Thursday, February 9, 2017
Review: "Fifty Shades Darker"
So I read where Dakota Johnson said she used whiskey to get through shooting the sex scenes in “Fifty Shades Darker.” After watching the movie all I can say is: Where’s ours?
And I’m thinking a nice loooong pour, too -- four fingers, at least.
Wow, this is really garbage filmmaking. I scoffed at the first one, "Fifty Shades of Grey," based on the best-selling novel, but had to admit it wasn't terrible. The sequel is truly, desperately rotten.
It's a tiresome exercise in kink that's really not that kinky, a wannabe flesh-fest where there really isn't all that much skin on display. The weirdest things get between billionaire/S&M fan Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and reluctant submissive/lady love Anastasia Steele (Johnson) is when he shackles her ankles with a rod in between so she can't close her legs.
I admit I don't know a lot about BDSM culture -- I've got enough pain in my life without bringing it into the bedroom -- but I get the sense true aficionados would find the couple's activities absurdly tame. Especially after Ana ditched Christian at the end of the first movie because he seemed to be enjoying her suffering.
(Wait, isn't that what the S&M part of BDSM is all about?)
He woos her back about five minutes into the sequel, promising to suppress his naughty ways and love Ana for the person she is. Specifically, a mousy, passive, self-doubting wallflower who pretends not to know how gorgeous she is.
The plot is a tawdry succession of cheap perils cooked up to keep us distracted from a story of two people who make sex a lot more complicated that it needs to be. This includes one of Christian's former "subs" -- women he essentially hired to be his submissive lovers -- going all cray-cray on him. She starts to follow Ana around with increasingly threatening behavior.
And then there's Kim Basinger as Elena, the older "dominant" woman who first turned Christian on to the leather-and-kneeling game when he was a teen. She shows up about once every half hour, her splotchy face seemingly held together by Bondo, to try to undermine Ana's relationship with him.
Then there's the helicopter subplot. It's like the filmmakers turned to each other and said, "Well, we can't just have them having sex the entire movie, but the story comes to a dead stop about 90 minutes in. What can we do to pump things up? ...I know!"
At some point the legions of female fans of these books and movies are going to have to own up to the fact that Christian Grey is, by any objective standard, a major league asshole. He likes to hurt women and is incredibly controlling of Ana, right down to ordering her meal for her at restaurants and telling her what clothes to wear to parties. (Along with... other accoutrements.)
But he's dreamy and a billionaire and has that protruding-veins look that's popular right now, so millions of women are willing to give Christian a pass as a fantasy object.
Let's do a quick experiment: Take all of Christian's personality quirks and bedroom predilections, and transpose that onto the personage of Donald Trump. How's that workin' for ya, ladies?
I've long enjoyed bragging that I never walked out of a movie. I came awfully close this time.
Really, the only thing I liked about the movie is a bit where Johnson repeats a line her mom, Melanie Griffith, said at the end of "Working Girl" when her new secretary offers to fetch her coffee. It's something very few people will get, but it made me think of a much better movie.
I started humming the theme song from that film, "Let the River Run," and it momentarily drowned out the pain of sitting through this one. After all, there was no booze handy.