Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Robinne Lee.

Director: James Foley
Rating: R (for strong erotic sexual content, some graphic nudity, and language.)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Date: February 10, 2017

Universal Pictures.

Written by: Niall Leonard; adapted from the novel “Fifty Shades Darker” by E L James.

OUR REVIEW:

I mean…what do you want me to say?

Fifty Shades Darker is absurd, astonishingly stupid, and full of the most ridiculous dialogue ever created for the multiplex. For a film without a sense of humor about itself, there are moments which draw out a chuckle or a “Ha!”, perhaps creating a sustained series of guffaws and internal ballyhoo you simply cannot suppress.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in “Fifty Shades Darker” | Universal Pictures

After all, this is Fifty Shades Darker, not Jane Austen or Emily Bronte; though those feminine literary icons are two apparent faves of Seattle’s newest manuscript editor, Anastasia Steele (an all-in and committed Dakota Johnson). She crowbars their names in during a cuddle sesh with bad boy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who she reconciles with after his hardcore S&M fetishes forced her to break up with him at the end of 2015’s Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Yes folks, Anastasia and Christian are back, contorting and writhing their way through a half-dozen or so simulated sexual encounters, while attempting to get to know the truth about what makes one another tick.

Though they profess to be BFFs right now, it has been widely reported that Johnson and Dornan have not exactly gotten along during the shooting of the trilogy that was borne out of author E L James‘ dumpster fire of erotic literature. This felt apparent watching them go through the motions in the first film, with Dornan looking bored AF for the entire film, despite engaging in provocative, eye-raising carnal simulations with his co-star.

That film’s saving grace was Johnson, daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, who just went for it, powering through a mind-numbingly awful story that may have presented the female body in a beautiful way, but somehow became an Academy Award-nominated film, for an original song by The Weeknd I have already forgotten.

James’ influence on the first film is also the stuff of legend, as she clashed with her co-producers, screenwriter Kelly Marcel and director Sam Taylor-Johnson. As the creator of this world, James played politics and got Marcel and Taylor-Johnson fired. And so, for this sequel and 2018’s upcoming Fifty Shades Freed finale, we have director James Foley steering the ship and James’ husband, Niall Leonard, writing his first feature-length film after a long resume of work in British and domestic television.

None of this matters whatsoever because unavoidably, this story is simply pointless and as erotic as someone staring up at the ceiling, dispassionately responding when nothing they are experiencing seems to be working whatsoever.

But I digress.

Technically, there is something of a story I guess. After leaving Christian, Anastasia now works as assistant to editor Jack (Eric Johnson), who is running an independent Seattle publishing house. Meanwhile, Christian keeps buying and selling, investing and the like, claiming to make $24,000 every 15 minutes.

And in case you are scoring at home that is $2.304 million dollars per day and $840,960,000 million dollars per year.

Dayum son! Alright then…

Christian wants Anastasia back baaadddd. And after like two movie minutes of resistance, she invites him home and engages in the first of many sexual encounters over the course of the film’s tortoise-slow 118 minute running time. Seriously, the film feels like five hours long. Let’s hope Fifty Shades Freed is not split into two parts. Have we not already suffered enough here?

More about the sexy stuff. Got it. Right.

“Fifty Shades Darker” | Universal Pictures

Wait. We do have a random woman named Leila (Bella Heathcote), whose disheveled appearance and pale, pasty stare looks like a character who fits in better with a jump-scare horror film than an erotic drama. A former submissive to Christian, she simply can’t let go of the power he wielded over her. Despite what the trailer shows you, none of this goes anywhere. 

One of the internal gripes which dogged the first film was that Johnson agreed to full nudity in these films, while Dornan apparently fought with producers long and hard (#SorryNotSorry) about what he would and would not show on screen.

Well, apparently Dornan is still conflicted. A handful of scenes show him copulating in pants or jeans, and in other moments randomly showing a bit more. Johnson is all “whatever” and just tosses clothes left and right. Her fearlessness is something of a throwback to erotic cinema of the past, but that brings me to a point that grinds this idiocy to a halt.

Marketed to women and sold largely to women, Fifty Shades Darker is about the most male-driven and male-empathizing garbage imaginable. Everything Anastasia does here placates or attempts to humanize the monster that pulsates within Christian Grey. Sure, she has more of a voice in things this time around, but Leonard’s screenplay and James’ “book” is all about gratifying Grey over and over again.

When she tries to hold him close, he makes her draw “boundaries” on his chest and stomach with red lipstick. When she asks him a question, he gets defensive, apologizes, and half-heartedly smiles. She allows him to do some naughty stuff, but whenever she touches him, he grunts and grimaces and panics in the most ridiculous of ways. Anastasia isn’t a lover or partner to Christian, or even an equal; she’s an expensive human prop he uses to make himself seem and feel normal.

Though I had way more fun with this sequel than I ever expected I would, Fifty Shades Darker is not really much of a movie, and certainly not a film empowering or championing women.

All we have here is a relatively nice, affable, sexually curious woman literally bending over backwards, sideways, and who knows what direction, to satisfy and please a man who gives her little to nothing in return, except the financial stability and luxury of being “his girl.”

I dunno know about you, but in 2017, we all kind of deserve better, don’t you think?

Rating: ★½☆☆☆ 

SHOULD I SEE IT?

YES

  • I know. I get it. It’s alright.
  • After the first film made $571 million worldwide, the movie does have a loyal fanbase and lots and lots of people are eagerly anticipating this next go-’round.
  • The soundtrack, once again, is better than the film. Don’t underestimate Zayn & Taylor Swift or a pretty great Sia track resurfacing about a year from now in the Best Original Song race for the 2018 Oscars.

NO

  • I know. I get it. It’s alright.
  • What a mess this all is. For all the reasons stated above and more, Fifty Shades Darker is not sexy, erotic, or seductive in any way.
  • Packaged for women, this garbage is all about the man thus far, and quite frankly, we don’t need sexually charged erotic thrillers about men, if we ever did, and for women who like to seek out adult literature and entertainment, you deserve so much better than this.

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