Fifty Shades Darker is a movie critics will love to hate, and yet the film will inevitably entice viewers in their intrigued millions. Both perspectives are understandable.
“Escapism” is the epitomising word for the film and the franchise in general. Darker is visually stylish, strewn with lavish sets and undeniably well-dressed – or undressed in the case of Dakota Johnson – eye-candy, and led by watchable performances from Johnson and Jamie Dornan. Johnson deserves particular praise, her warmth and charisma sometimes salvaging the awkward script.
The graphic yet unpassionate and still-too-cautious sex scenes are supported by a popcorn soundtrack that, depending on your taste, injects either playfulness or too much sugar.
Any viewing gratification is undone by a mild approach that leaves a sour taste, neither rescuing the source material, revelling in its crudeness, or moving beyond soft erotica to shock critics into silence. The questionable treatment of BDSM, childhood abuse, and mental illness aside, Fifty Shades Darker is riddled with many structural issues. Said problems include inconsistent and vague characterisations, ridiculous and desperate “plot” twists, and plenty of cringeworthy moments (“laters, baby”). As the movie progresses the plot only unravels further, disappointingly living up to the viewer’s worst expectations.
Fifty Shades Darker – despite its title – is ultimately an attempt at a dreamy love story. In this it is both conventional and unconvincing, as the forgiving female protagonist tries to turn a “bad” man “good”.
This ostentatious film is crammed with drama and frivolity and is made unashamedly for its fans. However, attempt number two somehow manages to make its predecessor seem sharper and more creative by comparison. Darker flails indecisively between elegance and lewdness and ends up owning neither. Bland, silly and riddled with bewildering and snort-inducing moments, Fifty Shades Darker is ultimately unsatisfying.
CAST: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Luke Grimes, Kim Basinger
DIRECTOR: James Foley
WRITER: Niall Leonard (based on the novel by E. L. James)
SYNOPSIS: Christian Grey continues to confront his childhood demons while Anastasia Steele faces the envy of his former conquests.