Fifty Shades Darker

A confession – I watched Fifty Shades of Grey when it came out. I wasn’t stupid – I had no preconceptions that it would actually be good – but it was a different level of poor. Stilted acting, a tedious plot, a complete lack of sexiness – any problem you could imagine, the movie suffered it. Well, it made money, so now we have Fifty Shades Darker, a sequel that will leave your seat as dry as the first.

The film catches up with the cautious Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who bumps into her ex Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) at an art show. Grey wants her back in his life, but she pushes him for a new arrangement before she will give him another chance. The two begin to build trust and find stability with each other, but figures from Grey’s past begin to affect the relationship, determined to destroy the pair’s hopes for a future together.

Let’s start with the good points, because I don’t want to completely slate it. It looks nice enough, and it ups the ante considerably from the first film. It’s also really very funny – it’s on track to be one of the funniest pictures of the year, without a doubt. If it’s a kind of elaborate double bluff, and Fifty Shades Darker is some sort of experiment to produce a film so-bad-it’s-good, I doff my cap.

Because my goodness, this is dross. You thought the leads lacked chemistry before – you just wait. Johnson perhaps gets a few intentional funny lines, but that’s as far as the acting goes. She’s like Orson Welles in comparison to Dornan, though. He wanders through the film, his only expression a kind of sheep-like incomprehension in his eyes. He has only one emotional reaction to anything – a flat, non-reaction, as if he were made of wood. Having sex, defusing a hostage situation, being in a helicopter crash – he reacts to that all as if he’d take a kick to the balls the second he breaks his detachment (or maybe not – he’d probably enjoy that).

He’s such a creep, it’s untrue. Every man in this picture is, though. Of particular note is Steele’s boss, who suddenly becomes very rapey in a film intended to get you in the mood (Grey is not far off this himself, but it’s okay because we have psychobabble to explain that he’s ‘like that’). It’s not even good on that front – the sex is very tame stuff. I don’t get the idea of trying to make this film accessible for all, because it dilutes what should be the film’s biggest selling point (well, that and Jamie Dornan – mums will not be happy to hear he keeps his clothes on during the sex scenes). If you’re thinking of watching this film because you’re into that stuff, may I recommend Google? At least you won’t waste your money on the ticket.

This whole film is a series of set-ups between sex scenes – I can’t in all good conscience call it a plot. We even have sex scenes between sex scenes, such as a sequence in which Grey anally fingers Steele in a lift full of people – she moans and groans, but nobody notices. I also very much enjoyed the sequence in which Grey’s helicopter crashes and he went missing. It lasted, and I kid you not, less than five minutes, before he just strolls through the door and it’s forgotten about – what was the point? All these plot points come and go, disappearing like smoke in the wind.

Fifty Shades Darker is the kind of film you’re going to enjoy if you can appreciate it not for what it wants to be, but what it is. It posits itself as a dark, erotic thriller – yeah, it’s not. It’s a brilliant comedy – a piece of absurdity that will please its audience because of how mind-bogglingly crap it is. And it does its job well – I’m genuinely excited for the next one.



Director: James Foley
Cast: Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele), Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey), Eric Johnson (Jack Hyde), Eloise Mumford (Kate Kavanagh), Bella Heathcote (Leila), Rita Ora (Mia Grey)
Running Time: 118 Mins
Country: USA

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Reece Goodall

One day, long ago, a man had a dream. Then he woke up and started writing film reviews instead.