Movie Review: Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

This is the second instalment to E.L. James racy and steamy novel turned film “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

Genre(s): Drama, Romance. 

Director: James Foley

Rating: R  

Running Time: 1hr 58mins

“Fifty Shades Darker” is set about four days after the last scene in the first movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” when Anastasia discovers that pain is a hard limit for her. The movie starts with Christian waking up from a nightmare of an abuse he experienced as a child. Basically, this second movie is centred on Christian’s unresolved trauma from childhood and whether Anastasia can help him heal. One good thing about this movie, asides from cinematography is we see a less broody and distant – looking Christian Grey- he tends to smile and smirk more (slight facial expression, get it?) compared to his usual straight-faced-I-don’t-convey-emotions look. There’s also slightly better chemistry present here than in the first movie where the onscreen chemistry between Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia character and Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey character was just terrible.

So Christian and Ana had a huge breakup á la FSoG (anyone who watched the first movie knows this) and they’ve seemingly spent days apart and realise that they can’t live without each other, they’d rather tolerate each other than stay apart. Ana got a job at a small publishing company- SIP as an assistant to a book editor- Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who is obviously into Ana but she is oblivious to this. Ana’s pal José (Victor Rasuk) who obviously wants to be more than a pal has an exhibition and Ana is shocked to see portraits of hers in the exhibition, Christian attends the exhibition and buy all Ana’s portrait just because he doesn’t want strangers gawking at her in the comfort of their homes, (how chivalrous). Christian then bluntly tells Ana he wants her back and is willing to renegotiate terms, go vanilla if that’s what she prefers – which is, so there’s a lot of vanilla sex (in contrast to the S&M hints the movie was originally going for). 

In Fifty Shades Darker, Christian is still dominant but has a desire to leave his Dom-Sub lifestyle. He opens up more to Ana about his childhood and trauma- why he’s so stiff, controlling and demeaning as a human being owing up to being abused as a child – his birth mother, a crack addict died when he was four and the cigarette burns on his chest testify to assault from his birth mother’s pimp and hard life before Mrs. Grace Trevelyan-Grey (Marcia Gay Harden) adopts him into her family. Since Christian is less of an antagonist in this second movie, new threats to their relationship and Ana’s well-being are introduced; Leila (Bella Heathcote) – Christian’s ex sub/lover who exhibits major mental instability, stalking, suicidal tendencies (a bound sliced wrist), Ana’s new boss – Jack Hyde who is interested in Ana, exhibits rapey tendencies (thanks to that major scene, which generates the only sexual tension in the movie) and Elena Lincoln a.k.a. Mrs Robinson (Kim Basinger) – who introduced Christian to the life of sadomasochism at the age of 15 (implying that she’s his saviour) taunts Ana for turning Christian almost “vanilla”.

Christian trying to play a better “boyfriend” consistently asks Ana what it is she wants, either it’s in a heated sex scene or an argument but that doesn’t mean he’s less of a stalker- like when he buys out the place she works or asks his secretary – Andrea to transfer thousands of dollars to Ana’s account. All of which Ana objects to and tells him he’s being an “ass”- which is actually is. After a nightmare which Ana wakes Christian up from, he impulsively asks her to marry him, Ana thinks he’s dreaming and they go back to sleep. Next morning, 3 pull-ups and a stunt on a pommel horse after, Ana tries to find out if Christian remembers anything from last night and he eventually tries to convince her he’s serious about marrying her, Ana snorts (which is refreshing to see) and agrees to think about it.


Jack Hyde sexually harasses Ana, which leads to him losing his job (you don’t mess with your boss’s boss girlfriend). She becomes acting editor and Christian fails to tell her it’s his birthday, Ana gets Christian a key chain with Yes! to his proposal flashing behind it and gift wraps it as his birthday present, telling him to open it only when he gets back from his trip to Portland, only to find out his helicopter has gone missing, Ana is devastated. Just as the TV reporter states that Christian is safe and on his way back to Seattle, the elevator opens and ushers him into his living room to everyone’s surprise (that was so fast). Everyone is happy, Ana cries, Christian finally opens his birthday present, excited about her answer, he hugs and twirls her in a not-so-Christian-like-manner. Next day, they attend Christian’s birthday party thrown by his family where he announces his engagement to Ana. Mrs Robinson attacks Ana (verbally) and Ana throws her drink at Elena’s face. Christian saves the day, confronts Elena while his mother Dr Grace walks up to them, slaps Elena and orders her to get out of their house. Christian carries Ana to the boathouse which has been decorated and filled with flowers as he tells her she has his heart and here are the flowers then he kneels and officially proposes with a ring. A happy Ana replies with a yes and then there are fireworks. 

End credit- a battered looking Jack Hyde lingers on the other end of the Greys’ mansion watching the festivities as he burns out Christian’s face in a family photo he holds (we will definitely get to see an angry Jack with a vendetta in the next movie).

Overall Thoughts:

Fifty Shades Darker seemingly throws out a lot of ideas for a compelling and potential plot /storyline. There’s always one notion of conflict or the other between Ana and Christian or from external forces trying to pull them apart but all too quickly, however, these conflicts are mostly resolved or not, or just tossed aside bringing us back to the already boring story of their romance- we see a conflict with little or no argument then an immediate makeup (throw in sex scene).  The dialogues are stiff, sometimes silly and repetitive making it feel more like a recital- a back and forth-question-and-answer-recital. The movie is basically built on Ana and Christians relationship which ends up feeling weird-particularly because they don’t seem to have fulfilling conversations and never fully hatch out their disagreements. The fact is the plots surrounding many of the scenes goes nowhere significant but circles round the romance between Christian and Ana.

Dakota Johnson is a really good actress with a rare sense of humour that naturally comes to play and lightens up some of the scenes in the movie (making the moving more bearable). The soundtrack helps the sex scenes to be more playful this time compared to FSoG, making it less uncomfortable to watch for those with objections to this major dynamic of the trilogy. This is a slightly better film than the first but only marginally, between sex scenes and stiff dialogues, it looks as lovely with the landscapes, boat rides, beautiful people in stunning locales wearing fancy formalwear, a well thought out masquerade ball all of which makes the movie watchable especially with such lack of captivating plot at the same time it’s a movie that you can easily skip watching in the cinemas except you’re a die hard fan of the book/movie. It’s more of the same as FSoG but with more charm and a less broody Christian Grey.

Honestly, there are a lot of things wrong in the movie. Maybe the change in directors – from Fifty Shades of Grey’s Sam TaylorJohnson to Fifty Shades Darker’s James Foley or E.L. James acting out the mama bear on set and making sure her novel (with its poor plot and writing) is acted out to the T or the Fifty Shades Darker script writer Niall Leonard ( being author E.L. James’ husband), caused it? 

Rating: 5.5/10

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