Fifty Shades Darker
Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger, Eric Johnson
Movies for women really don’t get any dumber than the ‘Fifty Shades’ series. Men get dumb movies all the time, xXx sequels, Fast & Furious, even the recent John Wick film, despite all its style, is a pretty feebleminded action flick. For the most part genre films - romance and action; are two sides of the same coin. They peddle unrealistic fantasies for the prosaic members of society who appear drawn to a heightened sense of sex or violence. Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson refused to return, stating author E.L. James was overbearing. Third rate television director James Foley (he also did last awful Halle Berry film Perfect Stranger) and a new screenwriter were bargain-binned to finish the series. Fifty Shades Darker is more of the same, lighter on the S&M (continuing to dilute the books which are Twilight inspired fan-fiction) but heavy on soap opera antics. This includes, but not limited to: women slapping each other at a party, females tossing drinks in each others faces, overly dramatic helicopter crashes, close encounters with a fire arm, sexual assault in the workplace. All we’re missing is Susan Lucci and hair pulling.
The last time we saw Anastasia Steele (Johnson), she was leaving her billionaire boyfriend’s penthouse, after he took their kinky sex life too far. He sweet talks her back very quickly and their relationship continues much as it was before, a push and pull agreement where she gives a little and he reveals more about his dark past. Anna has a new job at an independent publishing house, fighting off advances from her editor Jack Hyde (Johnson). She is also introduced to the older woman in Christian’s past who becomes the latest obstacle trying to tear them apart. Christian (Dornan) asks Anna to move in with him as their love and sex life begins to heat up.
There isn’t anything to discuss, grasp or contemplate after the credits roll.
“All of this is wrong,” Anna says about the files he has on women, the bodyguards, wealth and his inability to be a normal boyfriend. What’s wrong is everything about this story. From the way it portrays women as week and needy or ruthless and manipulative, to the porn-like portrayal of intimacy (am I the only one worried about sanitation issues with these two), finally the wealth that has become a staple in mainstream romance sagas. “This isn’t a relationship,” she says. “It’s ownership.” Actually it’s more like softcore porn with a few breaks for cheesy dialogue and really terrible screenwriting. Niall Leonard, whoever you are, you have no business working in feature film.
The awkward chemistry between the two actors is still very present. I’ve seen both Johnson and Dornan in non-‘Fifty’ projects following the first film that jet-set their careers, and while neither are future award winners, most of the misery in watching this pathetic excuse for a motion picture comes from the author and screenwriter. ‘Darker’ is quite anticlimactic compared to the first, there is more sex scenes but as the middle film it seems to pander and lose sight of any continual narrative, throwing supporting characters in and out with no real purpose. Like with an action film where the protagonist just dismantles body after body, there isn’t anything to discuss, grasp or contemplate after the credits roll.