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‘Fifty Shades Darker’ Review: Sexual Smorgasbord Ratchets Up The Heat — Just In Time For Valentine’s Day

Deadline logo Deadline 2/9/2017 Pete Hammond
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It might not be in the league of The Godfather Part II or Aliens, nor should it even be spoken of in the same breath, of course, but Fifty Shades Darker manages to be a sequel that tops its predecessor simply by not taking itself very seriously and providing what the customers are there for: a good, inventive sex scene every 10 or 15 minutes. In fact, as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), these movies are structured a lot like musicals, where the story stops frequently to cut to some splendidly choreographed sex scene and then moves on with the “plot” for another few minutes until it’s time for another visit to the S&M closet.

Director James Foley gets exactly what this thing should be about, and though it is slavishly faithful to the rather pedestrian details of the book’s storyline (the script is by author E L James’ hubby, Niall Leonard), Foley knows what he has to deliver and, together with cinematographer John Schwartzman, comes up with the goodies as the camera explores every pore of his stars’ nubile bodies. The first film was trying to be something more ambitious, and though that was admirable, it lacked the romance-novel tackiness that is hidden just beneath the surface of James’ prose. That said, there still is no one scene in Fifty Shades Darker that can touch the first film’s “negotiation” sequence. But this outing doesn’t apologize for being exactly what you would expect, and it has strong production values that lift it up.

Jamie Dornan is back as Christian Grey, the impossibly wealthy and sexually adventurous but tormented lover of Anastasia Steele, played nicely by a game Dakota Johnson. This time he is out to prove he is a one-woman man as the film picks up just a few short weeks after the original’s bittersweet and decidedly non-romantic ending that seemed to shut the elevator door on their so-called bond, or is that bondage? Nevertheless, he fairly easily wins her trust back and it is off to the races in a movie that easily could have been titled Who Let the Toys Out? Of course those “toys,” a key part of Christian’s S&M obsessions, are part of the fun here. In fact, one contraption he pulls out provides for such skilled flipping and body contortion that I would swear someone from Cirque du Soleil must have been a consultant on this thing.

Neither star flinches at what they are asked to do, and it sure ain’t boring. One scene detailing Grey’s physically impressive morning workout will elicit applause. Of course, in between the sexual gymnastics there is a “darkening” plotline as Anastasia’s boss (Eric Johnson) proves to be brewing trouble, and there are also remnants of Christian’s romantic past with an unhinged former flame getting in the mix. Marcia Gay Harden is back in fine form as his mother, and Kim Basinger gets off a nice couple of scenes as a woman from his past who still has a hold on him somehow. The first film made about $560 million globally so it was a no-brainer that we would get this sequel — actually two sequels as this was filmed simultaneously with the third edition, Fifty Shades Freed, due at Valentine’s Day 2018. Yes, there is a cliffhanger, but it’s not exactly subtle. Best of all, like the first film, this one has a killer soundtrack that makes Fifty Shades Darker sound just as good as it looks. Producers are Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi and James. Universal unleashes it all this Friday, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Do you plan to see Fifty Shades Darker? Let us know what you think.

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