Fifty Shades Darker
There’s a particular adage describing how the certain solid material looks of the top of the septic tank. This is a crude analogy to use about a movie, but in this instance, the consensus is accepted. The movie represented by the waste material in this comparison is ‘Fifty Shades Darker,' the second in a trilogy of the movie adaptation of the best-selling novels written by E. L. James. Audiences around the world have already been afflicted with the opening salvo on this front, good taste ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,' and undoubtedly have ‘Fifty Shades Freed,' in the foreseeable future. Some may understandably wonder how it will be so universally panned by critics could be assured filling out a complete trilogy of movies. The movie of the consideration at an estimated budget of some $55 million over most of it was recouped on opening night eventually starting to well over double the investment without even considering income derived from Blu-ray/DVD and cable licensing fees. Unless you’ve been living in a pop-culture free environment for the last two years you undoubtedly aware of the fundamental plot of the series of movies, and perhaps a specific focus of the second film. The story follows a rather naïve young woman drawn into the influence of a man who is wealthy and powerful and also quite into the sexual practice known as BDSM, a.k.a. Bondage, discipline, sadomasochism. In the first story, the powerful man in the designated damsel restricts their pursuit of fetishism to the bedroom. Now, take the show on the road and explore various establishments and groups with devotees of the practice and gathered together. Since the subject matter so overly sexualized it would be a completely natural conclusion to expect a substantial amount of nudity. Right up front, it should be noted that only an estimated 9% of the film is over sexual content. That’s less than 12 minutes of a running time of the 118 minutes. Back when I was a kid, long before the age of the Internet, you check the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, for films listed as condemned by the Church. They were the ones we would inevitably try to see the next weekend. Even by the puerile standards of the 60s, teenage boys would be disappointed in the eroticism of this movie.
This story moves directly into some of the psychological and emotional influences that help shape the sexual predilections of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). After breaking up with his girlfriend, the enigmatic Mr. Grey begins experiencing intense nightmares forcing him to revisit the abuse he suffered as a child. Meanwhile, his former liaison, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is moving on with her life including a new job as an assistant for an editor at Seattle Independent Publishing, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). Since this story is ostensibly a romance, albeit a very unorthodox variation, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Hyde is interested in Ana. Initially, the dramatic motivation was whether or not Ana was given to the seductive Mr. Grey. In an attempt to change the underlying narrative reflects a slightly different direction; Christian now has a romantic rival adding to his concerns. Even the worst movies can contain a few aspects properly handled. To the credit of the screenwriter, Niall Leonard, the time is wasted to reunite Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele. Ana was attending an art gallery show featuring a friend of hers, Jose Rodriguez' (Victor Rasuk). Among the other guests she happens to spot Christian Grey, and after a bit small talk, she reluctantly agrees to go to dinner with him. Any reasonable person would hear his voice in the back of the head screaming while watching this point of the film, which after everything that happened in the previous movie why would she risks falling back into the same routine. The answer is quite simple. If she declined the invitation, the movie would probably qualify as a short. It is the most blatant of plot contrivances but considering the overall quality and veracity of the story any complaints would be meaningless. Christian does make the requisite plea to accept his offer by stating that he has changed. If you saw this in the theater and happened to look around at this moment, you undoubtedly see every woman’s head nodding in disbelief.
The movie proceeds to construct an overly convoluted tangle of interrelationships. Ana encounters a woman who looks strikingly similar to her later when she’s having drinks with Jack; conveniently Christian is there as well. When he witnesses Jack’s Cretaceous attitude towards Ana, he abruptly leaves taking Ana with him explaining that her boss at less than honorable intentions but is not so innocent flirting. Christian explains to her that this company has been seriously considering taking over SIP. That would ensure that Christian would not be out of Ana’s life anytime soon. He also revealed her that the woman she saw him with that look similar to her was Leila Williams, portrayed by Jazmine Campanale, Ms. Johnson’s stand-in. He explained that she was one of his former submissiveness demonstrating that he obviously has a particular physical type that he finds attractive. To infuse a modicum of suspense into the proceedings, Christian provides a bit of the woman’s back story. After leaving him, she got married, but recently her husband died. Since then she has taken upon herself to stalk Ana and Christian.
If it weren't for the fact that Christian was a man, this tale of his scarring childhood would be consistent with a Lifetime movie. His mother was a prostitute addicted to crack in his birth mother committed suicide. As a child, he was taken in by Grace Trevelyan Grey (Marcia Gay Harden), who eventually adopted him. Later on, Ana meets a woman Christians past, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), who is Christian’s business partner and former dominant. To keep things, spicy turns out the Christian life to be not just on the giving side of S&M at the receiving side as well. The big scene that dominated the trailers is the BDSM masquerade ball. The setting, obviously inspired by the central sexual intrigue for Stanley Kubrick’s final film, ‘Eyes Wide Shut.' I always enjoy a movie that requires the audience to devote their attention to the storyline. It is exciting to see various threads of the story become woven together as the narrative progresses. Instead of individual threads of a beautiful tapestry, the elaborate nature of the story closely resembles a tango Christmas tree lights when you retrieve them from storage in December. Just as that inexorable morass of wires and bulbs promised to be something special, the only thing that provided is frustration, disillusionment, and disappointment.
Obviously, there is a fan base for this series of movies is evident not only by the box office success despite being dismissed by critics but also the best-selling status of the novels. The main difference between the three books in the franchise and the Pope Romance novels so popular for women to read on the beach that the ‘Shades of Grey’ stories were published in hardcover conferring upon them a semblance of literary worth. I happen to agree with what many people have noted that if you want to watch an erotic drama, you will find more success watching Cinemax After-Hours than anything this movie can offer. The movie is available in Ultra high definition, 4K, in case you are inclined to spend even more to have the video as sharp as currently available.