Review: Première of the Starlite Urban Drive-In

Roller-Skating Waitresses - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

As I trundled up Brick Lane on a beautifully warm July evening, taking in the scent of curry from all angles and smiling politely at invitations from various dashing-looking Indian gentlemen inviting me in for dinner, I was still finding it hard to envisage exactly what an “urban drive-in” would look like. When I thought drive-in, I couldn’t help but think of undulating Hollywood hills with a space full of battered old cars housing snogging teenagers. Very difficult (nay, impossible) to imagine in East London.

I eventually found my way into the exclusive VIP party at The Brickhouse and I was bowled over by what I saw. After helping Starlite founder Damian Barr with Silent Cinema back in 2008, I knew that he put on a damn good party – always full of glamour, always special – but this time he utterly surpassed himself.

Damian Barr - (c) Mary Rhiannon Price

On arrival, I gave my name to a very smiley lass at the door (phew, on the list) then walked past an enormous flashing neon drive-in sign and up the red carpet to be confronted with row upon row of shiny, beautiful, brand-new Volvos with tops down and doors flung open, full of glamorous people drinking cocktails. Waitresses in costume and on roller skates glided around with trays of Hendrick’s gin-based cocktails and retro canapés, including mini hot-dogs, espresso cups of sweetcorn chowder, mini prawn cocktails (which were divine) and spoonfuls of macaroni cheese. I just couldn’t stop staring at everything like a kid in a (very high-end) toy shop – it was like stepping into a world that’s normally reserved for the movies.

The Original Urban Drive-In - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

50s-style entertainment was provided by toe-tapping leggy lovelies The Tootsie Rollers and Pippa the Ripper,  the most phenomenal hula-hooping act I’ve ever seen in my life. Then, it was time for jiving with some rock ‘n’ roll choons before the drive-in entertainment began.

The fabulous Tootsie Rollers - (c) Mary Rhiannon Pryce

After a fair few cocktails (and a fair amount of wishful thinking) I decided I could totally see myself cruising along Brighton seafront in this, the ice-white Volvo C70. Clearly the lady sat next to me could see the lust in my eyes and said: “They are discounted by about 20% tonight you know?” Somehow, I didn’t think my credit limit would stretch quite that far… so a cab back to Victoria station it was.

Fabulous photos all courtesy of Mary Rhiannon Pryce.

Sex and the City 2: Trashy, sexy, funny… and just a little bit racist?

**SPOILER ALERT**

Last night – like millions other women – I got dolled up, went out for dinner, drank a few cocktails and headed to my local cinema to watch the eagerly anticipated Sex and the City 2. As much as I was so desperate to love it, so desperate to emerge from the cinema in floods of happy tears feeling empowered and sexy, I just felt more than a little bit bemused…

For the first hour, the film had every promise of being even better than the first one. Samantha was on top form, popping hormone pills left, right and centre; Charlotte’s perfectly polished exterior was gradually cracking due to a permanently screaming child; inevitable tensions were beginning to emerge in Carrie and Big’s marriage; and Miranda was sliding back into her crazy workaholic personality that drove Steve to have his affair in the first movie… Oh, and Liza Minelli performed Beyonce’s Single Ladies at the gay wedding of the century. Utterly genius. I could feel myself being drawn in at an unstoppable pace, luxuriously enjoying the most self-indulgent chick-flick ever.

Then, it all just went wrong for me.

In some bizarre twist, Samantha was given an all-expenses paid holiday to Abu Dhabi by a wealthy hotel owner/film-maker. Again, for the first 20 minutes of their holiday, this all seemed an incredible stroke of genius, where else to put these four impossibly glamorous women than amongst gorgeous desert scenery, luxuriously decorated surroundings and in suitably ludicrous outfits?

That was before it all declined into a slightly racist farce.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an open-minded kind of gal who enjoys edgy, borderline-offensive comedy as much as the next person. But this movie just went a step too far for me, coming across as a depiction of four ignorant forty-somethings outrageously voicing their prejudices by making some incredibly rude assumptions about women in burkhas and other traditions of middle-Eastern countries. It wasn’t even done in a satirical way – Carrie genuinely seemed to think that a woman lifting her veil to eat french fries was something that should have been in a zoo. That made me a little uncomfortable, I don’t know about anyone else. At least I think it made me uncomfortable… or was I spectacularly missing something?

Another distinctly cringe-inducing element for me was the fact that Samantha seemed to turn from the outrageous, sex-obsessed woman that we all know and love into a mutton-dressed-as-lamb, menopausal, nymphomaniacial banshee. Of course, this led to her being arrested, which bizarrely led to her having the most frightening condom-waving breakdown in the middle of a marketplace.

There were, to give the trashy chick-flick its due, some incredibly funny and touching moments such as Charlotte and Miranda’s heartfelt mum-to-mum exchange, Carrie and Big’s tearful make-up and Stanford and Anthony’s wedding vows, just to name my personal favourites. I just can’t help but feel that over all it tried far too hard to better the first movie, which was wonderful in its simplicity just like the television series. I wish they’d all just stayed in New York where their personalities actually belong.