50 Shades Darker (2017). 2/5 stars for this ‘half way up the stairs’ eroticism

Publicity still 50 Shades Darker

Film review by Jason Day of 50 Shades Darker, the glossy S&M romance starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.


2 stars film review fair passes the time



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Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) finds herself single after tentatively dipping her toe into the S&M world of her boyfriend, billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). But the lure of his dark sexual world proves too tempting to resist. But ghosts from his past and a forceful man in her present life threaten their happiness.

Review, by Jason Day50-shades-darker-poster

All neatly wrapped up in silvers and glass just in time for a Valentines Day release (again) is the first sequel to E.L. James’ wildly successful yuppy S&M bonkbusters.

James remains behind the camera as producer but the noted artist Sam Taylor-Johnson as director (according to rumour, they clashed on set) has been elbowed and replaced her with the interesting choice of James Foley, who has form with upper class shenanigans having recently helming episodes of House of Cards and Billions on TV.

But the discernible presence of the author remains as, despite this gender and stylistic shift with the one wielding the megaphone, this is a cut out and paste copy of the first film, with the same problems but one notable change.

There is more sex, quite a bit more. But despite the added raunch, the sado-masochistic elements are toned down even further.

Did audiences find the first instalment too much? I saw that film with a friend and I’d be surprised if anyone was aroused let alone offended by the gloss and sheen of a fairly tame endeavour.

Where that film failed to fully rise to the occasion this one at least manages to get half way up the gilded stairs, once the constant and irritating product placement for a certain mobile phone company is gotten out of the way. (Note to movie scriptwriters: the use of ‘text speech bubbles’ on screen does not make your film ‘on message’ with the latest technological trend. It makes it look like an episode of Hollyoaks…from five years ago).

The trouble with these films is that they manage to make dull what should be spankingly naughty subject matter. We see the two protagonists food shopping, making dinner, sailing a yacht, drinking wine, going to a party in which he has inserted a couple of love eggs in her vagina. You would think this scene would be presented with a rapturously erotic or forbidden air. Instead, it carries with it the same impact as that earlier shopping excursion. A trip to the library to swot up on drainage systems in the Orinoco Basin in the 17th century would be sexier than this scene.

But even worse than the lack of sex in an erotic film, criminal though that is, is how incredulous this movie is. Near to the conclusion, the helicopter Christian is flying crashes in the mountains, leading to a small measure of upper-class angst from his family.

Incredibly, the incident makes the evening news (the only muck in this film is how filthy rich Christian Grey is) but, at the moment Christian’s survival is announced, he walks through the door, slightly dirtied, as if he has just trotted back from the Oregon forest.

Perhaps Foley and the crew didn’t care by this point. Certainly they didn’t afterwards; within a few seconds his family vacate Christian’s apartment to give the two leads time together. Perhaps this moment isn’t so screamingly incongruous with all normal human emotion; after all, their grief at the news of his possible death was beyond mute.

The least I say about the bollocks dialogue the better but Kim Basinger (as Christian’s milf/mistress) sums it up perfectly: “I led him to truth of who he is”.

I’m two movies in to this series and there are more in the pipeline but this is enough cr*p for me. I’m hanging up my cinematic nipple tassels for good.

See the trailer on the official site.

Cast & credits

Director: James Foley. 118mins. Universal. (18)

Producers: Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, E.L. James, Marcus Viscidi.
Writer: Niall Leonard.
Camera: John Schwartzman.
Music: Danny Elfman.
Sets: Nelson Coates.

Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Max Martini, Bruce Altman, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden.


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