Some of you will either deem me insane or an absolute trooper, but I did it. I went to see Fifty Shades Darker.
Over on my personal blog, I mentioned that I completed a work placement at Penguin Random House and after filing away press clipping after press clipping for the film adaptation of E.L. James’ second smutty instalment that my department had published, Fifty Shades Darker, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. For research of course… but also a little bit for Jamie Dornan. (Sue me!)
I must add that I did the see the first movie, opting to watch it online instead. However, I didn’t think much of it, finding it quite lacklustre. I also read the first book. Amazingly, I managed to battle my way through the book’s constant repetition of ‘inner goddess’ and some of the most ridiculous metaphors and while it wasn’t revolutionary literature, it did raise a chuckle or two. I didn’t make it through Darker as a book, finding it eye-roll inducing and far too over-the-top dramatic which is why I was shocked that the movie version was actually passable.
After booking my tickets via the internet as to avoid the shame of confronting an employee at the front desk and then being ID’d (Curse these youthful looks!), I dragged my mum along to see Fifty Shades Darker with me. This may seem like a weird choice for a movie date, but allow me to clarify. Before you make assumptions, she isn’t one of the filthy housewives that has read the novels. She barely even knew what they were about when we watched the first one together other than that it was ~scandalous~. What makes my mum the best person to watch Fifty Shades with? Her running commentary, musings and cinematography critiques are hilarious as are the shared moments of mutual giggling and awkwardness as Ana and Christian do the do.
Without further ado, allow me to give you a Fifty Shades Darker rundown and save you the £12 cinema ticket in the process.
Darker begins with the camera zooming into a white rose, which is part of an extravagant bouquet that gets delivered to Ana’s doorstep. Alas, who could they possibly be from? Ana contemplates throwing the bouquet in the bin, but just can’t bring herself to do so which thank god, because those were some nice flowers. Not enough to win any girl back, but certainly not trash can worthy.
Ana has graduated from hardware store employment to now working as an assistant at a fancy publishing company. Her sleazy boss, Jack, likes to ogle her ass. On the whole male front, Darker really doesn’t give you much choice but to root for Christian over this asshole.
Jose, the guy who in his drunken state basically almost sexually attacked Ana in the first movie, is hosting an art exhibition. Tragically, he still hasn’t gotten over Ana and not only keeps giving her the jealous side-eye every time Christian is mentioned, but his art exhibition consists of giant displays of portraits he’s taken of the shy and meek Ana looking like a damn supermodel which she is taken aback by despite the fact that at some point she evidently must’ve posed for them. I’m assuming she did willingly. Although, her expression at the exhibition said otherwise.
Jose is ecstatic that someone has bought all of the portraits without even questioning why someone would want six massive portraits of Ana because that’s a little creepy, but creepy is what Grey does best. Christian shows up, Ana is shocked and they agree to go to dinner… but only because she’s hungry.
Christian confesses that his mother was a crack addict and he and Ana get back together. A conversational gambit that although untested, would probably not work most of the time in the real world. Yet, it gets Ana into bed with him and they do the horizontal tango. Johnson’s nipples get a lot of screen time in this movie. I’m talking whole frames dedicated to them which is unnecessary considering Dornan’s ass doesn’t quite the same treatment.
In another bizarre and unlikely-to-ever-actually-happen scenario, Christian attempts to give Ana a cheque for $24,000 dollars which she obviously refuses. I mean it gives off prostitution vibes considering it is the morning after their sexual reunion, but it’s $24,000 dollars. I think most ordinary people would accept, but the entire franchise likes to stress that Ana’s different. Not accepting her refusal, Christian calls someone who deposits the money in her account prompting Ana to ask how he has her account details, something he dismisses before boasting that he “makes that kind of money every fifteen minutes”. Nobody likes a show off, Grey.
There’s a rather uncomfortable scene where Christian opts to shove some silver metallic pleasure balls (not the scientific term, might I add) in Anastasia in order to liven up her experience of his parents’ charity fundraiser which doubles as a masquerade. Christian takes Ana to his childhood bedroom where he gives her a spanking and a strange man in a mask (SPOILER! It’s Ana’s evil boss Jack!) takes a snap of a photo of Christian and his family on the wall. How mysterious!
