Fifty Shades Darker made it abundantly clear that there’s nothing a chick loves more than a ball, be it a masquerade event or two small silver ones to stick where the sun don’t shine. Even if your boyfriend is a controlling billionaire sadist who orders your meals, chooses your dresses and BUYS THE COMPANY YOU WORK FOR, forget it all in the name of a rollicking good ball. Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) knows this, and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) finds out in the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey, a film probably best summed up by the man himself when he splutters “I don’t know whether to worship you at your feet or spank you.”
Whatever there is in the way of plot pauses intermittently to let the whopper soundtrack breathe. I had grown a full Castaway beard by the end of a tedious smiling-on-a-yacht montage set to Zayn and Taylor’s banger ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’.
Grimly, the music is often better than the talking. Between the groan-inducing puns, the bafflingly X-rated Oliver Twist phrase “kinky f-ckery” and Christian Grey belching “I MAKE $24,000 EVERY 15 MINUTES”, there’s not a lot of room for the human characters to act like real humans. Anastasia namedrops Dante’s Inferno, Jane Austen and going to an all-important “book expo”, making it seem like the robot writers Googled ‘what is book’ and put in every search result. Awkwardly alluring Johnson and wooden plank Dornan do their best to pass off their interactions as plausible, but in their eyes you can see this and only this.
And, of course, there’s the sexy bits. Be it lending a hand in an elevator, sexing up capsicum cutting or ripping off clothes in a shower, the sex scenes toe a fine line between being actually pretty good and evoking the ‘You Are My Rose’ scenes from The Room. It’s less sensual, more the cinematic equivalent of some tanked women at a hen’s night hooting over a penis straw. But at least the film knows what it is. From the long, irony-laced shots of a cork easing out of a bottle to the unblinking female gaze over Dornan’s exquisite back muscles, it delivers exactly what fans of the franchise are after.
Does it have a random helicopter crash that looks like it was filmed in a MOTAT Video FX exhibition? Yes. Does it have moments of cackling, raunchy fun? Yes. Is it a good movie? No way in fresh kinky fuckery.