Wednesday, 22 February 2017

PLAYING WITH FIRE: ‘Fifty Shades’ sequel entices but hardly satisfies

BE MY SOMEBODY: Dornan and Johnson rekindle their flame in this scene from the recently released sequel.

WHEN Fifty Shades Darker opens, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are at the gallery, taking in an art show and renegotiating the terms of their “relationship.” It’s been a while since they last laid eyes on each other. “No rules, no punishments and no more secrets,” they agree. Deal. Before long, they are all over each like white on rice, enjoying the here and now and the endless possibilities. Until, of course, trouble arrives.

As it turns out, certain elements from Christian’s past – spurned former lovers included – refuse to stay in the past, threatening to destroy what he’s trying to build with Ana, the feline kryptonite that’s got him hooked. But when Christian decides to pop the question of all questions, what will her answer be? Hearts will be broken, big secrets will be hurled out into the open and lives will never be the same.

That’s the basic set-up of this emotionally charged sequel to the film version of EL James’ monster literary hit Fifty Shades of Grey. For the most part, it connects, laced with passion, ego and some of the steamiest sex you’ll see on the big screen this year. In other words, it’s packed with the stuff young audiences crave.

Directed by James Foley, working with a screenplay by Niall Leonard, Fifty Shades Darker traverses that line between erotic drama and revenge thriller without taking any sides. It falls short of the depth we were anticipating, but the ending sets things up for a thrilling next instalment where, hopefully, things will improve.

Christian, the billionaire, and Ana, the budding manuscript editor, can’t get enough of each other. They do it everywhere – from his lavish master bedroom to his special toy-filled playroom to the restaurant elevator. For Johnson and Dornan, theirs is an electric chemistry and their on-screen coupling feels urgent and primal.

Under Foley’s tasteful direction, these attractive young leads are very alive, very comfortable with each other, making the relationship, its nuances and contours, very accessible for the viewer.

A strong supporting cast is along for the ride – including Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, The Dead Girl) as Christian’s genteel mother, Grace, and singer-actress Rita Ora as his vivacious younger sis Mia. Then there’s Eric Johnson, appearing as Jack Hyde, Ana’s demanding boss at the publishing house where she works, and a tough-as-nails Kim Basinger (L.A. Confidential) as Elena Lincoln, a will-not-be-ignored vixen from Christian’s past who has warning words for Ana. 

Steamy but short on substance, Fifty Shades Darker is a mildly satisfying sequel. Tyrone’s Verdict: B

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