Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger, Bruce Altman (Rated MA – 115 min).
When reviewing the not as bad as expected first sultry film adaptation (2015) of the Fifty Shades of Grey book trilogy phenomenon by stay at home writer E.L James, all I could do was make comparisons to oppressive retro cult Mickey Rourke classic, Nine and a Half Weeks (1986).
I was too young to see it at time of release however adoration of the retro forbidden romance developed when on VHS. So, when Kim Basinger shows up here, it filled my senses but that is where most of the reminiscing stopped.
Fifty Shades Darker is less experimental, more romantic thanks to a developing plot with more twists than a pretzel factory between tormented entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) showing strong ambitions to rekindle the wicked relationship with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson).
Even though she is off on a new career trajectory at a Seattle publicity company, making time for the past becomes imminent. Her desires for Christian remain simmering, he has a hold of her heart and in turn her entire body.
Proposing a new arrangement, he delivers an ultimatum. Ana languishes to some degree with minor concerns including accepting she is the latest in an extreme shopping list of former playthings before submitting herself to absolute pleasure once again.
Somewhere in between the over-articulated sensual heavy breathing, Christian drops the L word admitting he’s in love with Ana hoping to transition his handcuff commitment to the real thing. There is an audience for this slick soap opera enhanced by flesh for fantasy, but I recommend cool retro trash like ‘Two Moon Junction’ a better viewing option.
Like she did in the first film, Dakota Johnson does her best, firm acting saves certain serious moments turning into unintentional farce. Irish born Dornan has the looks, but all important chemistry with his lead and supposed loved one is transparent.
Soundtrack fatigue sets in early with too many musical interludes, a prime indication the script needs filler, although pint sized singer Rita Ora sticks to acting here, returning as Mia Grey.
Most of the new characters introduced are fine including Australian Bella Heathcote (Neon Demon) as mysterious Leila and the soon to breakout, the wonderful Paniz Zade in a minuscule but significant role.
If nothing else, the outcome keeps things interesting for the final instalment – Fifty Shades Freed – due same time next year, just in time for Valentines Day.
Shane A. Bassett