The much anticipated sequel to the raunchy romance book adaption from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades Darker has finally hit theatres and many filmgoers will go because, a) sheer curiosity or b) because they really trust that there would be some decent recovery from the first film. Don’t you hold your breath….
Even though director James Foley and fellow screenwriter Niall Leonard try to be the heroes and stitch the already porous storyline (you can thank the author for that), there is very little that can be done to salvage the mess James has made out of the BDSM culture as well as quite possibly the erotic genre itself.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan reprise their roles as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, in the kinky yet super awkward fairy tale romance while also solidifies their lackluster on screen chemistry and questionable acting. The film continues where it left off with Ana languishing in solitude as her break up with the brooding and S&M-loving Christian has left her in a rather dire state. She has now become an assistant book publisher as well eye candy for her new boss Jack-a random character among many the storyline likes to introduce and toss away on a whim whenever it pleases. Eventually, Ana and Christian are reunited at a photography exhibit – which coincidentally, she happens to be the subject of –convincing her to a dinner date. As expected, Ana agrees to give Christian a second chance after getting to see his “darker” side in the first film, as long as he agrees to be open and honest about his past. Though we learn about Christian’s early adolescence, in which he experienced various types of abuse ultimately leading to his current characteristic flaws, the extent of his governing over Ana surpasses his sadistic dominant persona in the bedroom. The issue with this second attempt at getting back together, is that it pretends to showcase Ana as the one pulling the leash as she demands to be in control. Yet all the while and during the course of the movie, she is nervously anticipating Christian’s final answer, asking permission to attend work trips and repeatedly allowing his reign over every decision she makes.
The whole story put simply, erupts with problematic themes over and over again but is instead painted over with a sparkly brush of beautiful scenery and Christian’s exquisitely rich lifestyle. Interestingly, the film takes itself so seriously, its literally laughable as the audience would often burst into giggles over Johnson’s and Dornan’s cheesy dialogue and semi-palatable theatrics, which is not entirely their fault. The franchise however, although void of quality content and failure to reflect consenting S&M relationships, it continues to be successful in attracting the masses. Perhaps to have little or no expectation is better than having any, because a lack thereof means zero disappointment.
Universals Pictures Canada releases Fifty Shades Darker on Friday, February 10, 2017
[Review by Alessia Youkhanna]