Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: James Foley
  • Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Tyler Hoechlin


While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her.


  • It’s a tale as old as time, beauty taming the beast, and Fifty Shades Darker, the second installment of the best-selling erotic saga, finds the beast attempting to curb his darker predilections in order to win back his beauty.

    Picking up mere weeks after Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) decided that Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) had taken a bit too much pleasure from inflicting pain upon her, Fifty Shades Darker, despite its title, is a far lighter outing than its predecessor. Anastasia is now working at a publishing house as an assistant to editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), whose surname should tip one off to his less than honourable intentions regarding our heroine. Christian, meanwhile, can’t get her out of his mind and goes typically over the top – sending a large bouquet of flowers, purchasing all the large photographs of Anastasia taken by her friend Jose – in his efforts to have her back in his life.

    “No rules, no punishments, no more secrets” are the new terms of their renewed relationship. Servicing Anastasia seems to be another albeit unspoken condition and a very beneficial one for Christian as, despite her earlier mild protestations, Anastasia is soon panting for Christian to return to his kinkier ways. As with the original film, the so-called deviant sex acts still fall in the vanilla end of the spectrum as far as BDSM enthusiasts are concerned – nipple clamps make an appearance, though not on the intended body part; leather cuffs, vaginal beads, elevator shenanigans, and spankings come into play. What differentiates these from the sex in the first film is that, whilst there’s still an inordinate amount of heavy breathing, the pleasure is predominantly derived from the play rather than the punishment.

    Despite ceding some control to Anastasia in the bedroom, Christian asserts his command outside of it – ordering for her in a restaurant, forbidding her to go to a book exposition in New York with her boss, buying the publishing house in which she works – though Anastasia is more assertive in her playful tweaking of his dominating tendencies and even manages to glean a bit more personal information about Christian than he previously shared. Getting to know more about Christian, however, brings a new set of problems – namely, an obsessed former submissive named Leila (Bella Heathcote) and Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger, whose casting here is a great nod to the film’s cinematic forebear 9 1/2 Weeks), the woman who took his virginity when he was 15 and who keeps warning Anastasia that she is a fool for believing she can change Christian.

    Of course, nothing will deter our Miss Steele from carrying on with Christian, not even her own misgivings after observing the depths of his control over Leila, whose instinctive submissiveness would unsettle anyone. Fifty Shades Darker makes no bones about setting up the plot of Fifty Shades Freed, the final installment set for release next year, nor does it pretend to be anything more than high-gloss trash. James Foley, taking over the directorial reins from Sam Taylor-Johnson, certainly showcases his very attractive stars to maximum effect (though a gym scene with a shirtless Dornan is snicker-inducing) though neither he nor Johnson and Dornan can overcome the expected silliness and incohesion of Niall Leonard’s screenplay.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆ out of 5)

    GRADE: C-


    IN BRIEF: A trashy and laughable sexploitation yawn.

    SYNOPSIS: More S & M hijinks between Anastasia & Christian, but this time, with a bit of a plot.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 58 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Oh, that privileged 1% ! Those filthy rich beautiful people in their penthouse apartments and spacious mansions, sipping Moët & Chandon and wearing the finest silks and designer leathers. GRRR! But are they happy? Really happy? Let’s strip away their false facades…did you say STRIP? Yes, it’s time once again for another chapter of the rich and famously good-looking Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his love slave, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), in part two of their pseudo sadomasochistic romance saga…this one entitled Fifty Shades Darker.

    This film steps into the dark side of love once again, or at least that’s its soft porn message. Lots of groping, some nudity, very little real passion or sexual tension. In this chapter, He wants back with She, after their previous break-up. He woos and plies her with lavish presents. She accepts his advances with a minimum of resistance as He works his way back into her loins. Sure they have lots of baggage, but their supposedly hot sex is insatiable. The Red Room calls. Bring out the whips, straps, and sexual paraphernalia that can still shock middle America’s Puritan values. It’s showtime!

    Director James Foley and Niall Leonard (a.k.a. E. L. James’ husband) are the responsible parties for this misdemeanor. Let’s call Mr. Foley’s involvement a faux pas of capitalistic greed that clouded his vision. His direction here is adequate. As for our screenwriter, it’s nice that the James’s try to keep it in the family, but unleashing this dreck to the general public should be a criminal act.

    Fifty Shades Darker wants to be soft core sex fantasy, melodramatic soap opera, and, in this second chapter, a mystery thriller. The wafer-thin plot (although there is one this time) involves spurned former lovers, unhinged stalkers, and lecherous bosses with questionable intentions. But all the movie becomes is a hilarious comedy of errors (mostly due to the cast and filmmakers). It’s a real mess, destined for most critic’s worst film list of 2017…including mine.

    The dialog is unintentionally funny, the characters cardboard silly, and the plot absurd.

    For example, here are some of the verbal exchanges:

    “I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank you.”
    “Okay, fine. I will have dinner with you because I am hungry.”
    “You’re not sticking those up my butt.”
    “You taught me how to f**k, she taught me how to love!”

    The most well defined part of this drool is Mr. Dornan’s abs which get quite a workout. His character lacks any dimension unless erect (and that is never shown and only intimated, of course). As for Ms. Johnson, her ample cleavage and perky breasts share equal screen time and should have star billing status as well. The actress establishes her character as a series of girlish pouts, wide-eyed ogling, and sensual lip-biting. Both performers are more silly than sexy. These physical fit actors have done better work in other films, but they did choose fame and an almighty fat check for their involvement in this series, so the blame is partially theirs as well as the filmmakers. However, I will credit them with some some acting restraint in delivering the banal dialog with the straightest of poker faces. That must have been the only thing hard on the set.

    Bad acting is also prevalent in the supporting cast of characters. Two Oscar winning actresses, Marcia Gay Harden and Kim Basinger should have known better. Up and coming actors like Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, and Luke Grimes bring some class to their classless roles. All go the soap opera route, lots of hysteria and excess.
    In fact, there are so many ripe displays of excesses, definitely the fault of a woeful script: many stagy sex romps that register 1 on the hot meter, especially that classic steamy shower scene, an elevator tryst that is more laughable than sensual, and a rather silly set piece involving a Venetian styled masquerade ball that is reminiscent of Kubrick’s only dud, Eyes Wide Shut, (which is the best advice one can give to viewing this movie, although it is the filmmakers who should really hide.)

    Fifty Shades Darker is dim indeed. Still planning to take your significant other to this awful movie? Perhaps then I might suggest a “safe word” for all film lovers: AVOID!

    NOTE: Fifty Shades Freed, Part Three already has a release date in February 9, 2018, a day that, I am sure, will live in infamy! You have been warned!

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