Image Credit: Universal Pictures
Expectations are a factor that affect mostly anyone when they decide what movie to go see, and judging by the robust box office numbers of the E.L James adaptation “Fifty Shades Of Grey” audiences got what they wanted. I wasn’t fond of the first film, mainly because it lacked a definitive purpose, nor did the sexcapades match up to the proverbial R rated standards that were set. What did work in “Grey” was the ability for the screenwriter to dial down some of the (“inner goddess”) dialogue and have two leads (Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson) that looked very good together.
Yet, for all my credibility against me, “Fifty Shades Darker” is a stylish sequel for all the reasons you would expect. It’s hard to dish at a film that clearly knows who the intended audience is, but what director James Foley does this time that his predecessor did not, was cater to an audience that isn’t familiar with the original property. “Darker” almost does nothing to suggest having the full potential of its title, but it’s still diverting, and just sexy enough to make any grown man or women blush.
When those frigid elevator doors closed shut on the frenetic, tortured romantic relationship of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. “Fifty Shades of Grey” might have pulled off one of the best modern Hollywood endings if not for being unsatisfying. For those that don’t know, the once shy Anastasia Steele was tested to her limits by the brand of S&M wielded by playboy billionaire Christian Grey.
The series could have ended there, but there is money to be made and fans that need to be serviced, and so “Darker” was all but guaranteed. The movie picks up three weeks after the couple called of their arrangement (relationship is too lofty a term for its first iteration) and to show he is hurting Grey is sporting a five o’clock shadow, and waking up in a cold sweat of despair. Not much time passes in the film (maybe 10 minutes?) before he shows up professing “I want you back.” Does she feel the same way though? - Despite her new job as an assistant to hot shot publishing editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) - she does with the attachment “no rules, no punishment, and no more secrets” on the end of their agreement.
Safe to say, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if we honored those stipulations, it doesn’t take long for Anastasia to give in to Grey’s dominant personality, proclaiming he is what was missing in her life (after an act of selfless sexual promiscuity seals the deal). Obviously, Christian is changing for the better in ways not privy to us before. Foley gives us a glimpse into his backstory which involves his mother dying at a young age, one shady business partner Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) and an ex-submissive Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote) who stalks the pair frequently.
That is the meat on the plate, but the real gravy is how ample the shock value some of the steamier sex scenes are. Yet that becomes very old, very quick. Granted, Foley attempts different angles and positions to keep things interesting, but after awhile your attention might dwindle. “Darker” also runs about 25 minutes longer than it needed to, and I spotted about several scenes that could have been trimmed in order to get the run-time under two hours.
Johnson and Dorian still recapture that lustful chemistry, which is the foundation these movie are built on. Because if we don’t believe their relationship you might as well give up altogether. For whatever reason, I saw the growth in their character work this time around, and, hold your breathe, I believed it.
You really have to be in the mood for something of this caliber though, and “Darker” bucks the trend that ‘less is more’ because in this case, more was gratifying. Fans might know this, but the next installment is already filmed and ready to shock cinemas next year, and this critic, surprisingly, wants to see where the story concludes. B