Fifty Shades Darker (2017) – Review

That each installment of this series is released on Valentine’s Day has me a bit concerned with what Hollywood considers to be a “good date movie,” and I’m not saying that because I believe there is something wrong with a couple getting a little kinky, au contraire as a little spice in any relationship is a good thing as long as it’s consensual, but the problem I have with these movies is that they are not about consensual BDSM, they are about a manipulative bastard bullying a girl who happens to have the personal fortitude of damp cardboard.  How is that anyone’s definition of romantic?

The previous film Fifty Shades of Grey ended with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) breaking up with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she freaked out when after asking him to show her how he will punish her he proceeded to spank her with a belt…a little too hard for her liking. This movie takes place three days later with Ana now working at an independent book publishing company for Editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), a man who could be the poster boy for sexual harassment in the workplace. We then have Anna going to an art gallery exhibit that is showing off the work of her friend José Rodriguez (Victor Rusak), a man who in the previous film was not too happy about being stuck in the Friend Zone. What’s terrible here is that much to her surprise his exhibit seems to consist solely of large photographs of Anastasia Steele herself.

Does this woman have any healthy relationships with any man?

Christian shows up at the gallery, buying up all the pictures of Ana because that is the kind of possessive creep he is, and browbeats her until she agrees to talk with him over dinner.  Ana makes it clear that “We are only talking and that is it.” so of course Christian almost immediately pushes her up against a brick wall and proceeds to make out with her. This is supposed to be romantic? I’d suggest a drinking game where you the viewer take a shot every time Ana wants to do something but Christian talks her out of it, but then I’d be guilty of causing multiple cases of alcohol poisoning. This is not a healthy relationship is what I’m saying. In the first film he basically stalked her until she agreed to sign a stupid “Slave Contract” and now she’s back together with him because he says he can change. Most women I would hope know that this kind of declaration is utter bullshit, but in this case being Christian is a billionaire I can understand maybe someone wanting to give it a second try, but wait, did I mention he has a stalker of his own?

So pretty much every one in this film is messed up in some way or another.

This is Leila (Bella Heathcote) a past submissive who has taken the train to crazy town, she stalks Ana because she wants Christian back…I guess. This crazed ex-slave pops up in the movie and is then dismissed so fast it barely leaves an impact on the film, as does Ana’s sexually harassing boss (though they do seem to be setting him up for a violent return in the sequel) who Christian heroically has fired after the jackass tried some workplace sexual assault with Ana. Why they don’t have the police called and the asshole formally charged is never explained, instead the people in the office are left with the impression he resigned. Did I mention Christian also purchased the publishing company Ana just got hired at? There are more red flags in this relationship than in all of China.

I guess the red flags kind of blend in with his Red Room.

And because a crazed ex-girlfriend and workplace attempted rapist isn’t enough drama we are also introduced to Christian’s ex-mistress Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) who seduced and enslaved Christian when he was a teen, and her sole purpose in this film is to confront Ana and explain how she will “Never be the one” because she can’t give Christian what he needs. It’s a sad day when the statutory rapist is the voice of reason. But just what is Christians’ deal, why is he such damaged goods? Well throughout the film we learn that his mother was a crack addict who died when he was four and she had an abusive relationship with a man who put out cigarettes on Christians chest. Cause, you know, if you are into BDSM you must have some tragic past.

Later when Ana calls Christian a “Dominant” he corrects her stating that he is a sadist who gets off on hurting women who look like his mother. That Ana doesn’t immediately flee the country under an assumed name at this point is utter bullshit, instead she starts bugging him into bringing her to the Red Room for more bondage play. Seriously, this movie is bloody moronic and continues to perpetrate the falsity that people into BDSM all have some kind of painful history that are emotionally damaged and not that they simply enjoy things of a less than vanilla nature.

It can’t be just because it feels good.

Now if you are sitting down to watch this film because you find Dakota Johnson to be very attractive and would like to see what she looks like naked, than this is the film for, but if on the other hand you want to be entertained by believable characters in situations that don’t cause your eyes to constantly roll back in your head than you may want to give this one a miss.

Note: Showtime aired a series called Submission which may not have the big stars found in this movie but it certainly dealt with the BDSM lifestyle more fairly and was certainly more entertaining and erotic than this mess.

Mike Brooks

Mike Brooks

Film grad who spends most his time trying to catch up on his "To Watch" pile of movies.