NEW YORK (Reuters) - Swilling cocktails, saucy language and wearing sexy outfits is the bedrock of “Sex and the City” and now the franchise’s new movie sequel transplants the four leading ladies from New York to the Middle East.
The film’s leading character Carrie Bradshaw and her sidekicks — Miranda, Charlotte and the promiscuous Samantha — try to be respectful and demure, but the movie’s makers admit that, in keeping with their characters, they sometimes fail.
Samantha, played by Kim Cattrall, gets in hot water for kissing in public. The movie jokes about women in burqas and has gossip about whether a Middle Eastern butler is gay.
The movie’s director Michael Patrick King said any off-kilter notes were in keeping with the characters’ normal behavior, whether they be in Abu Dhabi or New York.
“The reality is Samantha Jones is outrageous wherever she goes, whether it be Starbucks ... or Abu Dhabi,” he said. “She is an unapologetic individual.”
While aspects of the movie, which opens in the United States next week, might stir controversy in some circles in the Middle East, the movie is not slated to be shown there. Distributor Warner Bros. said it has no plans to release the film in any country in the Middle East.
Jessica Zacholl, spokeswoman for Warner Bros., noted that the original Sex and the City movie and many Warner movies did not play there either. Warner Bros. is a unit of Time Warner Inc.
Looking to escape various pressures and married life, “Sex and the City 2” sees the four women take up a decadent free holiday offered to Samantha to stay in Abu Dhabi.
The characters, who have pushed boundaries in the past on what sex and dating tales are socially acceptable for women to air openly, vary in their reactions to the different setting.
Cynthia Nixon, playing lawyer Miranda who is sensitive to the local culture, said the characters’ reactions were in keeping with their personalities.
“Samantha is disrespectful, but Samantha is disrespectful in New York and she is disrespectful in the Middle East and she just really doesn’t care,” she said.
Scenes where the four women seek to understand women wearing burqas show their curiosity, said Nixon.
“The characters are trying to make sense of that, is it their choice? Or is it men’s choice and what does it make them feel?” said Nixon.
The sequel is set in the United Arab Emirates and filmed in Morocco. It pays homage to the desert scenery and romantic notions of the culture — and features a few stinging scenes of some of the characters reacting to local traditions.
Documentary director Ahmed Ahmed, whose recent “Just Like Us” told the true story of American comedians testing out their humor in the Middle East, said the movie avoided the biggest pitfall — joking about religion.
The first movie received mixed reviews but grossed a successful $415 million at box offices worldwide.
Despite the incongruous setting for the sequel, Nixon said the movie highlights the common challenges of women from New York to Abu Dhabi, noting her character has difficulty getting promoted at her Manhattan law firm and Samantha finds a shared experience with menopause.
She said the film is not trying to say, “Women have all the freedoms in America and none of the freedoms in the Middle East, it is far more nuanced and complicated than that.”
Other members of the cast hope the movie can be taken for the light-hearted entertainment it is intended to be.
“We are really talking about these girls from one culture inhabiting another culture for a period of time and the antics they get into,” said Kim Cattrall, who plays Samantha. “But this a road movie, not a political thriller.”
In the end, the movie hopes to celebrate women bonding whatever their culture. “Women would much rather be allies than adversaries,” said Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Carrie.
Additional reporting by Gemma Haines, editing by Mark Egan and Frances Kerry