her own instincts about the choice of her nanny, her husband’s fidelity and even her own abilities as a mother. This little getaway with the girls gives her the luxury of some much needed sleep and she regains her ability to trust her instincts again.”

The most outgoing of the foursome, Samantha Jones is a smart hedonist who lives life on her own terms is back on the prowl, and once again, represents the epitome of freedom. “Samantha is back in her seat of power, back in her town with her girlfriends—her family—around her,” Kim Cattrall says.

However, this time around, life is throwing the sexy blonde a few curveballs as she is forced to deal with the idea of aging and what locking horns with the first symptoms of menopause means for her liberated lifestyle. Cattrall looked forward to approaching this fact of life from a comedic point of view. “For me, incorporating comedy into a menopausal storyline was incredibly gratifying, because you hear so many negative stories about what women have to go through at that time of their lives,” she comments. “I feel we’ve taken that subject and mined gold out of it by making it human and funny and accessible. Samantha has a tremendous lust for life and she’s a powerhouse about her sexuality; she enjoys it and integrates it into every aspect of her life. So when that part of her is challenged, she fights back with all she’s got.”

Perhaps the most obvious means by which the filmmakers chose to break with tradition was to break out of the series’ traditional setting, New York City. Though the ladies had been to a resort in Mexico together, King really wanted to go much further afield this time, someplace where these characters could take in the sights and sounds of a world completely foreign to them, both as Americans and, primarily, as women.

“Michael wanted to take them out of their comfort zone and put them into a completely different culture, so he thought of the Middle East—the new Middle East,” said John Melfi, another producer on the film.

King was particularly interested in the United Arab Emirates. “I wanted to go global,” he says. “I wanted to portray a bigger world view of women because when we opened the first movie in cities like London and Berlin and France and Tokyo, I started to see that this was reaching more than just American women, that women around the world were identifying with these storylines and these issues and these characters.”

The opportunity to go to abroad comes when Samantha meets a gentleman named Sheik Khalid at a movie premiere. The sheik hopes the public relations maven might be able to do for his hotel in Abu Dhabi what she did for the movie’s career—make all of

America see it as a star—and invites her to visit, all expenses paid. Of course, Samantha makes bringing her girlfriends with her part of the deal.

Morocco stood in for Abu Dhabi, and the bulk of shooting there took place in Marrakech, as the Emirates refused to allow filming to take place in Abu Dhabi, as well as the film has been banned from cinemas in the region, there is still the one concept of the film and show that still speaks to women all over the world: the fashion.

While perhaps no one does New York film fashion better than “Sex and the City” costume designer Patricia Field, “Sex and the City 2” presented her and her team with an entirely new set of challenges. Culture shock doesn’t begin to describe what might happen when Blahniks meet burqas under the desert sky.

“I get a huge amount of inspiration from the script,” Field says, “and I had a lot of fun with this one because it took us away to a magical place. The fantasy element of it was really special, and a great jumping off place to make it gorgeous, and less about reality.”

“I think what was most interesting to me about the ‘Sex and the City 2’ shoot was getting away with everyone,” Sarah Jessica Parker says. “We were all removed from the most important people in our lives, our families, and that was very difficult, but I think it also helped us grow even closer than ever—and we’ve all been pretty close going on 12 years now. It was probably the best time we ever had as a group, and it was so great to have that experience.”

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