In the circles I move in, the Sex and the City franchise has become decidedly uncool. Most of my friends’ pleasure in Sex and the City 2 seems to have become about anticipating the next catty, bilious review.

The general consensus is that, if the show hadn’t already lost its wisdom and wit by the end of its 94-episode run, they certainly haven’t survived the transition to the big screen — let alone for a second outing. Sex and the City’s signature cocktails, designer fashion fetishism and bawdy female solidarity were always fantasies that have become ever-tawdrier caricatures of ‘glamour’ as the franchise has lumbered into middle age. And they inevitably seem try-hard and embarrassing when re-enacted in real life.

How to animate this movie with sensory pleasure and a sense of occasion was the dilemma facing Roadshow and the various sponsors of the red-carpet Sex And The City 2 premiere event I attended on Friday night. As I offered my personalised entry pass to be scanned at the door, I couldn’t help but wonder … how much champagne could make this less lame?

The red carpet stretched from the gilded doors to the grand sweeping staircase of Melbourne’s art deco palais du cinéma, the Rivoli. To one side was a pitifully small, gimlet-eyed press pack who hadn’t been invited to the film itself; only to the photo call. They lowered their cameras again as I scuttled down the carpet in my Big W canvas shoes.

Two promo girls at the end of the carpet, bearing trays of multi-coloured macarons, prolonged my humiliation. “Which colour do you recommend?” I asked one of them solicitously, as if debating the purchase of a new Birkin bag. She pointed to the raspberry ones.

At the top of the stairs, another squad of tight-black-T-shirted promo infants lay in ambush, armed with noxious atomisers of Sarah Jessica Parker’s appalling new fragrance. Theirs was not the sweet smell of success, as guest after guest recoiled from the fly-spray tang.

A Middle Eastern-themed tent had been erected on the balcony, complete with gauzy curtains, cushions and stacks of Turkish delight, but the real action was around the bar, which was offering two varieties of a Skyy-vodka-and-Cinzano-vermouth cocktail — one clear, one pink. I chose pink, because cranberry juice is great for the urinary tract, and hung back with my plus-one for some celebrity-spotting.

The carnivalesque Alannah Hill stood out instantly, as did Michael Klim. A frighteningly tiny Naomi Robson was there — disappointingly sans swearing and cackling — and so was Fox FM’s Jo Stanley. I didn’t spot any other fixtures on Melbourne’s A-list, although there were heaps of people with vaguely familiar faces. To be fair though, the RSVP list in Roadshow’s presser had included ten ‘celebrities’ I didn’t even recognise by name.

Moving on from cocktails to the free Moët & Chandon champagne in my desperate bid to get as drunk as possible before the film started, I noticed a peculiar green-screen set-up in one corner, sponsored by Hewlett Packard. (Risibly, the film depicts Carrie Bradshaw, a Mac user throughout the series, working on an HP laptop.) The idea appeared to be that you’d pose with your ‘girlfriends’, be superimposed on a New York background, then they’d print out the pic for you to take home. Forgotten glossies littered the HP table.

We finally hit the cinema to discover a goodie bag on each seat. The best thing in it was a Cherry Ripe bar; it also contained Lady Jayne bobby pins, purse-sized emery boards, a vial of SJP’s stinkbomb and a copy of Grazia magazine. Apparently the bag itself could be used to store shoes in, although it’s wasted on my collection of sub-$10 canvas flats.

The cinema goers were so drunk that they guffawed raucously at a trailer for Drew Barrymore’s forthcoming rom-com Going The Distance and were apoplectic with laughter during Sex and the City 2 itself. My own impression was that the film was indeed bad, but not as comprehensively so as the scathing early reviews had suggested.

Lindy West had suggested it was “essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls” — and my companion and I had indeed mimed doll play to each other during the most absurd scenes. So you can imagine our delight when we emerged from the cinema, already hungover, to be handed our own Barbie Fashionista™ doll each!

What made this Friday evening so enjoyable was the desperation of the various brands involved to one-up each other in the product-placement stakes. We got to wallow in the warm shallows of consumerism without having to cough up a cent. Is this a bad thing? Let me just ask Barbie (jiggles doll about in the air) — ”Mee-mee-mee-meee.”

*Mel Campbell is editor and publisher of The Enthusiast, which regularly publishes ‘schmooze reviews’ of invitation-only promotional events.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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