Saturday, February 11, 2017
I do not own the above image. Copyright Universal Pictures.
On this blog & on Movie Rehab, a site I contribute to, I try to call to attention to movies about women for women that deserve it. In the past, I’ve praised Bridget Jones’ Baby, boosted a portion of How to Be Single and roundly criticized The Other Woman & The Boss as lowest common denominator cesspools that lower the integrity of their protagonists. As bad as those latter two movies are, Fifty Shades Darker is the closest I’ve come to suggesting women who care about film & themselves as a gender to revolt against cinema.
When we last left you, Anastasia Steele (Johnson) had left Christian Grey (Dornan) & his Red Room behind. She has a new job with a great boss, an apartment to die for and friends & roommates that adore her. Soon enough, however, Grey with his fancy bank account and whips & chains comes crawling back. Will Ana take him back or will she save herself from…herself?
Within 10 minutes, we know the answer and it’s not good for anyone. On their first date back together, Ana does show some restraint & playfulness by flirting with Christian while making dinner. This kind of ingenuity is short-lived as they hop into bed together to have bland sex. This early scene highlights yet again that Anastasia, no matter how hard Dakota Johnson tries, is a passive & weak character. In scene after scene, in life changing decision after decision, Steele meekly goes through this movie like lost puppy.
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Christian Grey is a creep. Even on the surface, he’s shady, wealthy character with his lack of normal friendships and a family that either is completely unaware of his lifestyle or totally fine with his “masochistic” side. Add that to the fact that Grey has dossiers of potential submissives compiled by private investigators. How did Ana not run directly to court to file a restraining order? If Brad Pitt in his prime (or even now) tried this, his career goes down the toilet. What makes Grey any different from Jim Preston in Passengers, who also obsessively researched his object of affection for weeks before ultimately waking her up to woo her? I guess it’s because Grey owns a penthouse & a helicopter and is a character in a bad Twilight fan-fiction romance novel.
Every time I blinked, Ana was topless. I’ve seen Dakota Johnson naked more times this week than my wife. On the other side of the ledger, models for skiing equipment show more skin that Dornan does in four of the five love scenes. Even in the two that take place in the shower, Grey is only shown from the belly button up. Does Dornan, with his plastic abs &pecs and his stiff acting, have no genitalia to complete the Ken Doll ensemble?
In every regard, Fifty Shades Darker is worse than its predecessor. When you want steamy love story, wouldn’t you call the guy who adapted Glengarry Glen Ross to the screen? James Foley shoots this movie like a music video. There are multiple montages where the camera moves at breakneck speed with blaring pop music, including one where Ana steers Christian’s boat. That sequence is played out as if Steele was Ricky Bobby returning to the racetrack. The most egregious sins occur during the love scenes where Foley decides to blast bad R&B while the two go at it. The worst of these occurs when Ana is fingered in a crowded elevator. The music is originally that muzak that you hear in every elevator everywhere, but once they start fooling around, we are treated to a Top 40 song that will sound great on the faux-edgy, housewife-approved soundtrack. Any sexiness still left in the room as the two lifeless central characters had immediately disappeared as that outside music distracts from the already bleak proceedings.
Foley & screenwriter Niall Leonard (E.L. James’ husband) also fill the 111 minutes runtime with an opening scene of young Christian hiding from his abusive father, implying that his sexual desires stem from those beatings. How sexy! There’s a subplot involving one of Christian’s former jilted, suicidal submissives that is resolved in a way too quick & easy manner that leads to a fight that only lasts one of those aforementioned montages where Ana walks around the entire city of Seattle. There’s also an unintentionally funny sequence where Grey is involved in a helicopter accident and is missing for a few hours until the television coverage announces that he’s found alive & well milliseconds before the elevator door to his apartment opens to Grey walking in with injuries consistent with tripping on the sidewalk instead of crashing into a dense forest of Southern Washington. Additionally, there’s a cliffhanger ending involving Ana’s sexual assaulter former boss and Christian’s first former lover separately plotting revenge. Oh…wait…sorry, SPOILER ALERT!
Fifty Shades Darker is as sexy & well made as a tampon commercial. During those ads, those women at least get to visit a water park, play goalkeeper on the school’s soccer team or get to dance the night away. Here, our protagonist is stuck in a loveless relationship with a monstrous bore, filmed & written by two guys who couldn’t fill the screen with sex appeal or drama if they were given Super Soakers full of it at point blank range. Anastasia deserves better and so do the starving women over 25 demographic.