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Kinky couple lose the plot

There’s little good to report... Fifty Shades Darker is a ‘turkey’

Charlie Masters

Reporter:

Charlie Masters

Kinky couple lose the plot

fifty shades darker

Fifty Shades Darker (18)
Running time 1hr 58mins
Rating: *

FOUR sleeps prior to Valentine’s Day, this critic found himself the only single male among an
audience of cooing, giggling couples. The evening’s entertainment was, of course, Fifty Shades Darker; it now occurs to me, with relief, that the pervading sense of awkwardness, weathered with mouthfuls of popcorn and occasional, speedy glances over my shoulder, had nothing to do with my presence at the multiplex. Indeed, perhaps I’m not the target audience, but let it be said; there’s little good to report of this movie.

It’s not just the sex. The hotly-awaited film adaptation of EL James’ bonkbuster sequel (the second of the trilogy) follows a tried-and-tested method familiar to anyone who’s endured the predecessor; the
‘risqué’ sequences are shot with a self-indulgent pop-video eye, rendering them parched, rigid affairs, in keeping with the notoriously clunky writing of the books (“dark melted chocolate fudge caramel … or something”). It hardly earns its stripes as an ‘erotic romance’, although you might not want to take your granny along for the ride.

With that out of the way, it’s business as usual in the kitschy Seattle of Christian Grey (Dornan). He and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are back together, this time with a few cheap strings thrown in for good measure (“no domination … and no lies” – no, the film doesn’t exactly keep us on the edge of our seats). There’s also a stalker ex-girlfriend on the loose (Bella Heathcote), an icky boss (Eric Johnson) and Elena (Kim Basinger), Grey’s very own Mrs Robinson. The world and his wives, it seems, are out to get our couple, but Fifty Shades Darker can’t pull off a subplot for the life of it. Some genuinely horrifying asides (it all goes cod-Freud with the reveal that Christian – gasp! – picked Ana as a twisted mother substitute) are papered over with material decadence and a toe-curling R&B soundtrack; it all leaves a decidedly foul taste in the mouth.

None of this, of course, should come as a surprise – the first film was a masterclass in cardboard cinema, and the story threads here all lead to absurdity. Anastasia is as offensively one-dimensional a character as ever; Christian, meanwhile, is a sort of chisel-jawed Mary Sue, a ‘damaged’ billionaire vested, it would appear, with kinky superpowers (watch Grey escape a helicopter crash! Watch Grey bring a disgruntled former lover to heel with the aid of Jedi Mind Tricks!). The Grey clan, it turns out, are all as vapid as their beloved son; luckily for us, they sure can throw a party, and the film doesn’t hesitate to drop several such scenes, each one as brash and forgettable as the last (including a ghastly masquerade ball).

Above all, the Fifty Shades phenomenon will be remembered as the point at which film sex STOPPED being subversive – the nudity on show is an ostentatious, rather dull commodity, another addition to Jamie Dornan’s infinite collection of ties, yachts and automobiles. Rest assured, there’s nothing here to titillate, let alone shock. EL James has maintained creative control (she gets a producer credit), and the fact is painfully evident throughout. Ludicrous as her movie was, Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson (an acclaimed artist in her own right) was at least trying to make the best of a dreadful script; her replacement, James Foley, has been cowed into submission here. What we get is a turkey for the ages, a perfect storm of rotten dialogue, sickly visuals and softcore pornography.

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