Jamie Dornan Dakota Johnson Eric Johnson Marcia Gay Harden Rita Ora Kim Basinger Bella Heathcote
In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is wooed by Christian Grey (Dornan), but flees from him when he demonstrates—at her request—the limits of his taste for BDSM. It’s too much for her. Fifty Shades Darker opens with his begging her to come back to him, indicating that he has changed—or is at least trying to be better—and that he will do anything to get her back. She has clearly moved on, including having a new job that she loves; but she finds that his pleas are irresistible. She agrees to have dinner with him to talk about her concerns.
Not much comes from this; she indicates that their reuniting must go slowly, and that there be “no rules, no punishments, and no secrets.” He agrees to anything she requests, but it is clear from the outset that his underlying character is still the same. He has high control needs, is bossy, and wants her to be submissive toward him outside the bedroom. In the bedroom he pretty much defers to her. But like many women, Anastasia finds it hard to assert herself and maintain boundaries.
And this is the biggest fault of the movie to me: It completely departs from modern women’s goals of achieving self-confidence, an effective independent identity, and equal status with men. The movie flirts with these ideas in showing Anastasia moving up in her profession and becoming the fiction editor at her publishing company. But uh-oh, Christian has bought the company and fired her boss Jack (Eric Johnson), so she moves up to his place. Granted, it was after a sexual harassment incident, but still, it was Christian who enabled her promotion. Moreover, the character of Anastasia is wimpy and self-effacing (“Who, me?” “I can’t steer a boat.” “I am nothing.”) in many different situations in the film. So we have the stereotypical arrangement of a “man in charge” with a submissive woman.
Another fault of the Fifty Shades Darker is a hackneyed script with lines spoken as if they had deep meaning (“I know how difficult it is for you to open up to me, but it means the world to me” and “I thought I lost you forever”) (Niall Leonard, screenplay; E. L. James, novel). Although the title of the film suggests something more, i.e., “Darker”, the plot adheres fairly closely with the previous film. In fact, it’s a bit tamer.
The acting is up to par, especially when Marcia Gay Harden and Kim Basinger are in scenes, but their characters should have been better fleshed out. Director James Foley, whose experience has primarily been in television, will need to make the next film in the Fifty Shades series more movie-like than an episodic television show. Danny Elfman’s music and John Schwartzman’s cinematography are probably the best parts of the film.
Rather than darker, I would say this is fifty shades worse than its predecessor.
Grade: D By Donna R. Copeland