"For as long as I could remember, the four of us shared everything. I
believed that the Sisterhood could survive anything. But we had to learn
on our own how to become ourselves...without losing each other."
Three years have passed since audiences last saw Tibby, Carmen, Bridget and Lena. They were 16 then, best friends, and just beginning to realize the possibilities that lay beyond the Bethesda neighborhood where they all grew up. That summer marked their first brief separation, as Lena visited her grandparents in Greece, Bridget attended soccer camp, Carmen adjusted to her divorced father's new household, and Tibby took a local job to fund her first major video project.
To help them keep in touch back then, they relied upon a unique messenger: a pair of vintage jeans, found in a thrift shop, that miraculously fit each of them perfectly and even seemed to bring them luck. They made a pact to mail the pants to one another throughout the summer months, with notes enclosed from each wearer to the next about everything that had happened during the time the pants were in her possession.
But things are different now. The issues they face now are more adult and the pace of life is faster.
Producer Denise Di Novi, who was also a producer on the original film, says, "The story picks up after the girls' first year of college. They have matured; their concerns and relationships are more complicated. We can see how their friendship has changed as they themselves are changing."
"It's a classic coming-of-age story, but these are modern 21st-century young women," says director Sanaa Hamri. "One of the things I like about the story is how authentic it is and age-appropriate. It's a time of fun and freedom and trying new things, but also a time when we all begin to deal seriously with relationships, self-discovery and confidence. There are often no easy answers to the fundamental questions about who we are and what we want."
It's also a time for learning how to stand up for yourself and what you believe in, as the girls will discover. Unexpected events can uncover painful truths or lead in exciting new directions. Strengths and talents emerge. And love-in its myriad forms-is everywhere.
"The 'Sisterhood' is popular because it's so relatable," observes returning producer Debra Martin Chase. "The movies I like best, and strive to make, are what I call 'universal in the specific.' They're simply about life, with themes that touch people, regardless of gender or generation. This is a story about four young women, but it's also about the kinds of things we all go through to find ourselves and our place in the world."
Equally relatable is that fact that, as Carmen, Tibby, Bridget and Lena pursue their chosen paths, they find it increasingly difficult to stay in touch.
The subtle disconnection becomes evident in the hurried messages they do exchange. Blake Lively, who stars as Bridget, explains. "Previously, the girls knew every facet of each others' lives and it took no time to catch up. Now, Tibby will start to tell Carmen something or Lena will break some new development to Bridget and realize they don't know enough about what's been going on to put this new information in context. They're just not in the loop anymore."
To some extent, that's a good thing. America Ferrera, who stars as Carmen, suggests, "Sometimes you need to see what you're capable of accomplishing on your own. It's time for them to step away from the safety net and find out who they are individually before they can truly appreciate what they have together. It's scary, but a tremendously exciting prospect."
Amber Tamblyn, starring in the role of Tibby, agrees. "When I was that age it was a very turbulent time for me and this film reflects exactly my state of mind. 'Do I really want to do what I'm doing; or do I even know what I'm doing?' Sometimes you have to spend some time alone with those questions."
And sometimes these separations, when they occur, become permanent.
"If you decide the distance is too much or you've grown too far apart, it might be best to let a relationship go. Other times, you fight to keep it," notes Alexis Bledel, who stars as Lena and whose storyline reveals not only the evolution of her bond with the sisterhood but with her former long-distance love, Kostos.
"The challenge," offers Chase, "is how to establish independent lives, accommodate change, and still hold on to each other. That's the challenge of any relationship and ultimately marks the difference between associations of the moment and ones that stand the test of time."
This dichotomy shapes the film's structure. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" relates Carmen's, Tibby's, Bridget's and Lena's stories as parallel lines that cross and re-cross throughout-a feat of style, logistics and, remarks producer Broderick Johnson, "expert pacing. The stories have to balance one another, connect and separate organically in a way that makes you feel that you're watching one continuous flow rather than four independent vignettes."
Essentially, says Di Novi, "It's five stories, because you have each of the girls' individual dramas contained within the larger framework that holds them together and moves them in the same direction. In adapting the novels, we had to be very judicious about what to include and what to omit. We tried to select the moments that best defined each character. What are their primary struggles? What are the highlights in their lives?"
Screenwriter Elizabeth Chandler, a writer on the original film in 2005, drew upon volumes two, three and four of Ann Brashares' award-winning and internationally best¬selling book series for the sequel, with an emphasis on the fourth, Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, which brings the friends to precisely this point. "It was decided that the new film would jump three years forward, after the girls had spent a year living very separate lives at different colleges. This allowed us to explore more mature issues and dramatize how the girls deal with these problems while the bonds of their friendship are beginning to unravel," she says.
"However, in trying to craft the most compelling storylines for each character, I incorporated certain dramatic elements from all three books that were particularly meaningful. For example, I adjusted the Turkey sequence to culminate in Bridget's realization that she has unresolved questions to pursue elsewhere, which then takes her to her grandmother's home in Alabama. By combining plotlines from the second and the fourth books, I was able to enhance Bridget's overall arc within the time span of the movie."
Developing the script was a collaborative process involving at times not only the director and producers but also input from the four lead actresses.
Says Hamri, "Our goal was to satisfy the fans of the original movie and the books and, at the same time, create a self-contained saga for an audience that may not have seen 'The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' or know the books. That really is the job of a sequel. I knew we had a tough act to follow. But I also knew that these characters had been so well-developed and presented with such honesty that it was clear to see they had a future."
"They really have a life of their own," says producer Kira Davis. "After the first movie, I believe we felt that these characters deserved to live on and, as filmmakers, we approached the sequel with as much anticipation as fans. We wanted to see what these women were going to do next."
And the pants?
Maybe it never really was about the pants.
The Sisterhood...and Significant Others
"Of course, we would never have considered a sequel without the four actresses who introduced these wonderful characters to audiences everywhere," states Chase, echoing the sentiments of her colleagues.
As life often imitates art, the four young women who met on the set of the first film struck a genuine rapport and have remained friends off-camera since that production wrapped, in their own way reinforcing the "Sisterhood" principle even as their film, stage and television careers keep them very busy and take them around the globe.
Says Di Novi, "I've made many films over the past 20 years and rarely have I seen the kind of chemistry that these women create together."
"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" reunites the foursome with key characters from the first film while introducing several important new ones, expanding the term "significant others" beyond its standard romantic application to include a wide range of influential people in their lives-family members, mentors and new friends.
Not that there isn't plenty of romance...
Audiences will recognize two familiar handsome faces: Lena's love Kostos, and Tibby's longtime boyfriend Brian McBrian. These young men have also progressed in the ensuing three years on their own trajectories toward adulthood, and returning stars Michael Rady and Leonardo Nam convey that deeper maturity in their roles.
Help, as well as heartache, continues to spring from new and unpredictable sources and every encounter has the potential to help define Carmen, Tibby, Bridget and Lena as the women they are becoming.