Fifty Shades Darker is two hours of boring garbage punctuated by awkward ass slapping, an embarrassing Working Girl reenactment, and Rita Ora.
Yes, friends, I hated Fifty Shades 2.
My opinion diverges from Cosmo writers and editors who were positively charmed by the movie, right down to what I would describe as the super-embarrassing scene where Dakota Johnson puts some metal balls in her mouth and then bends over in her lingerie while Jamie Dornan pretends to put them inside her vagina. (At least he didn't have to recite lines while he did this; but more on his "acting" later.) I respect my colleagues' views, but mine unquestionably take a sharp turn from theirs, into a red room of pain where my patience was so badly slapped around that I wanted to storm out of the theater with the same distress as Anastasia fleeing Christian's dumb marbled penthouse at the end of the last movie. Where was my elevator to freedom and my old life?
And I wanted to like this movie. I went into this thing as a Fifty Shades fan. I've read all the books! I even read Grey which was terrible (but hilariously terrible!). I saw the first movie twice in full and hated that also but had FUN hating it since it carried with it the novel and strange joy of seeing the story as a major motion picture. The second movie isn't even enjoyable to hate!
Fifty Shades Darker fails because it’s equally boring and uncomfortable. The novelty of seeing this thing—and Rita Ora, who is still around—on the big screen is long gone to say nothing of the novelty of the story itself. Haven't the women of America gotten over the whole "S&M in popular culture OMG" thing, especially given that we’ve just been subjected to the spanking of our lives by this country's God forsaken electoral college? The books are old, the idea of the books are old, and an on-screen depiction of this crap is about as edgy as Instagramming your cat.
Also, it's not the filmmakers' fault the books are bad, but the point of making books into movies is that you can change them to be really different from their book versions. Comes in handy when your source material includes a woman who only knows how to narrate through her "inner goddess," whatever the fuck that is! Audiences know no movie strictly hews to its book's plot and expect filmmakers to take liberties with the story line. Fifty Shades Darker changed some things about the plot, but not nearly enough to free itself from how bad it is. The plot basically amounts to: Ana and Christan attend the bad photography show of José (who is also still around), Ana and Christian bone, Ana gets stuffed with ben wa balls and then goes to an actual ball, Ana and Christian bone, Christian does a remarkable inverted plank on his pommel horse (a rare highlight of the film), Christian walks into his apartment smeared with fake dirt and blood, and, the dénouement: Kim Basinger gets a martini thrown in her face. Hooray!
And then there's the emotional pain you'll experience watching Fifty Shades Darker. There’s enjoyable awkwardness, the kind you create when meeting your friend's boyfriend for the first time, and there's Fifty Shades 2 awkwardness, the kind you and the actors you are watching on the screen are subjected to. I winced my way through every sex scene, which is just about every third scene. There's a scene where Christian spanks Ana and the spanks are bizarrely loud but also so drawn out that you can't help but notice that Jamie Dornan clearly has no idea how to hold his hand for an erotic ass slap and so ends up looking like he's doing "the robot" instead of spanking the love of his life. Which brings me to something about this film that’s more distracting than Jamie's pervasive matted down hairstyle: Jamie Dornan still can't act his way out of a paper bag. There were times when he was delivering his lines where I thought, That can't possibly be the best take. I don't think this thought has ever crossed my mind when watching a movie. And I saw the Entourage movie. The trouble may be that he can't really conceal his Irish accent. Perhaps he figures he's just a set of abs so why even bother with the whole "delivering lines" part? I agree with this line of thinking to a degree but you have to bother a little bit.
Fair, the source material is bad—we know that—we're not going to this movie expecting to see something that the New Yorker and New York Times movie critics are going to call "interesting" or "of quality." This is a simple movie with a simple premise and characters so simple that calling them one-dimensional might even be giving them too much credit. You could go to the bathroom for 18 minutes and return to the movie and not have missed a beat of plot. These are qualities I appreciate in a movie as someone with an admittedly short attention span, like every other millennial who can't get through a 30-minute episode of Flip or Flop without checking her cell phone 80 times.
The terrible part about all of this is that a third Fifty Shades movie and its drawn out and spendy marketing-palooza is coming. It's already been shot. It's only chance of success is if the filmmakers admit what they're doing, which is making a Sharknado of love stories, and go fully IN on the moments that made the people in my screening shriek with laughter (the plank, you guys, THE PLANK). Sadly, there aren't enough of those in Darker to make it worth those two hours you will never in your life get back.