Magazine article Screen International

'Fifty Shades Darker': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Fifty Shades Darker': Review

Article excerpt

Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson slurp it up in the first Fifty sequel.

Dir: James Foley. US. 2017. 118mins

Sometimes sexy, sometimes campy, Fifty Shades Darker is a smorgasbord of silliness, its dopey pleasures indistinguishable from its many awkwardly melodramatic moments. This sequel to the 2015 smash Fifty Shades Of Grey continues to treat the courtship of its leads as a flirty chess match, so it's unfortunate that the franchise still hasn't figured out how to make us care about these characters' shallow desires. Dakota Johnson brings a little spark and Jamie Dornan remains pretty to look at, but overall Darker becomes an exercise in the limits of vanilla kinkiness.

Opening worldwide this week, Darker will look to best Grey's $571 million worldwide haul, as Universal counts on the phenomenon of author E L James' bestsellers to keep generating large theatrical returns. Considering that another sequel, Fifty Shades Freed, is already slated to be released a year from now, Darker's commercial success would seem to be a fait accompli, even if the series' frank sex scenes may no longer be a novelty.

After breaking up at the end of Grey, Ana (Johnson) reluctantly takes back Christian (Dornan), who promises he no longer needs to be the dominant in their sexual relationship. Now on more equal footing, they try to make their arrangement work, although Ana is fearful that Christian may never be able to give up his BDSM tendencies or allow himself to be truly vulnerable around her. Even more upsetting, a mysterious lover (Bella Heathcote) from Christian's past seems to be stalking Ana.

Taking the reins from Grey director Sam Taylor-Johnson, James Foley supplies all the requisite high-end polish, submerging the viewer in Christian's billionaire opulence when not thrusting us into the bedroom as Christian and Ana execute their well-choreographed, sleekly sensual sex scenes. The eye candy is everywhere in Darker, from the décor to Dornan's pecs to Johnson's rotating collection of cute panties, and it all plays into the sequel's fantasy trappings. Despite the lip service paid to Christian's troubled childhood and Ana's quest to be a liberated woman, the new film (like Grey) wants us to happily woof down this cotton-candy concoction, revelling in its pulpy plot twists and fabulous clothes. …

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