After a conversation with the woman who seduced Christian and introduced him to all this kinky fuckery, Elena, (who Ana not-so-affectionally has dubbed ‘Mrs. Robinson’) about how Christian and Ana will never work out, Ana storms off. She and Grey then proceed to drive off in a parade of shiny black SUVs to Christian’s garage where someone’s thrown paint over Ana’s car. Clearly sensing that dangerous forces are at play and fearing for Ana’s life, Grey takes her on his boat. There’s a montage of Grey teaching Ana how to drive the boat complete with multiple changing camera angles and Zayn and T-Swift warbling in the background about not wanting to live forever. A moment which my mum thought was very scenic indeed.
Ana breaks it to her creepy boss that she’s not going to be able to accompany him on the work trip to New York and he pins her to a door and exhibits behaviour that’s definitely inappropriate for the workplace. Ana channels her inner Jackie Chan, kneeing him in the testicles and bending his arm back. Then, in another bizarre-wouldn’t-happen-in-real-life scenario, recent English grad with little experience Ana takes Jack’s job where she’s suddenly deemed capable to meet with the top executives and fights to expand their readership. Dakota echoes her mother Melanie’s line in 1988’s Working Girl by telling her colleague who had clearly been their longer than Ana, yet was overlooked for the promotion of Jack’s job that “I don’t expect you to fetch coffee for me unless you’re getting some for yourself, and we’ll make the rest up as we go along”.
There’s another damn elevator scene where it seems everyone is oblivious to Christian and Ana’s shenanigans. Christian indulges in some lipstick play, drawing a map on his chest of all the places where Ana can/can’t touch him and after an eternity there’s a scene where she later washes it off him. There’s a steamy scene at some point in Christian’s shower that is bigger than most apartments I know. He really must be making paper. One of Christian’s jealous ex-subs attempts to shoot Ana before he intervenes and gets her taken to get help.
Christian has a bad dream where he screams ‘No! No!’ just in case you weren’t clear that it was a nightmare from the flashback. He then pops the question to Ana before falling asleep again.
Grey does a morning workout sans shirt which consists of pull-ups and Jamie Dornan’s party trick on a pommel horse. While Ana’s busy conquering the publishing industry, Christian’s helicopter crashes throwing everything and everyone into turmoil. We get about ten minutes of worry as his family nervously pace around his big apartment before Grey strolls in with nothing but a muddy shirt and face. Phew! What a lucky escape!
The final scene sees Christian’s family and friends gather to celebrate his engagement to Ana. There’s a brief argument with Elena about how marriage will never suit Christian’s needs where Ana throws water into her face and Grace, Christian’s mother, slaps her after finding out her friend seduced her son. Fireworks light up the sky over the Grey clan while Jack watches from afar in the forest. In a set up for the sequel, Ana’s disgraced ex-boss uses his cigarette to burn Grey’s face in the picture he has. Dun, dun, duuunnn.
All jest aside, Darker wasn’t that bad. It’s definitely more interesting and watchable than the first. Unlike the first instalment, Darker has a lighter, more comedic tone. I’m happy that it does away with the demure and artsy vision that Sam Taylor-Johnson had because for Fifty Shades to work, it can’t take itself too seriously.
While I did go see it for Jamie Dornan and couldn’t help but guffaw at minor parallels between Grey and his The Fall character Paul Spector, Dakota Johnson may just be the saving grace of this movie. Her comedic skills are what carry the movie through both the goofy and overdramatic scenes.
Although, I didn’t stay until the end of the credits because what is this, a Marvel movie? I read online that there was a post-credit scene teasing the third and final instalment, Fifty Shades Freed, next year which will feature Ana and Christian’s wedding. Would it be terrible if I admitted I was low-key excited for all the drama that will ensue.
Fifty Shades Darker is in cinemas now. Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures.