Director: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Kim Basinger
There were many terrible things about the first movie in the Fifty Shades trilogy, but perhaps one of the most terrible was the realisation that there would in fact be another two movies to endure. The first film arrived approximately 5 months before I started this blog, so I didn’t have the opportunity to share my thoughts on it (although it did appear in my worst films of that year list), but let me start by saying that I absolutely loathed it, and its overwhelming popularity amongst a certain demographic annoyed me further. Deliberately released to coincide with the most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, rubbed more salt into the wounds as it presented a horribly skewed version of “romance” in the form of a controlling billionaire who wooed a young and inexperienced woman with material possessions and introduced her to the darker side of relationships with some kinky BDSM action.
It is near impossible for me to review this film in my usual fashion, which for those who have been here before will know that normal procedure is to find the good things and the bad things in the movie before offering my verdict. I often feel as though I am failing as a reviewer if there is really nothing good or bad about a film, but I also pride myself on an honest and no nonsense approach, and I’m not about to find some scrap of redemption in a film as terrible as this one.
So yes, Fifty Shades Darker is a woeful, atrocious, horrible, dull, boring, terrible excuse of a film. The first one was rubbish, undoubtedly, but it was at least partially watchable even if it was for nothing more than morbid curiosity to find out just what that mysterious grey book was that everyone had been reading on the train. This second installment however is not just offensive and vapid in its character portrayal and the representation of the central relationship, but inconceivably dull and boring considering it is supposed to be this kinky movie based on BDSM. This is the most boring BDSM movie you’ll ever see; the initials in this case standing for Boring Dull Slow and Mind-numbing.
It is incontrovertibly contrived and predictable, with all the attempts at “drama” (those quotation marks are intentional) coming across as laughable and inconsequential. The acting is terrible and everyone concerned looks embarrassed and downright ashamed to be here. Dakota Johnson’s Anastacia continues to be just as annoying as she was in the first film, however this time she is even more simpering and pining than previously. Anyone who describes her “awakening” as being empowering should take a long hard look at themselves, Ana is no “strong independent woman who don’t need no man”, she is a weak, dependent woman who relies on her rich billionaire of a man to do everything for her, and all attempts to stand up to him are forgotten quicker than you can say “spank me”. For someone who states that sex can’t fix their problems, she forgets her problems real quick as soon as Christian gets her into bed. The speed at which she gives in to him is quite frankly insulting to womankind.
I have deep underlying problems with these films, the books, and the story, but painting this kind of creepy and controlling relationship in such a faux-romantic way is damaging. Christian Grey is not romantic, caring, or considerate, he is creepy, controlling, and vindictive, buying Ana’s attention by showering her with gifts and leading her to believe that he is changing for her, and she is the only one who has ever had this effect on him. OH PLEASE. I’ll say this again, this is not a healthy or loving relationship, it is emotional abuse, a relationship bought with material things. Christian controls and manipulates all aspects of Ana’s life; he buys some photographs of her from her friend’s gallery because he “doesn’t want anyone else gawking at her”, he buys the company that she works for to further exercise his dominance over all areas of her life, he refuses to let her go to New York on a work trip because he is jealous of her boss. This is not a relationship! This is not a two-sided thing! Christian tells Ana “you’re mine”, and she doesn’t respond with “you’re mine too”, she responds with “I’m yours”. Christian is not entirely to blame here, even though he is manipulative and controlling, Ana is moronic and naive, an insult to womankind, an insult to the strong, beautiful, and powerful women who refuse to let men put them down, and who are able to stand up for themselves, making their mark on the world by doing things for themselves.
Anyone who argues that Ana is empowered because she is somehow able to “change” Christian’s view on relationships needs to look a bit closer. Ana is manipulated by Christian from day one, her inexperience in relationships meaning she has a skewed demonstration of love right from the start. She might stand up against his desire for her to be a “submissive” but she still gives in so, so easily to him. He has a hold on her that is worrying, and something which is incredibly dangerous to perceive as being “love”.
There will be those who enjoy this film, I don’t doubt that, but this is coming from someone who is supposedly the target demographic for this film, and it is awful. Not just a terrible film, but a dangerous one, posing a warped view of love and romance that is forbidding rather than empowering. As a woman, we deserve a better film than this, we deserve better than being made out to be weak, both in wills and strength, we deserve better than being shown as people who are bought with compliments and “stuff” rather than being respected and valued, and we deserve better than being perceived as people who buy into this sort of crap.
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Many people asked me why I was seeing this film, and I do feel the need to explain this. It is sadly the facts of life that the majority of reviewers working for high profile film websites and magazines are males, and the balance of reviews so far published for this film, have been through the male eye. Being a film which has such a terrible portrayal of women and relationships, it is important that there is balance, and as a woman I felt compelled to see it for myself. Many assume that these films are for women, but I just wanted to state that this is not a film for me, I hate everything it is putting across and it is important to voice this opinion. Aside from all of its terribly skewed views of love and romance, it is also a terrible, terrible film, with a terrible story, terrible dialogue and terrible acting. I saw this movie so that you absolutely do not have to, but if you do have to, or even if you want to, then I implore you to voice your opinions about it, because the assumption that all women love this tripe, needs to be shut down right now!