Oh, Fifty Shades Darker. It’s impossible to fantasize about what could have been. Foundations for an erotic trashterpiece are laid, but director James Foley doesn’t understand camp sensibilities. With someone like Rob Cohen in charge (The Boy Next Door, anyone?), all those flatlining dramatics and misplaced jokes would gel together. Fluid sensuality with spanking, oils and cuffs, dictated by a sadist who gets off on punishing mommy lookalikes (hawt). Instead, Foley’s tonal jerkiness kills the mood like an awkward boner, shocking this dominating system with unexpected diversions.
Oh, but this is the relationshippy Fifty Shades entry. Right. Christian Grey (
A Bucket Of Dry Cement Jamie Dornan) cannot live another day with Anastasia (Dakota Johnson), so he opens contract negotiations. No punishments, no rules, and no secrets. Ana doesn’t take much convincing, and their relationship blossoms under the new respectful boundaries. Sexual desires become less whippy, but something still isn’t right. A stranger (Leila, played by Bella Heathcote) appears to be stalking Ana, and she just might be tied to Christian’s past. Can Christian’s desires be repressed? Will Leila ruin everything? Can Ana keep her shirt on for one whole scene?!
Regrettably, Fifty Shades Darker doesn’t know what film it wants to be. A subversive foray into kink à la Secretary? Deathly serious romantics torn from the pages of Nicholas Sparks novels? Niall Leonard’s screenplay attempts a not-so-subtle balancing act, but Foley cannot unite both aspects in unholy matrimony. Cheesy dialogue plays against straight-faced declarations, as wooden acting ruins what one might assume are moments of tension (sincerity is impossible to decipher). Foley continues to wink like Fifty Shades Darker is one sex-crazed joke, only to follow said winks with stern, cold-stare smolders. I am confused by your intentions, movie!
Eh, who am I kidding? There’s no sugarcoating it. Fifty Shades Darker is softcore pornography. You’re here for the “Red Room” depravity, but Christian’s playroom is mostly off-limits this time. Instead, Christian and Ana bone all over his playboy apartment, or in his old childhood bedroom, or Anastasia’s bed. That’s the whole first hour. Christian and Ana act bored in social settings, Christian whispers something extremely forward, then some lame sexy-time ballad cues thrusting, gyrating bodies. We play voyeur, and then we’re back to
A Jar Of Mayonaise Jamie Dornan acting through his abs (doesn’t really work when clothed). It’s a repetitive cycle of redundant T & A, never sustaining 118 minutes of Grey.
Now, I know E.L. James doesn’t give Leonard much to work with, but I’ve seen pornos with better dialogue. “I’ll make you cum harder than any other guy can,” says the overly-aggressive, sexual predator boss. “You taught me how to fuck, she taught me how to love,” says a furious Christian Grey (if
A Vanilla Ice Cream Cone Dornan could show emotion). “You’re not putting those in my butt,” says a very confident Anastasia, before Christian inserts metallic balls into another stimulating location.
E.L. James, you cunning master of wordsmithery.
Then there are admissions like Christian’s sadism confession, or “fights” that reach resolution before anyone gets mad. You know, dramatic angles you don’t care about because you’re here for some Valentine’s Day sleaze.
Dornan, that human statue, is a charisma vacuum who’s at his best when naked and mute. Shut up and rub against that Johnson! A hilarious helicopter crash sequence exemplifies Fifty Shades Darker‘s inept dramatic vision best. Mere minutes pass between Christian’s
exciting green-screen descent, Ana’s group stress-session with the Grey family, and Christian WALKING IN THE ROOM AS HIS NAME IS ANNOUNCED ON LIVE TELEVISION. Plot points moves quicker than a drunk teen-comedy virgin on prom night, void of any cohesive vision.
When one of the most important scenes between Christian and Ana is hijacked by a random-as-fuck The Chronicles Of Riddick poster in Christian’s childhood bedroom, you know the kind of movie you’re watching. And Foley STILL won’t let it be that movie.
You won’t care about Christian’s revelatory flashbacks, or a lacking take on social gender norms that break women from the shackles of ownership. Fifty Shades Darker is not smart enough to spark a movement. Hell, it couldn’t even beat Underworld: Blood Wars to a stand-up cunnilingus scene (vampires do it better). My post-screening notes tell a story of what truly matters to Fifty Shades Darker. Stuff like “sexy pommel horse scene,” and “Who works out to The Police’s “So Lonely??” Or my favorite, “They’re inside his apartment, with so many rooms to fuck in – why did they get in his shower fully clothed?!?! KINKY LOVE IS SO UNPREDICTABLE LOL.” Then there’s “Drink every time someone says ‘cum,'” along with “So that whole Leila arc means nothing, eh?” Man, this movie has a way with words.
The more I think about Fifty Shades Darker, the madder I get. Erotic thrillers just aren’t made with the same dangerous sex appeal anymore, nor are they given franchise backing. I mean, I get why this movie happened as it did. Hungry target audiences are going to wander into dreamland whenever
A Freshly Painted Fence That Is Drying Jamie Dornan throws Dakota Johnson on a bed, bodies tangled in “romantic” elation. R-rated, shot-from-the-side-so-you-don’t-see-bottom-stuff hotness. Lyrics convey more story than actual scripted lines, as we hear “I’m not scared anymore” upon a fireworks finale sex scene. You get it, right?! Ana is in the red room again, and she isn’t scared of Christian’s desires. You know, just in case word-by-word dialogue wasn’t easy enough to understand. There’s nothing to grasp, here. Just gawk at beauty and sleep through the rest. Honestly, what did you really expect?
Fifty Shades Darker is a befuddling, messy erotic "thriller" that shifts tones faster than audiences can keep up with.