SECOND INSTALMENT OF RISQUE FILM
50 Shades Darker, Rated MA15+ Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Bella Heathcote Directed by James Foley
The verdict is in: Fifty Shades Darker is as cheesy as its predecessor, at least according to a throng of unimpressed critics.
Given the mixed reception for the first film, it’s no surprise that the second instalment of author E.L. James’ bestselling erotic trilogy has garnered far-from-glowing reviews from critics whose distaste for the film seems to mirror the outcry from protesters claiming the franchise romanticises domestic violence.
Having read the books, which I’m sensing the least-impressed of critics haven’t, I can say it’s not director James Foley who’s at fault when it comes to the film’s cheese factor.
Foley, who takes over from Sam Taylor-Johnson to direct the final two instalments in the franchise, has the difficult task of turning James’ painfully written sap-fest into a movie that is bearable.
It should be noted that the story itself is cringe-worthy; the gushy, sappy lines exchanged between James’ protagonists Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are bound to induce more eye-rolling than swooning.
Having matured from the wide-eyed virgin in the first film, Johnson’s Ana lays down the law upon agreeing to reconcile with Grey, having earlier fled from the sadistic billionaire in the aftershock of his overzealous spanking.
Christian accepts Ana’s terms of “no rules, no punishments and no more secrets” and pledges to meet her expectations of a more “vanilla relationship”.
As the couple fall back into a cloud of lust, sex and romance, they are unknowingly stalked by Grey’s jilted ex-lover Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote).
Adding another layer of intensity to Ana’s world is her boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who attempts to woo her with his creepy, uninvited advances, while a botoxed Kim Basinger makes her highly anticipated debut as the elusive Elena Lincoln, aka Mrs Robinson, who is quick to unleash her disapproval of Ana.
The scenarios that unravel with Jack, Elena and Leila take the film into darker territory, with Foley throwing in elements of a thriller amid the soppy romance drama.
As far as performances go, Johnson and Dornan seem to have found their stride, treading beyond the awkwardness that was projected in the first film as they try to navigate the graphic, sexual nature of the books.
While it’s hard not to gawk at Dornan’s chiselled physique, it’s Johnson who adds another dimension to Ana, a character who, in the books, is a frustratingly emotional ball of mess. Yes, the film is cheesy. Yes, the characters are melodramatic. Yes, there’s a lot of sex. But these are the elements that underpin the world created by James, which Foley manages to deliver with clever precision.
It’s not director James Foley who’s at fault when it comes to the film’s cheese factor.
Moonrise Cinema Karratha is hosting a double screening of Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker on Saturday, March 11, from 7pm. For more information, visit moonrisecinema.com.au.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson return in sequel Fifty Shades Darker.