Fifty Shades Darker
Director: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, and Bella Heathcote
Romance is in the air. The film industry, an opportunistic group, usually has a film positioned to occupy the obligatory Valentine's Day date night movie category. Some romantic comedy or heart tugging Nicolas Sparks adaptation usually accommodates this need. Not in 2017, this year we get the second film installment based off author E.L. James' erotic romance novel, "Fifty Shades Darker".
The story of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a naïve and inexperienced recent college graduate, who is seduced by a billionaire named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a closeted sadomasochist, opened audiences to an interesting film experience. It was interesting because within the pages of the book is a blunt detailing of sexual practices expressed in very vivid and explicit form. How could a film compose these images and detail the personal aspects of Anastasia’s experience? It couldn’t. What was produced was an unsexy, character devoid film that cheapened aspects of sexuality by composing moments that operate solely for quick visual excitement instead of the deeper aspects that make intimate moments passionate. It made Anastasia look foolish and Christian look sadistic.
“Fifty Shades Darker” is just that, a darker and more menacing story about the discovery found in relationships. Unfortunately the viewer is never provided much in terms of character development or plot, instead we are given the same structure and formatting as the first film. Anastasia resists, Christian insists, cue sex scene with an introduction from new pop song. It’s done over and over that it becomes somewhat of a running joke.
The film starts with Anastasia working at a new job for an established editor (Eric Johnson), she seems poised and ready to move forward with her life. Christian however has not stopped thinking about Anastasia; he buys an entire set of photographs at an art gallery that were taken of her. It doesn’t take long for the couple to get back together, however questions of their relationship amidst Christian’s secrecy and sexual proclivities place their love in jeopardy.
From the opening moments you can feel that the tone, compared to the first film, has changed. An early flashback of Christian’s abuse during childhood makes this very clear. These beginning moments displayed some promise for Christian’s character, how else are audiences suppose to connect with an uncaring, domineering individual like Christian? These moments, along with many other character identifying instances, are fleeting and many times completely overlooked. In replace of these scenes are ridiculously composed moments of melodrama, pieces that don’t connect in any meaningful way. It’s unfortunate because there is opportunity to explore some interesting subject matter, though that never seems to be the purpose of the film. Instead what transpires over nearly two hours is a mess of a film, one that never understands what it is trying to be.
Dakota Johnson had a good performance in the first film, however there is nothing here for her to work with. Also, the chemistry she was developing with Jamie Dornan’s character is completely lost. This is the biggest flaw with the film. How is the viewer supposed to believe that what these two people have in a relationship is anything more than the superficial aspects of sex? The filmmakers want us to believe there is more, the characters even voice this concern at one point in the film.
“Fifty Shades Darker” struggles from the start and never finds the rhythm it is looking to achieve. The film has some stunning scenery and a plethora of fancy set pieces, a masquerade party is particularly interesting to watch, but these parts never serve much more than to reiterate that Christian can do whatever he wants because he is rich, which unfortunately paints Anastasia’s character in the worst possible light.
1.00 out of 5.00