Susan Granger’s review of “Fifty Shades Darker” (Universal Pictures)
When we last saw Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson), she’d brusquely walked out on domineering Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (scruffy Jamie Dornan) after he not only took her virginity but turned her into his sex slave.
Not long afterward, she has a job as an assistant to the editor in a publishing house. But when Christian buys an entire art exhibit of her photos, gullible Ana returns to his bedroom – with a “Chronicles of Riddick” poster on the wall – and his kinky Red Room (a.k.a. dungeon), which has been sensuously redecorated.
Their arrangement is renegotiated and, this time, he promises: no pain – unless you count nipple clamps.
Problem is: in addition to a creepy, spurned stalker (Bella Heathcote), there’s a pivotal woman lurking in Christian’s twisted psyche. It’s his mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) best friend, Elena (Kim Basinger), the cougar who taught Christian all about obedience and sado-masochistic sex.
“He needs a submissive – in life as well as in the bedroom,” she tartly informs skittish Ana.
Complicating matters further, Ana’s smarmy editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) loses his livelihood when Christian buys the publishing house where she worked, and he’s determined to wreak revenge.
Adapted by Niall Leonard from his wife E.L. James’ novel with its Harlequin dialogue and ineptly directed by James Foley, it’s now obvious that Christian is a psychologically disturbed sex addict.
There’s no romance or erotic foreplay en route to the simulated, stylized sex scenes, just silly soft-core porn, which quickly becomes so ludicrous that it’s laughable.
FYI: Film buffs may recognize Ana’s line, “I don’t expect you to fetch me coffee unless you’re getting some for yourself.” In a sly tribute to Melanie Griffith – Dakota Johnson’s real-life mother – screenwriter Niall Leonard lifted it from Griffith’s sassy 1988 “Working Girl.”
Over the end credits, there’s a teaser for “Fifty Shades Freed,” scheduled for 2018.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Fifty Shades Darker” is a trashy, tawdry 2, tarnishing the luster of Valentine’s Day.