In theaters now, ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is ravaged by flaccid performances from both Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson on top of a narrative that is so incoherent that it will leave audiences unsatisfied.
When we last left our love birds, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) broke up with Christian (Jamie Dornan) after an unpleasant experience in his sex dungeon. Apparently, it dawned on her at that moment that a man with any room he refers to as his “dungeon” has got some deep-seated anger issues. Ana now works at a publishing house as a personal assistant for Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who is doing a terrible job hiding his desire to sleep with her. However, this narrative is all about Christian begging his way back into Anastasia’s life. After years upon years of being with sexually submissive women, he’s finally found the one girl who he wants for the rest of his life. He even went as far as proclaiming to her that there would be no rules or nondisclosure agreements (this guy sounds like a winner). Of course, Anastasia agrees to get back together with him, but only if they take it slow (which I guess means have sex five minutes after you make that declaration). However, their happiness is short-lived as Christian has secrets, and those very secrets could doom the very thing he wants most of all.
Casting Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey has to be one of the worst casting decisions that I’ve ever seen. The source material (and I use that term very loosely) requires that the two leads have some spark or chemistry on screen and none of that is evident in the film. These are supposed to be two people whose passion for one another is so profound that they can’t be denied the company of each other for a second. When Christian is groveling at Anastasia’s feet for her to take him back, it sounded rote and monotonous. Where was the emotion? Where was the passion? This is the love of your life! When Anastasia learns that Christian’s helicopter had crashed, all we got was crocodile tears. Where is the sorrow? Where is grief? The love of your life might have just died, and all we got was a few tears. There was a reason why fans weren’t happy with the casting choices, and it appears the fans were right.
Direction and Writing
James Foley was the right choice to direct the second installment in this franchise after the poor effort Sam Taylor-Johnson put forth in the first installment. Foley has a strong sense of where the focus should lie in a particular scene which didn’t seem to be the case with Johnson. Johnson utilized many wide shots to capture the brutality of the sexual acts Ana and Christian engaged in. In a short while, it became off-putting and detracted from the film. Foley placed the emphasis not on the acts as much as the emotion (or in this movie’s case lack there of) so the focus wasn’t so much on the act as much as the person. Where Foley missed the mark was how he edited the film. He shot both Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed at the same and included way too much of the wooing between Christian and Ana and could have easily cut a good twenty minutes from the film.
Niall Leonard attempted to right the wrongs of the first film but bit off a little more than he could handle. Leonard attempts to shift the focus of this franchise from the deviant sexual behavior taking place to more of a romantic story and included way too much of it in the second installment. Ana starts off wanting to take things nice and slow (which we all respect) and then what seemed to be a mere second later, she’s in bed with Christian (with no explanation as to why she did it). We kept getting shown again and again that these two are in love with another to the point where I wanted to say “Enough, we get it.” It got to be so much that at one point during the film, Christian’s helicopter crashes which starts off as this big deal but is resolved in less than three minutes. Then that scene which was mildly compelling transitions into another “I love you” moment between the couple. With all these moments of romance (plus random moments that come out of nowhere), the narrative never gets any momentum is quite incoherent.
It would be incredibly lazy of me just to say that Fifty Shades Darker was this abomination of a film. The truth is that Fifty Shades Darker is light years better than the original movie. However, that’s not to say this movie is anywhere close to a good one (quite the contrary). Lifeless performances and an incoherent narrative make this an experience that’s hardly worth paying for.