Christian Grey likes The Chronicles of Riddick.
This outrageous detail, which reveals itself through a wall-sized framed poster of the terrible 2004 action film starring Vin Diesel in Christian's childhood bedroom, is but one in a series of insane things that baffled me about the latest installment of the Fifty Shades franchise. (And that includes a scene in which Christian Grey planks on a pummel horse IN SLOW MOTION. To music. For no reason.) After sitting through a full two hours of breathy make-outs and Rita Ora dialogue, I am completely at a loss.
According to the many teasers and supposedly steamy Zayn Malik/Taylor Swift music video, these movies are supposed to be sexy and romantic. The Valentine's Day release certainly seems to suggest that this should be date foreplay. So, why is everything about this movie so flaccid?
Fifty Shades Darker starts where its predecessor left off: Ana, astonished to find that a man who enjoys being a dominant also takes pleasure from the pain he inflicts on his submissives, has left Christian. But fear not — it takes roughly one day of pining around at her cool Seattle publishing job and a quinoa salad before she takes him back. Because he is vulnerable, you see.
Unfortunately for Ana, Christian isn't the only problematic male in her life. There's her boss, Jack Hyde, who appears to have hired her because he wants to get in her pants and gets dismissive and moody when he finds out she has a boyfriend who is both more powerful and financially successful than he is (the two men's constant pissing contest is both tedious and overbearing). To make matters worse, he actually tries to sexually assault Ana when it becomes clear that she's not going to come to his bed willingly. (The movie ends with him ominously staring at Ana and Christian celebrating their engagement while moodily burning a picture of the Grey family, so I'm pretty sure we have not seen the last of Mr. Hyde — can you even believe that's his name?) And let's not forget Jose, Ana's needy photographer friend from the first movie, who populates his gallery opening with life-sized portraits of her without her consent. You know, because if he'd asked, she would have said no — how can you blame him? Easily as it turns out.
It's pretty tempting to blame the men in this movie. They're pretty much all awful, domineering assholes, who, under the guise of empowerment, want to own and control this doe-eyed lady. But if you ask me, the biggest problem is Ana herself. I mean, girl, get it together. When you tell a man you don't want his money and he immediately calls his assistant and transfers $24,000 to your bank account, using details YOU DID NOT GIVE HIM, that's a warning sign. It's not something you playfully quiz him about and then forget 10 minutes later over brunch. Same goes for the stalker he warns you about. That's not something quaint to be ignored. This man fucks with women's bodies and with their heads. Run.
This brings us to the most outrageous part of the film, in which (spoiler alert!) Christian asks Ana to marry him. He does this in the middle of the night, after having a nightmare, in what feels more like a needy child wanting to ensure eternal love via contract than a genuine proposal. Even more astonishingly, Ana agrees. But the craziest part of all this is how people around them react to this insanity. Actually they don't react at all — and that's what's nuts. Just imagine you went off to some tropical island for three weeks and your roommate was suddenly engaged to a billionaire she's known for an undetermined, but very short amount of time. I don't know about you, but I would probably take her aside and question her sanity. I would, at the very least, act concerned.
And then there's the sex. The reason we're all here — or so I thought. The sex is not sexy. The so-called BDSM is basically six different variations on missionary. (Not to knock missionary, which is a perfectly respectable position, but still, not groundbreaking.) It also doesn't happen that most of the sex takes place after some egregious violation of consent boundaries. Like the time Christian shows Ana the file he has on her stalker, and she asks to see her own. She's mildly outraged, but then takes her top off. Good talk.
There is so much more I could bring up here: Why the helicopter crash that in no way advances the plot? What's up with Rita Ora buying Christian that horrible tie? How is the dialogue worse than Scary Movie 5? Ultimately though, maybe the movie isn't sexy because it grossly misuses its actresses. Dakota Johnson's comedic timing, which was so refreshing in the first movie, is nowhere to be seen. And when you have Kim Basinger — who starred in 9 1/2 Weeks for god's sake— sounding like she's auditioning for a guest-spot on Days of Our Lives, well then, the writing's on the wall. Right next to The Chronicles of Riddick poster.
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