Hello. I am a straight, white, cis male and last night I watched Fifty Shades Darker, the latest cinematic installment of E.L. James’ smut trilogy. When I was a kid watching movies with my parents, I became intensely uncomfortable during the kissy scenes. I longed for the passion to end and the palpable weirdness in the room to dissipate so I could go back to just enjoying the movie. In Fifty Shades Darker, I experienced the reverse — the kissy (and spanky) sequences offered the only respite from the hideously painful storytelling.
After the opening sequence (a camera diving into a big flower; they strapped a GoPro to a bumblebee), the movie begins with Anastasia receiving a basket of flowers. From whom!? She moves to throw the bouquet in the trash but can’t, because it’s just too freaking beautiful. I wonder if this subtle moment symbolizes that she isn’t quite finished with Christian Grey.
Anastasia goes to work as an assistant at a publishing company and her new boss has a douchebag haircut, like Zac Efron’s hair double in the new Baywatch. He also looks at her butt. Maybe he is bad news! Jose, her BFF and Mayor of the Friendzone, hosts an art exhibition and on display are a bunch of giant portraits of Anastasia. She’s surprised by them even though she clearly posed for them. Christian shows up because he is omniscient and non-diegetic Spanish guitar music kicks in while Anastasia’s inner goddess does the merengue.
He wants to talk over dinner and she says no and he asks again and she says okay. To convince her to get back together, he tells Ana, “my mother was an addict — crack.” So she agrees to be his girlfriend, and they go have sex with their nipples and butts but no visible genitals. In the morning, Christian tries to give Ana $24,000 but she rejects it, so he calls someone and deposits the money into her account, boasting that he “makes that kind of money every fifteen minutes.” Wow, he’s so rich. If someone offered me that much money, I’d just take it. But not Ana, she’s different.
Next, it’s time to go to a fancy party. I watch Anastasia don lingerie that squeezes her butt into weird shapes. Christian shows up and they put on masks for no reason. At the party, other characters offer bland exposition until Christian spanks Ana in his childhood bedroom. One guy in a mask with a douchebag haircut (wonder who?) takes a picture of a picture of Christian Grey on the wall because he doesn’t know how to use Google image search. This is, I assume, supposed to justify the “masquerade” device, because nothing else does.
They drive off in a parade of SUVs presumably to rob a bank or run for president (what’s the dif, amirite?) but instead they go to Christian’s personal parking garage, where someone has Lemonaded Ana’s car with a bucket of paint. Sensing danger, he takes her to his boat, although he could have taken her anywhere because he “has lots of places.” Wow, he’s so rich and he looks like a peregrine falcon — I’m totally rooting for him. They wake up the next morning to find themselves in a Zayn/T-Swift music video and through the changing camera angles, we learn that the boat is named “The Grace.” Not “Grace,” after his adoptive mother, but “The Grace.” This has been archived in the Library of Congress as the worst use of a definite article in the history of fictional boat naming.
Ana knees her boss in the testicles and then takes his job, subsequently earning the position when she meets with top execs and floats the revolutionary idea to “expand the readership.” She assures her former coworker and now subordinate, “I don’t expect you to fetch coffee for me unless you’re getting some for yourself, and we’ll make the rest up as we go along.” Best written line of dialogue in the movie, and it’s straight out of the mouth of Dakota’s mother Melanie in the 1988 MASTERPIECE Working Girl.
Christian fingers Ana in the back of a crowded elevator. This scene actually got my blood pumping, but that may be due to my desperate fear of crowded elevators. Anastasia wants to get to know the real Christian, so he draws a square on his chest with lipstick. Later, she wipes it off with a sponge in the shower. Symbolic of her breaking down his emotional barriers? I can’t be sure. Christian has a nightmare about secondhand smoke and moans, “No! No!,” so we know it’s a bad dream.
In the morning he does four pull-ups without a shirt and then transitions into the yoga stance “basking lizard” on a pommel horse, which is the least thrilling way to use a pommel horse. After he tragically survives the time-honored plot device of a vehicular accident, he realizes what’s important — fuzzy handcuffing his and Ana’s hearts together for eternity.
Just before the credits roll, we learn that the disgraced boss now lives in the forest and smokes cigarettes.
There you go! Now you don’t need to see it. Go see LEGO Batman instead, or if it’s thrills you seek, sit inside with your S/O and just watch some good ol’ free internet porn.
Photo courtesy of Fifty Shades of Gray; gifs via Universal Pictures.