Christian Grey: Houston. A week ago.
Anastasia Steele: What'd you buy?
Christian Grey: An airline. (Yes, this is actual Fifty Shades Darker dialogue)
At the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, Ana walked out on Christian but she’s soon lured back to his ‘kinky fuckery’ as screenwriter Niall Leonard so delicately puts it- presumably a quote from EL James’ awful source material.
Christian Gray, he of the bulging biceps and bulging… wallet, is still both incredibly creepy and intensely boring. In order to make him feel less creepy, one of his former submissives is stalking Ana and his Mrs Robinson figure, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger, completely wasted- although being completely wasted is a benefit when watching this film) is warning Ana that she cannot satisfy Christian’s needs.
Nobody seems at all concerned that what Christian needs is psychiatric help. His explanation of his fetish (it all stems back to his mother) doesn’t redeem him. In another attempt to drown out Christian’s creepiness, Ana’s sleazy boss Jack (Eric Johnson) tries it on with her.
There are many awful moments in the film; Christian guides Ana into drawing on his chest in lipstick to mark the boundaries he is comfortable with is particularly cringy. However, the crowning glory goes to Rita Ora. We should have been thankful that her role in the previous film was a couple of lines; the ‘American’ ‘accent’ she is sporting made me wince with every word that came out of her mouth.
The bedroom scenes are dull, underscored by the sort of dreary urban music that was around in the early noughties. Subtlety is not a strong point of this film; when Ana decides to pay a trip to Christian’s infamous Red Room, ‘I’m Not Afraid’ plays on the soundtrack.
What really ruins the film is not the tepid flirting, the cheesy soundtrack or the robotic acting, but the glacial pace. When Ana tells Christian that she wants to take things slow, this should have been an early indicator that the film would drag. The tacked-on plot is buried under endless dull conversations between Ana and Christian; from what I can gather, it’s a sort of erotic thriller, except the film is neither erotic or thrilling.
The attempts at drama fizzle out because the film constantly tries to reassure us that Ana is her own woman and she shows disapproval at Christian’s bad behaviour. In doing so, it takes any potential romance and excitement out of the film. The source material doesn’t work with modern sensibilities and the filmmakers don’t have enough guts to deviate from the mainstream.
I have yet to watch the climax of the trilogy (cue innuendo-laden posters) and I have a feeling that despite all the banging, the film series will end with a whimper.