‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is More Silly Than Sexy

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – While offering a veritable sex scene smorgasboard, “Fifty Shades Darker” fails to offer much in the way of anything that is actually sexy. As the mousy Anastasia Steele and the billionaire Mr. Grey, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are slightly more comfortable in their roles than they were the first time around…but they continue to have all the sexual chemistry of a couple on a first date that isn’t going particularly well. And that’s a problem, since sexual chemistry and S&M is what this housewife fantasy series is all about.

As we begin the second installment of the Fifty Shades trilogy, Anastasia has left her dominating lover and is starting a new life in that favorite industry of screenwriters everywhere, publishing. But Mr. Grey has not gone quietly into the good night. He follows her, has private detectives create a dossier on her, gets her bank account information, stalks her at an art opening and tells her that the redemptive love of her – and her alone – is the thing that will change him. Despite a litany of behavior that should have her running for a restraining order, they get back together in about the same amount of time as it takes to order a vanilla latte.

Anatasia (Dakota Johnson) and Mr. Grey (Jamie Dornan) in ‘Fifty Shades Darker’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

The production looks handsome. There’s a professional Hollywood sheen to this endless parade of one-percenter wealth on display, with the fancy cars, private helicopters, and characters looking great both in and out of their clothes. But the actors can’t muster up much enthusiasm even when they’re supposed to be in the throngs of passion. Characters motivations and attitudes change wildly from one beat to the next, often in the same scene, and then directly contradict themselves moments later.

With nothing other than pretty visuals of Seattle’s skyline – where every scene seems to feature a mountain, a helicopter, or the Space Needle – director James Foley is left with author E.L. James bestselling-but-excruciatingly-stilted dialogue. There are the occasional visual cul de sacs like Dakota Johnson’s amble through the rain soaked streets of Seattle…where she doesn’t appear to actually get wet…and narrative situations that also ultimately lead to dead ends. There are a few ancillary characters tossed in here and there, including Eric Johnson as Anastasia’s overbearing boss, and Kim Basinger as Mr. Grey’s personal “Mrs. Robinson.”

Fabulous Real Estate in ‘Fifty Shades Darker’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

This is a movie that can’t stop talking about how sexy it is, but doesn’t know what to do with what it’s got. Director Foley’s blatant contrivance involving Dornan doing some early morning calisthenics is one of the silliest distractions. Those sex scenes are a mild improvement from the first, but quantity does not equal quality. Anastasia says it best when she says “I was trying to be romantic and then you go about distracting me with your kinky f*ckery.” But with these two dull dimwits, even “Kinky F*ckery” can’t stifle the yawns emanating from the audience.

”Fifty Shades Darker” opens everywhere on February 10th. Featuring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Bruce Altman, Kim Basinger and Marcia Gay Harden. Screenplay by Niall Leonard, based on the novel by E.L James. Directed by James Foley. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


© 2017 Spike Walters, HollywoodChicago.com

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