UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2017)

 

Director: James Foley

 

Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Luke Grimes, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote

“Kinky-fuckery” is back!

 

The next chapter in the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, Fifty Shades Darker, sees the two reconciling after the ‘spanking’ events of the first film to lead a ‘normal’ life together, however this time there’s trouble in store for them as the past and present fight to keep their bedsheets clean once and for all. In fact, lots of people in the movie seem to be aware and slightly obsessed with their secret, on-off, strange coupling.

 

To the main subject…

…SEX. Is there any in the movie? YES! Is it sensual, loving and silkily portrayed? NO! The scenes carry the erotic feeling of being pepper sprayed in the face (I’m half-expecting this to make an appearance in 2018’s trilogy-closer Fifty Shades Freed) as we’re treated to shots of Dakota Johnson’s bottom and a breast here and there, the sight of handcuffs, nipple tassels sensually worn on fingers and some lingering shots of grumpy thrusting. My pulse edged past ‘deceased’ a few times.

 

As with 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey, the dialogue is less snappy, more crappy. Where the first movie took an almost tongue-in-cheek approach to some of its dialogue, this movie instead becomes very serious, each line is delivered with increased importance and even fewer hints towards simply smiling. All very brooding. The actors grin and bear it the best they can though and soldier on reliably. Johnson seems to have regressed within her role, lacking the zing she managed to pull into her role in Fifty Shades of Grey, now she wise-cracks less and has become a female pseudo-Mr. Grey. A bit dull. But, she does still bite her lip whenever Christian stares at her with his dead eyes. Dornan keeps the same guise as before – stoic and flat, only breaking out of character momentarily to crash a helicopter. A criminally-underused Kim Basinger could have given the movie an extra layer of satin had she been given slightly more to do as Elena/Mrs Robinson – the older lady who preyed on a younger Christian.

 

Again, the movie in parts looks great – the masked ball scenes look lavish, the boat scenes look beautiful and the movie's finale looks stunning (flowers, water and fireworks aplenty) – however, the production is layered in sheen again and everything feels clinical and cold. When the locations are vanilla, the actors then need to elevate proceedings with their performances, but it just doesn’t happen here.

 

It’s a strange world the movie lives in, the men are jerks, the women are shallow and things just keep moving on as normal. Anastasia has to choose between controlling, pain freak Christian or her sleazy, rapey boss Jack (Johnson) – what a choice. However, Mr. Grey is minted so he’ll do. There’s also too much to cram into one movie (even with its overly long run time) – Christian’s past submissive is introduced, as is Basinger’s original dominant, there’s a helicopter crash, Anastasia's work balance, Christian’s childhood – and the movie ends up becoming convoluted and messy. None of the new-story points receives great attention, or at least the amount they require/deserve.

 

I enjoyed this movie marginally less than Fifty Shades of Grey, however, as it was bloated as hell and there was a slightly less cohesive story running throughout. The movie's conclusion does set us up nicely for the final chapter, Fifty Shades Freed, where hopefully the scorned of this movie (Jack and Elena) have more to do and we receive a satisfying climax (…).

 

All style and no substance, Fifty Shades Darker managed to be even greyer than its predecessor, and, boy, is it hard work.

 

Unlike pleasuring Anastasia Steele, that seems easy.

June 23rd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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