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‘Fifty Shades Darker’ (review)

Produced by Michael De Luca, E. L. James,
Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi
Screenplay by Niall Leonard
Based on Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James
Directed by James Foley
Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan,
Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora,
Bella Heathcote,, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk,
Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden


Fifty Shades Darker is a faithful adaptation of the second book in the Fifty Shades series written by E.L.James.

Which means if you liked the books or the first movie you will probably enjoy the Fifty Shades Darker.  If you you thought source material or the first film was trash, then get ready to not be surprised.  Fifty Shades Darker is just more of the same.

This sequel picks up shortly after Fifty Shades of Grey ends.  It is the continuation of the co-dependent fairy tale of the naive young girl who “fixes/saves” the cold, worldly man with nothing but herself and love. If you were a Twilight fan, then this is probably your speed.

Dakota Johnson reprises her role as Anastasia “Ana” Steele, your girl-next-door that catches the fancy of handsome yet emotionally damaged billionaire Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan.

For a story that entirely revolves around passion and love healing old wounds and conquering all odds, this onscreen couple’s passion couldn’t ignite flash paper with a blowtorch.  Johnson and Dornan have no chemistry whatsoever, which makes the sex scenes somewhat comical, but definitely not erotic.  Johnson’s bland delivery of lines may have been an aesthetic choice by director James Foley to enhance Anastasia’s “vanilla” personality.  However, the approach does not have a long shelf life.  Halfway through the film I found myself bored with Ana and wondering how she could hold the attention of anyone beyond two hours.

Jamie Dornan has shown himself to be a complex actor with such rolls as Paul Spector on the tv series The Fall.  Unfortunately there is little evidence of it in Fifty Shades Darker.  His Christian Grey plays at one note the entire film.  Even when he is supposed to be happy, the emotion never quite comes through.  It’s a disappointing performance from an otherwise talented actor.

The supporting cast is made up of some great actors who are wasted in short scenes with barely any screen time to make an impression.  Marcia Gay Harden as Christian’s adoptive mother, Grace, makes the most of her meager role and lends some much needed depth and character development for Grey. Kim Basinger as Elena Lincoln, one of the the stories main antagonists, is barely a blip on the radar, so much so that when the climatic confrontation happens towards the end of the film, the audience barely has any basis for why the confrontation is a big deal in the first place.  Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson, The Knick) who will play an important part in the third installment is given an estimated 6 minutes of screentime.  I could have done with a little less awkward, cross eyed close-ups of the lovers looking at each other and a little more time with the rest of the cast.  Having a firm story populated by more than ghost of other characters would have given Anastasia and Grey’s relationship more depth.

Let’s face it.  No one goes to Fifty Shades Darker for the writing, character development, or the plot twists.  They are going for the “naughty bits’.  But with the lack of chemistry between the actors, and the repetitive filming and editing of the love scenes, the parts of the film that are supposed to be titillating and risque are actually quite monotonous.  Location and accoutrements may change, but it’s the same close-ups of Ana biting her lip and moaning with sprinkles of other body parts included.  The same formula used over and over.

Even though I disliked the books and the first film, I still volunteered to see Fifty Shades Darker.  Why? Because it’s the junk food of cinema.  You know it’s not good, you’ll regret it after ingesting it, but you make the bad choice anyway because sometimes it’s just fun watch the trainwreck. I can see it joining the cult classics in the way that Showgirls has its ironic viewers.

Released in time for Valentine’s Day it is sure to see some success at the box office.  My thoughts, if you are looking for a kinky Valentine’s Day movie, stay home and rent Secretary.


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