Female bonding

The ‘Sex and the City’ ladies are back, in Abu Dhabi, no less, and with a $10 million wardrobe budget

From left: Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) battle midlife crises together in “Sex and the City 2.’’ From left: Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) battle midlife crises together in “Sex and the City 2.’’ (Craig Blankenhorn)
By Judy Abel
Globe Correspondent / May 23, 2010

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NEW YORK — Samantha is fighting an escalating war with menopause. Carrie and Miranda have lines around their eyes and mouths that weren’t there before. And Charlotte looks as though she might occasionally nip at some of those delectable cupcakes she bakes with her kids.

It’s true. Even the “Sex and the City’’ girls are not immune to aging. In their new movie, “Sex and the City 2,’’ which opens nationwide on Thursday, all are in the throes of a midlife crisis. But these ladies don’t sulk. Instead they ramp up their wardrobes, step up their antics and outrage, outrage against the dying light.

Their instincts are sound, according to experts. Jacqueline Olds, a professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General and McLean hospitals, said while most of us can’t relate to the splashy clothes and endless glitz, the ladies’ intimacy and support for one another resounds with most women.

“It’s been a trend for a long time that women turn to each other,’’ said Olds, who co-wrote “The Lonely American.’’ “Friendships help restore your sense of proportion when you’re losing it, which happens as we get older.’’

So it’s no wonder all four “Sex and the City’’ girls thought taking solace in one another during a trip to Abu Dhabi, paid for by Samantha’s potential public relations client, was good for what ailed them. Once they arrive, there seems to be a limitless supply of luxury, fun, and excuses to change clothes — which have always been a few of their favorite things.

While filming the Abu Dhabi part of the movie, which was actually shot in Morocco, the actresses said they grew closer.

“I came away loving them more than I ever have because I got to see them in a new way,’’ Sarah Jessica Parker said of her costars at a press conference for the film last Sunday. It was held in the shoe department at Bergdorf Goodman. The movie’s first scene takes place in the department store.

“I was so reliant on them and I was so challenged by the work that they were doing, how good they were and what thoroughbreds they were,’’ she said. “And nothing could get us down — no matter how hungry we were, no matter how much we had to go to the bathroom.’’

The film, based on the series, which ran from 1998 to 2004, is a sequel to the blockbuster 2008 movie. This one is meant to be a kiss to women everywhere, said writer and director Michael Patrick King.

“My inspiration for the first movie was the girls reuniting, and my inspiration for this movie was the audience for the first movie,’’ he said during the press conference. “When I would see the audience showing up, dressed and having cocktails before . . . I knew that when we did the sequel, I wanted it to be a continuation of the party for the audience.’’

When he began writing the film in the midst of a sinking economy, King said he was clear about what he needed to do.

“Like in the Great Depression, I thought Hollywood should take people on a big vacation which they really couldn’t afford, “ he said. “So I thought — big party, big extravagant vacation. I didn’t think it was my job to have Carrie Bradshaw sell apples under the 59th Street Bridge — it was our job to give everyone the vacation that maybe they can’t afford now. They can go with their girlfriends to the night out and go on vacation with their other girlfriends, who are these four ladies.’’

At the outset of the film, something is gnawing at each of the girls. Carrie (Parker), who has been married for two years, bristles at the confines of domesticity and predictable comfort. Samantha (Kim Cattrall) totes around a satchel full of homeopathic pills and creams in strict adherence to 63-year-old Suzanne Somers’ advice on warding off hot flashes and a diminished libido. Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) feels stifled by her job, where her male boss is dismissive and condescending. And Charlotte (Kristin Davis) is afraid to admit to herself, or anyone else, that caring for two small children can often be draining and dreary.

“That’s what’s wonderful about going away — the fact that girls get to go to a deeper level together,’’ Davis said on Sunday.

For Parker, the bond among the four characters has been a poignant and valuable example of the power of female friendship.

“I really, really love how these women love each other,’’ she said at the Bergdorf event. “And I love how decent and honorable they are toward one another. And I love how they respect one another and how [the characters] were never made to be friends. Their DNA is so radically different from one to the next and yet they have this incomparable friendship. It’s really inspiring to me and it changes the way I think about my friendships — the way I look at friends, the way I respond to friends’ choices.’’

While the characters may be different, they do have a few things in common. In addition to a shared fondness for long lunches and salty banter, they love fashion. In fact, rather than tamp down their outfits with age, they seem to have turned up the volume.

Thanks to a $10 million wardrobe budget, the clothes in this film are even more gorgeous and eye-popping than they were in the first. Parker’s character goes through 41 outfits. So as Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte strut around in their Christian Louboutin and Manolo Blahnik shoes, draped in Dior, Alexander McQueen, and Pucci, each displaying an individual sense of style, you don’t get the sense that these women are planning to settle into quiet routines any time soon.

Why should they? Manhattan psychotherapist Merle Brenner says if strapping on the heels and the fancy duds makes them feel better, there’s no reason to stop.

“It’s important to wear clothes that make you feel good and if they can pull it off, why shouldn’t they?’’ Brenner said.

She says that women relate to the four protagonists because many of them turn to female friends when the world seems a little unstable. “It’s really those female relationships that get us through hard times,’’ said Brenner, who started a support group for women who were anxious about their children leaving home.

Even if women have supportive and loving husbands, there’s often no substitute for the best girlfriends, she said.

Just ask Samantha, who in the film turns down a date with a handsome man because she committed to spending the night with her gal pals.

“We made a deal a while ago,’’ she says in the scene. “Men, babies — it doesn’t matter. We’re soulmates.’’

Who wouldn’t raise a cosmo to that?

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