Movie: "Fifty Shades Darker"
Director: James Foley
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 10
“Fifty Shades Darker,” the sequel to the ode of boring people doing non-boring things “Fifty Shades of Grey,” is a whirlwind of stalking, sex and hushed conversations about tortured pasts and complicated romance.
The male protagonist, Christian Grey, is played so blandly and half-heartedly by Jamie Dornan he could be called Christian Beige (this horrible joke is one of many I entertained myself with during the movie). Dornan is apparently taking the Robert Pattinson road to starring in cringing cinema — he’s detaching himself from the franchise through terrible performances and unenthusiastic press. Aside from Dornan’s atrocious acting, his character is the embodiment of a self-possessed alpha male who justifies all of sadistic and overbearing behavior with his dark past.
Dornan’s counterpart, Dakota Johnson, plays Anastasia Steele. Johnson does a good job of making Steele likable through all of her adorably awkward comments about Grey’s “red room of pain” and her constant state of “oh, me?” But her voice never rises above a whisper and literally half of the movie is just her sighing in one way or another. Despite her annoying tendencies, Johnson gives Steele a backbone — something she was missing in the first movie. One scene finds Grey on his knees begging Steele for forgiveness,which is the most cringe-worthy gratification I got the whole movie.
The supporting characters, including Rita Ora as Christian’s sister and Marcia Gay Harden as his mother, are fine. They do well with the material they’re given and provide minor respites from the overwhelmingly bland dredges of Steele and Grey’s relationship. I can’t talk about any other characters because I don’t remember them.
Now to the plot — the main characters were stuck in a “Groundhog Day” cycle of Grey doing something extremely possessive and creepy, and then using his tragic past to justify it and then making up with over-extended sex scenes that are surprisingly dull.
In addition to Grey and Steele’s (honestly, those are their names) circular relationship development, they deal with a psycho ex, a predatory boss, another psycho ex and a truly laughable scrape with death. The movie ends with a seemingly happily-ever-after, but of course the predatory boss has now evolved into a full-fledged stalker and will undoubtedly wreak havoc on the now-normal and healthy relationship Steele and Grey (potential '80s pop duo moniker?) have now formed.
Other than the uninteresting plot and excess of psychos, Steele remains friends with Jose, her friend who tried to drunkenly sexually assault her in the first movie, a baffling detail I couldn’t get over. I also had no idea how much time passed during the movie, or between the two movies for that matter. It could have been four months, four weeks or four days — I have no clue.
Although I had no concept of cinematic time, I certainly felt the seconds creep by in real time. Really the only saving grace that kept me from leaning over and asking the person next to me how much time was left was the soundtrack. Much like the first film, the soundtrack was a mix of indie and pop tracks that convey the film’s moody and sultry tone in four minutes better than the film does in two hours. Songs from Sia, Nick Jonas and Anderson East create a moody vibe but still manage to bring a genuine sultriness the film sorely needs.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this film. But if you’re into terrible cinema like “Jupiter Ascending” or the last ten years of Nicholas Sparks’ movies, “Fifty Shades Darker” might be worth your money.