Fifty Shades Darker: Movie Man Jackson

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She’s just a sucker for pain. When the world last saw Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), she had had enough of billionaire Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) penchant for pain during intercourse. Ana has left Christian behind, and started to focus on herself, acquiring a job as a secretary for one of Seattle’s biggest publishers, SIP.

Christian isn’t ready to leave Ana behind, though, and reappears in her life offering to change. No contracts, or nothing she isn’t comfortable with. As the two attempt to navigate a more “vanilla” relationship, Christian’s complicated past makes this endeavor difficult.

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Call me an idiot or just too nice, but I was one of the people who didn’t believe that Fifty Shades of Gray was the worst thing modern cinema ever created. That’ s not certainly not to say it was a good or even passable movie, but it was watchable enough in stretches to go into the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, with a relatively open mind. That didn’t last long. Working with a bigger budget, Fifty Shades Darker ends up being a much smaller and flaccid movie package.

One thing the first Fifty Shades of Grey possessed was fairly good cinematography and direction from Sam Taylor-Johnson, and a decent score and solid original music tracks. The actual production wasn’t that bad. But this go-around, “FSD,” directed by James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), doesn’t stand out much from the average ABC Family or Oxygen film, minus the subject matter. It’s a very lifeless looking production that does nothing to titillate or stimulate, and the music chosen to accompany these “sexy” scenes ranges from corny to cringey. It’s bad the first time, by the 6th time, you’ll feel violated.

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The two lovebirds in Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return, with passable chemistry, but not the white hot chemistry this movie needs to be effective. As in the previous movie, Dakota Johnson is by far and away the braver of the two stars once again, putting her entire body out to bare in embarrassing situations. If only her character was as strong as Dakota claims her to be, Fifty Shades Darker may have something.

Dornan bares a little more this go-around, and is a tad better than before with some more character meat. Unfortunately, his American accent slips pretty noticeably here and there, to the point where that’s all I was looking for. With that said (for better or worse), they are the best things about this sequel. Everyone else looks bored to be there (Bella Heathcote, Kim Basinger), or a little over-the-top (Eric Johhson). His role into the story is seen from a mile away; not sure if it is supposed to be.

One can get on the stars and the cast for lackluster acting, but the realization is, these aren’t talentless thespians. Two films deep now, probably not much of a stretch to say that the source material for the Fifty Shades novels is extremely shoddy. Some stories are better left in the book. The dialogue is almost always agonizing to listen to. I simply don’t believe there’s someone out there to make this sound even average, but couldn’t someone else be allowed to take a stab at the screenplay who wasn’t the author’s husband? One thing to exercise artistic control, another to not want to take any suggestions from other, possibly more experienced, people.

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As yours truly pressed on through Fifty Shades Darker, there was one thought that went through the mind: The emotional and physical pain that Ana experiences from Christian’s unconventional desires are nowhere near the levels of pain I experienced watching it unfold.

D-

Photo credits go to variety.com, eonline.com, and yahoo.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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Fifty Shades of Grey: Movie Man Jackson

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“You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”

Fifty shades of one man’s psyche may exist, but they all revolve around one desire in Fifty Shades of Grey: Submission. Soon-to-be a graduate of Washington State University, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is thrust into conducting an interview one day when her roommate Kate is unable to do so. This isn’t just an interview with some mom & pop shop owner. This interview is with 27 year-old Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a powerful billionaire magnate residing in Seattle.

In 10 short minutes, Ana realizes that there is much more to this man than a handsome face. Despite her uneasy feelings, she is clearly attracted to his cool & controlled personality, and as fate would have it, Christian is drawn to her innocent and gentle persona. Naturally, the two spend more time together, which is almost always prefaced by Grey stating that romance isn’t something he’s interested in. He is a f**ker, not a lover. While Ana wants something more traditional, Christian’s tastes are more singular, darker, and fueled by a need to never lose dominance.

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Akin to its lead male character’s upbringing, Fifty Shades of Gray has come from humble beginnings to get to the silver screen. The origins are simply the result of a fan known under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon” writing stories and creating a fan fiction that spawned off of the insanely popular Twilight series. Of course, Snowqueen Icedragon is none other than author E.L. James, and the rudimentary fan fiction eventually became a full-blown trilogy capturing much of the world’s attention starting in 2011. And this attention was captured whether people read the novels or not due to the BDSM content, so naturally a movie had to be made, controversy be dammed. But does the movie adaptation assert its dominance?

Yours truly has never read the books, and have little interest to do so. Like most adaptations from print to movie, I am sure that there are a few things left out. But the critical consensus of the 50 Shades series seems to be that the adult, risque content serves as a concealer, or even protection (if you will) for a lack of a truly interesting and well-written story. To be fair with the film, the early portions are fairly interesting, and overall there is some nice looking cinematography especially in the way of lighting to encompass the mood. The early moments carry enough momentum to care enough as to where things go, even if it is abundantly clear to readers and non-readers as to where the ride ends.

As this continues though, there is little drama to remain semi-hooked, and the sex scenes do little to nothing to reinvigorate interest. In a way, it feels like Taylor-Johnson and the producers expected the BDSM moments to carry all of the intrigue, but after the first, what is really there aside from whips and chains and penetration? The drama is supposed to come from whether Ana will or won’t sign the consent contract, and this is basically the rest of the movie. It is actually rendered pretty useless in honesty however, because it isn’t like the two stop all contact or sexual explorations, in fact they continue on with progressively more intensity and sado-masochistic elements. At one point, Christian even makes a point about the contract being redundant. If this was a self-referential jab at itself, nice. Didn’t come off that way though.

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There’s a feeling when watching this that the producers and director want to have their cake and eat it too. The highly mature and dark nature of the content gives the tone one expects, but just as quickly, the movie appears to try hard to be this not-exactly-bubbly but undeniably romantic flick. Even the score, which is solid in some scenes but incongruent with others, reflects this. Again, maybe it comes together more seamlessly in the novel, but it is odd to see something that resembles a teen romance in places.

Two people matter in this and everyone knows who they are. Dakota Johnson’s work here is probably the best aspect of Fifty Shades. It is easy to think that what she is asked to do isn’t a ton, but having to be so open and willing to bare oneself to a national audience requires a lot of confidence. But her nudity isn’t all her role comprises. Her performance feels very natural as it pertains to her character, curious yet fearful, “strong-ish” but weak. There is no debate to be had that she isn’t fully invested in the role.

The same can’t really be said for Jamie Dornan. Playing an American, his natural Irish accents drifts in more than it should, to the point that less attention is focused upon what he is saying and more upon how he is saying it. On the aspect of chemistry between the pair, it is mediocre at best and nonexistent at worst, but yours truly feels like the problem lies more with Dornan. I can’t shake the belief that he could have done more, gone a little further. To talk about anyone else here is wasting space, not because they are terrible, but because they really don’t matter.

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To bring up the question again, does Fifty Shades of Grey assert its dominance as a compelling and sexy film? Not at all, but it isn’t a completely painful viewing. Just exercise caution if submitting to the 125 minute runtime.

Grade: D+

Photo credits go to Variety.com, beautyworldnews.com, and etonline.com

Follow the MovieMan @MovieManJackson.