While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her.
When “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out in 2015, I couldn’t believe the amount of ridicule it received. Based on the highly successful book series by E.L. James, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood got their hands on it and to be perfectly honest, the movie wasn’t as bad as everyone made it out to be. There were some scenes involving S&M but for the most part, those were far and few between and they were shot tastefully. The story centered more on the character of Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a twenty-something billionaire who had a physically abusive childhood and struggled with authority throughout his teenage years. Because of what he endured, both as a child and a teenager, he brought with him, a lot of baggage and we discover that in the bedroom, he became a dominant and had many submissives, a stark contrast to his dark past where he had absolutely no control, but all that changes when he meets Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a 21-year-old college senior who interviews him for her college newspaper. He immediately becomes smitten with her and she him and together, they begin a very tumultuous relationship, one that comes to a screeching halt by the end of the first film because he overstepped the boundaries she put in place.
As “Fifty Shades Darker” begins, Anastasia is visiting her friend Jose’s (Victor Rasuk) gallery where he is having an art exhibition, one that includes photos of Anastasia, much to her surprise. Jose quickly discovers that all of her photographs have been bought by one man and Anastasia immediately knows who the responsible culprit is, just as he walks into the gallery. Riddled with guilt and desperately wanting her back, Christian asks Anastasia to go out to dinner with him where he begs her to come back. She is somewhat reluctant but at the same time, wants to give their relationship another go. She finally concedes but this time, she says there are to be no punishments and no secrets. He agrees and slowly, they begin to discover each other all over again.
When it is discovered that Christian’s parents are throwing a masquerade ball at their mansion on the weekend, Christian takes Anastasia to a salon to get her hair done and it is here that she meets Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), the older woman who seduced Christian when he was only 15-years-old and who introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle. Anastasia is disgusted with her and tells her to keep her distance and is upset with Christian for remaining friends with her all these years after what she did to him. At the ball, the two women meet again and Elena tries to separate them by telling Anastasia that he is just using her and naturally, this plants the seeds of doubt in her head. Christian desperately tries to put his old lifestyle behind him because he loves Anastasia and wants to do nothing that will upset her but like any couple, they have their ups and downs. Now working as a personal assistant to a book editor named Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) at Seattle Independent Publishing, Anastasia informs Christian that she is going to New York for the weekend with Jack for a book convention but when Christian says he doesn’t want her to go, informing her that Jack has a reputation as a womanizer and that several of his assistants quit abruptly within the last year, she remains steadfast, saying nothing will happen and that it is part of her job. But when Jack makes sexual advances towards her after hours, she defends herself and quickly leaves.
Later that evening at home, Christian informs her that Jack has been fired because he knows the CEO of the company and told him what happened. At work the next day, Anastasia fills in for Jack at a meeting and while there, the powers-that-be are so impressed with her academic abilities and her suggestions for new writers and titles, they end up offering her Jack’s position. That evening, she and Christian go out to dinner in celebration of her new title but he informs her that he has to fly from Portland to Seattle over the weekend and before he leaves, he proposes to her. She does not immediately accept, stating she needs some time to think the matter over but when Christian’s helicopter goes missing over the weekend, Anastasia fears the worst. At Christian’s apartment with his family, she is overjoyed when he makes it back home, battered and bruised but alive. She accepts his proposal and at his parents’ house over the weekend, celebrating his birthday, he makes the announcement to everyone, with Elena clearly enraged that he actually considers Anastasia marriage material and not just another submissive. As the night comes to a close, and fireworks light up the night sky, we are left with a lingering shot of Jack Hyde, watching the ceremonies, and watching Christian Grey!
“Fifty Shades Darker” is much more emotional, and darker, than its predecessor. James Foley, the director of the magnificent “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which included a who’s who of some of Hollywood’s finest, including Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, and Alec Baldwin, and the underrated “Fear,” starring Mark Wahlberg, Reese Witherspoon, and William Petersen, here, once again, proves just how good a director he is with a tremendous understanding of the emotional aspects of the story. Both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan give career-defining performances, especially as the story peels back the layers of Christian’s past, revealing a broken-down, fragmented, shell of a man, clinging to a life that once saved him from total destruction, but which is now threatening to tear his relationship with Anastasia apart. While the film, and the books, have their detractors, and their critics, my advice is not to listen to them because many of them have never picked up one of the books, or watched one of the films, so their hypocrisy runs rampant. If you are an open-minded adult, who can watch some risqué and suggestive scenes between two consenting adults, you might be surprised to discover a pretty interesting story, in amongst the so-called BDSM hyperbole.
Available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray™ & DVD Tuesday, May 9th