Fifty Shades Darker (2017)

(Video on-Demand, May 2017) The Fifty Shades trilogy keeps going with this second instalment and the results as just as dull as viewers of the first film can imagine. While the BDSM content has been toned down in favour of a far more conventional romance, Fifty Shades Darker still plays like a direct-to-video romantic thriller enlivened by more explicit than usual sex scenes. It’s remarkably boring, especially as the plot is so threadbare. Stalkers, ex-lovers, etc.: how ordinary. Dakota Johnson is, to her credit, still the best thing about the movie: her acting runs circles over the impassible Jamie Dornan, and she will probably have a career after this series wraps up. Kim Basinger also has a decent small role, but otherwise there isn’t much to say. There’s quite a bit of wish fulfillment in the way the film lingers in high-priced sets and gadgets. There’s even a bit of sunshine when the two characters take a sailboat out for a day. Roughly half a dozen sex scenes interrupt the dull story for even duller moments—the recurring “panties removal” motif is interesting, but not much else. Otherwise, the film does spend quite a bit of time short-looping its dramatic developments (the boss is lecherous? Wait two scenes and he’ll be gone. Christian Gray disappears after a helicopter accident? Wait two scenes and he’ll be back) while spending its last fifteen minutes setting up its third instalment. We know it’s coming. There’s nothing we can do about it.

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