Movie Review: ’50 Shades Darker’
Director: James Foley
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes
Plot: Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey reunite and attempt to make their relationship work with Christian letting go of his sadistic urges. The appearance of two women from his past complicates matters.
Review: Long time readers will know that my previous experience with these books and films have not given me much enjoyment. Hated them might be a better way to sum up my feelings. But every movie deserves its chance to stand alone and defy expectation so it is with a brave face we return to the Red Room.
The biggest issue with the performances in the original film was that the actors had no chemistry. Zero. I’d say that they share the chemistry of two sticks of wood, but wood generates heat when you rub them together. At times it felt as though the two actors couldn’t stand each other. This problem has gone some way to being remedied. Johnson and Dornan could convince us that they are at least friendly acquaintances. The performances have…kind of improved but there’s only so much you can do with the material. This sequel does, fortunately, take itself less seriously than the previous film so there’s some intentional humour that lands well.
We last saw our characters breaking up after Ana consented to letting Christian play out his fantasies and she didn’t like it. This film wastes so little time in getting the two of them back together that it’s largely inconsequential. The most confusing aspect of this plot development is that it happens at all because of the number of red flags Christian sends up is astounding.
For starters, this is her ex-boyfriend who buys six massive, larger than life portraits of her from a national gallery because he doesn’t want anyone looking at her.
Immediately after their first, unexpected meet they agree to try the relationship again and Christian drops her home. He hands her a ready and waiting gift – a new computer and phone loaded up with his contacts and an already delivered message. Let’s remember that the last time he got his hands on her phone he used it to track her without her knowledge or consent.
Then it’s revealed and just as quickly dismissed that he had private detectives follow her around prior to them dating and putting together a very, very thick file on her everyday activities.
Then we have the usual turning up at her business and acting crazy possessive, the capper being that he tells her that he gets “turned on by punishing woman who look like his mother”.
At this point the only satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy would be the revelation that he’s Norman Bates.
The movie ups the stakes with the introduction to the woman who turned Christian on to BDSM, but this plot is only setting up the next movie, a love rival in the form of Ana’s boss and a crazy stalker looking to kill Ana. These plot elements are dropped into narrative and developed with the smoothness of a ben wa balls tangled in the chain of a broken bicycle. Most of them disappear for the entirety of the 2nd act. None of these characters are more developed than a sheet of cardboard and feel as useful.
Oh, and I suppose there’s the hot spicy sex to talk about, being the main selling point and all. There’s a couple of very short sex scenes (mainly because Anastasia orgasms with a tap on her shoulder) with the occasional toy to liven things up. All these scenes can be described like a nice hospital room. Clean, dry and sterile. The infamous BDSM aspect is treated like a mental illness in spite of research suggesting the opposite. It just leads to the unsettling feeling that Ana is going to end up a lampshade.
If you enjoyed the first film you’ll enjoy this one. It’s more likely that you’ll just be left confused by the helicopter crash that Christian seemingly walked home from. Maybe it was on loan from Suicide Squad.
Rating: THREE out of TEN