Fifty Shades Darker
By: Jennifer Vintzileos
Despite the fact that I am an avid reader, I admit that I have never read a single book from the Fifty Shades franchise. Okay, maybe only a line here or there from friends who have tried to persuade me to read the books. But as an avid movie fan, you had better believe that my behind was firmly planted in a semi-luxurious AMC Theater recliner seat for the opening day of Fifty Shades Darker. And for those of us who have been eagerly pouring through photos of filming and candid shots of our favorite actors on set, the wait has been worth it!
With Director James Foley (House of Cards) taking the helm on not only Fifty Shades Darker, the mood of the film takes a more playful path with just a touch of thrill. Well, maybe more than just a touch if the trailers have been any indication. When we last we left Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) their parting had most of us reaching for the Kleenex. Ana could not handle the worst of Christian’s sexual ire and tearfully fled Escala, their future unknown.
Based on the series by E.L. James, Fifty Shades Darker takes place only days after the first movie ends. During their separation, Ana and Christian seem to be going through the motions of daily activity. Ana’s struggle is more prominent at the beginning of the movie, but don’t let the sadness fool you. Dakota Johnson brings her “A” game to making Ana appear vulnerable with a newly developed no-nonsense attitude. Christian decides to crash Ana’s friend Jose’s (Victor Rasuk) art exhibition in an effort to convince Ana to reconcile and their relationship resumes under new terms. Frankly, no terms whatsoever.
Foley’s attention to detail makes Fifty Shades Darker a much more intriguing tale as Grey’s tumultuous past weaves its way through Ana and Christian’s story. Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) desperately tries to persuade Ana to step away from her former submissive while former Grey paramour Leila Williams (Bella Heathcote) takes the word “stalker” to new heights, testing the couple and their resilience.
But it is Ana’s boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who takes the cake, gradually becoming more belligerent and gruff in his advances towards her while the relationship with Grey flourishes. Eric Johnson’s portrayal of Hyde makes him appear charismatic, but terrifying in all the ways we hope for. Two words: Charlie Tango. I can’t wait to see where he takes Hyde’s character in Fifty Shades Freed.
Of course, Fifty Shades Darker would not be complete without a “hint” of gratuitous sexual content, a shirtless Christian and an epic romantic moment that will you leave you swooning into your bucket of popcorn. Watching various promotional platforms and interviews done in the past few weeks leading up to the movie, it was easy to see that Jamie and Dakota developed their friendship even more through filming this time and that it lends itself to their on-screen compatibility in the sequel. Gone from the Ana/Christian dynamic of the first movie is Christian’s aloof and dominating behavior. In this film, Ana seems to take more charge in ensuring that both their needs are satisfied. The relationship vibe seems less wooden, more relaxed and way more romantic.
The real star of this movie? Christian Grey’s smile! Dornan brings Christian’s character into a more playful and vulnerable light while still retaining the core of his charismatic, sexual nature. Whether it be from sharing Grey’s rough childhood, attempting to help Ana with cooking dinner to introducing more of the playroom toys, Jamie’s performance breathes life into Christian’s personal growth. Grey stops appearing as bossy and daunting and becomes more human. Potentially the most human scene involves lipstick and boundaries; such a moving moment between Ana and Christian.
But if I really had to pick my favorite part of that growth it was in the Red Room scenes. Watching how Ana and Christian interact in the playroom from the first movie until now, the audience gets to see just how much the couple has progressed and matured through their trials. Christian seems to flourish the most when in his sexual element. Without giving much away, the second Red Room scene is monumental in this change. The subtle differences in Christian’s demeanor and prowess made it extremely difficult not to fall in love with him even more.
Fifty Shades Darker is out in theaters now! If you haven’t seen it yet, make a date with your girlfriends, sister or (with some negotiation) your significant other. And stick around for the credits for a little surprise. Because if you’re like me, after you see it you’ll be counting down the days until the next installment.