Either operating on a level of high camp or completely oblivious to how preposterous and absurd it is, Fifty Shades Darker is at once slightly better and more ridiculous than its predecessor. Based on the novel by E.L. James, this sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey mostly just fills up space between the first and third novel/film adaptations.
In other words, there’s a fair amount of filler, but what filler it is. We have a psycho-stalker plot, a helicopter crash, soft core sex scenes timed at approximately every 20 minutes, a cameo (Kim Basinger), sexual harassment in the workplace and lots of real estate porn. This is a movie based on a book that is about kinky sex, but when mentioning a money shot in Fifty Shades, one is more likely referring to capital and all that it buys.
As the film opens, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is waffling on whether to stick it out – a phrase, perhaps, I should use with caution under the circumstances – with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), the S&M-obsessed billionaire founder of a social media empire that we never glimpse. Seriously, does the man ever work or does he just mope all day waiting to deliver the next spanking?
This is a movie of many meanwhiles, the first of which involves one of Christian’s former lovers, a mousy girl who seems to always be lurking just out of focus, that is, until she approaches Christian and Anastasia to threaten physical violence. Her plot strand is resolved fairly easily. But the film’s real villain ends up being – wait for it – Anastasia’s book editor at her new gig, whose inappropriate workplace behavior towards his underling makes Disclosure look quaint. The film hilariously ends with said editor leering on top of a hill as he watches Christian, Grey’s family and Anastasia taking part in a celebration.
In the first picture, Grey wanted to be a dominator and demanded that Anastasia submit to his every whim, while in this second film – since the plot requires it – he’s always lingering wherever Anastasia turns and appears willing to give up everything that he previously espoused.
There’s also a smaller plot strand involving Basinger as the older woman who seduced Christian as a young man that ends in possibly the best example of tossing wine in a face and the slapping of a character in recent memory.
Needless to say that there’s not much in the way of suspense in the picture. Whenever there is a problem, Christian uses his money to get out of it. There’s a scene in which Grey has been in a helicopter crash and everyone ponders his fate – and he literally walks into an apartment filled with grieving loved ones, bearing only a few minor scratches. In fact, the film’s biggest plot twist is during a minor scene in which Christian and Anastasia are out on Grey’s boat and pass a house that she finds beautiful – and he neither owns it already nor buys it for her.
For those hoping to watch something sexy for Valentine’s Day, well, Fifty Shades Darker is on par with Girls Gone Wild and naked charity calendars. But if you’re searching for something outrageously ridiculous – think Showgirls – then this Fifty Shades sequel could be your cup of tea.