Fifty Shades Darker
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Victor Rasuk
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A film for whom the phrase “universally derided” could have been coined…
A film for which the phrase “universally derided” could have been coined, Fifty Shades Darker squelches into cinemas, as dumb as an inbred cocker spaniel, and as erotic as finding half a frog in your ice cream cone. It’s an across-the-board embarrassment for almost all concerned, and certainly marks the nadir of director James Foley’s career.
There’s a story here, in the broadest and most sketchy of terms. Following the events of the previous film, nascent submissive Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) tries to move on with her life, but it isn’t long before she’s back in the arms of billionaire BDSM aficionado, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Things happen in order to give the illusion of tension or stakes, but with no rhyme or reason: one of Grey’s exes (Bella Heathcote) turns up to wave a gun around, Ana’s new boss (Eric Johnson) is a bit of a sleaze, an old flame (Kim Basinger, whose 9 1/2 Weeks covered similar territory so much better 30 years ago) makes a few cryptic comments – oh yeah, and there’s a helicopter crash out of the blue. None of these are in any way organically connected to the narrative; they’re just discrete incidents peppered randomly through the film’s running time (“plot” is too kind a word for what’s happening here).
Perhaps all this narrative ineptitude would be forgivable if this thing was even remotely sexy, but Fifty Shades Darker fails to fulfill even its most basic remit – the bloody thing only managed to rate an MA15+, for crying out loud. We get a few limp sex scenes, one instance of elevator frottage, and that’s about it. The featured sex toy is a spreader bar, which is about as exotic as a ping pong paddle. It’s not transgressive, provocative, or challenging – it’s a snooze.
That’s the thing about this series – it’s not the subject matter, it’s the execution. This film fails at its genre, like an actioner with poorly executed fight sequences, or a musical with terrible songs. Fifty Shades isn’t bad because it’s erotica; it’s bad because it’s bad erotica. There’s a lot of noise about the problematic nature of the Ana/Grey relationship, but that’s missing the point entirely – human sexuality being what it is, people will fantasise about things that are inherently unhealthy, and perhaps the best way to exercise those desires is in the realm of fiction. But holy heck, it should at least be good fiction.
The cinematography is quite nice, but that’s the kindest thing that can said about this appalling mess of a film. The most perverse thing about Fifty Shades Darker is the notion that anyone anywhere ever thought it was a good idea in the first place.