Those looking for a spicy Valentine’s Day weekend film might be tempted to look towards the latest entry in the “Fifty Shades” saga, “Fifty Shades Darker” when it hits theaters this weekend. Well, as the films characters are won’t to say, this film is a bit more vanilla than your expecting.
Picking up nearly where the last left off, Ana and Christian are on a break, a fairly short one considering the weakness of the excuse Ana gives in order to allow herself to have dinner with Christian. That aside, Ana is a stronger female lead than her inspiration, Bella Swan, ever was when it comes to attempting to exert some control over her personal life, however feeble those attempts still are. Sex, danger, and the increasingly mellow Christian Grey greet the viewer for the duration of the movie.
Continuing the series that coined the term “mommy porn,” the film is a hard-R for graphic nudity and well, sex. The intensity of the male gaze here is only heightened by the fact the source material shares the same perspective of its characters. The cinematography choices in some places makes an effort to look and feel like the romantic thriller this sequel was striving for, from the focus imbalance when introducing Ana’s stalker to the tighter shots when her boss makes aggressive overtures after hours when the pair are alone, although that still never succeeds.
The weak and cringeworthy dialogue, although interspersed with some humor and continued inability by the script to generate any true interest in the lives of the characters makes the two hour runtime feel like an eternity, especially when confronted by the pairs frequent sexual interludes. Kim Basinger’s brief introduction as our Mrs. Robinson, and her equally as sudden disappearance from the story, cut short what might have generated a compelling plot line, had it been allowed to be explored with more detail.
There are few saving graces to it, such as the improved acting here offered by the lead actors, and the attempt to lace humor throughout. Dakota Johnson’s previous Valentine’s Day offering ” How To Be Single” showed us that she is capable of the acting necessary to elevate a romantic skewing film, and here is as much a victim of the script as the audience.
“Fifty Shades Darker” is a marked improvement over the first in the series, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but I, for one, cannot wait to be “Fifty Shades Freed” of this series and its reminders of the Twilight saga.