Film · Review

Fifty Shades Darker

It was getting incredibly spooky in the theatre playing Fifty Shades Darker. Appropriate, film is structured like a B horror movie, except instead of scares, the action here is far spookier in nature. Thing is, it’s a form that works with an audience, those enjoying the screening were the ones engaging in conversation, with themselves and the film. In another, straighter, less-kinky, world these could hit the mark as midnight movies. I think Dakota Johnson at least recognises this, some of her line deliveries are so choice there is no way they can be accidental. Jamie Dornan looks and sounds as if he was drinking his way through production.

Problem with structuring a spooky film this way is that horror has a natural escalation. Something feels off, maybe someone gets hurt, or maimed, something jumps out, a killing, and so on, and so on. These events serve to create a natural arc to the plot, and, hopefully in a good film, a pervasive tone of fear. Fifty Shades Darker ain’t able to corral the nature of sex into any sort of meaningfully satisfying evolving relationship between Anastasia and Christian, nor does it manage to hold onto any sort of sexy tone achieved by the sex scenes throughout the utterly pedestrian motions of the plot.

The plot involves Ana and Christian attempting their relationship again after the recent break up. And look, I’m not going to get into a discussion here as to the film’s representation of sexuality or kink, we’ve said all that already and there’s no more interesting ground to cover there. There’s also the suggestion of a stalker, a previous girlfriend of Christian, and drama at Ana’s new workplace, a Seattle based publishing firm. There’s gotta be more, a helicopter crash which serves as this most laughable and catastrophic attempt at drama, executed so poorly. It’s a two hour long joint but I fear all the detail has leaked out the edges, of both my mind and, probably by this point, the hard drive the data was stored on, it’s not even a half full movie.

We all know that ain’t the point though, and any naive criticism of the minutiae of Fifty Shades’ story is as meaningless as it is. The real pressing question is, how’s the fucking? Well, the film appears to be terrified of genitals. We don’t get no dick here, nor no vag for that matter. Indeed film so terrified of giving us a glimpse of the goods that sex is reduced to a purely two dimensional act. Wide shots are low angle, photographed from beside the bed. Close shots come from high angles, waist up, facing towards the head of the bed. It’s such a waste, the choices made here are so pedestrian, you actually making a sex film with a budget here guys. You’ve access to material that allows you to provide you a varied and complex interpretation of sexuality, even just visually if you not interested in the emotional aspect. Totally wasted here.

Criminally the script has no comprehension of how to enter or exit a sex scene. As the film goes on it becomes such a source of annoyance. We cut into bedrooms as they begin, and out again before they even finish. Seriously, time and again, before they finish. Like, what? How? How can anyone write this shit? The worst edit takes you from a thrusting buttock, jump cut, car pulling up outside a building, a different building, the following day. Sure these sexy escapades can be titillating but they lack definition and humanity.

While we’re on the topic of incompetence, the make up work in this joint is just awful, like, it’s not something I notice unless you’re working with prosthesis or something, here it distractedly bad. Smeared lipstick, unblended eyeshadow, not sure how some of these got on screen. Oh, and the relationship of any of the characters with the language of kink demonstrate a complete lack of investigation or care.

In case you didn’t guess, it’s a bad bad movie. I’m just trying my best not to be sneering. There’s nothing inherently bad about James Foley, he, after all, directed Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s just he’s, well, a dude. Now I’m not gonna say that that’s the whole reason for the failure here, but it sure ain’t a good foundation to build off of. Script too, Niall Leonard, another guy. Mistakes were made.

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