‘Dakota Johnson in particular deserves a parade through the center of town for somehow carrying this ludicrous material on her shoulders’ … Fifty Shades Darker. Photograph: Doane Gregory/Universal Pictures/PA
There’s plenty to enjoy in the sex-filled sequel: intimately inserted Ben Wa balls, an oddly placed Vin Diesel poster and something called a spreader bar. Grab your popcorn, gummy worms and nipple clamps, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (yes, those are the characters’ names) have returned to cinemas. Fifty Shades Darker, the less fussy, more silly sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey is getting spanked by most critics, but these are people who can’t seem to find pleasure in pain.
No one involved in this production thinks they are making great art, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t taking it seriously. Dakota Johnson in particular deserves a parade through the center of town for somehow carrying this ludicrous material on her shoulders and making it as watchable as it is. There’s a splendid, upbeat and ultimately warm night at the pictures ahead of you, if you go in with the right frame of mind. To prepare (or, if you like, spoil), here are the seven most wonderfully ridiculous things about Fifty Shades Darker .
Around the globe
Coco Chanel said that before leaving the house, a woman should remove one accessory. EL James does not agree. Before a benefit party, Christian Grey inserts two Ben Wa balls into Ms Steele’s most private area, and suggests she wear them for the entire evening. The fact that his parents and siblings will also be in attendance doesn’t seem to be an issue.
There’s a marvelous criss-cross of coincidence going on here. All the swells are dressed up (and masked) to raise funds for a nondescript children’s charity. The founder of the National Charity for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was, in fact, the Rev Benjamin Waugh. Could there be a more clear salute to that great man?
And the horse you rode in on
After a night of soul-quaking love-making (and nightmares about an abusive mother) Christian Grey works on his mighty abs in his private gym. First the shirtless pull-ups, then, close enough to the window so anyone in Seattle can look up to his tower and see, he suspends himself over his personal pommel horse and … stays there. So Lonely by the Police kicks it on the soundtrack and Anastasia looks on longingly, biting her lip, thinking “there’s my man”.
Now that’s Riddickulous
The serious heart-to-hearts range between sweet and unbearable, sometimes just sentences apart. Christian finally starts opening up to Anastasia about his past, and when he isn’t talking he lets the decor do some of the work. A big breakthrough comes in his teen bedroom at his folks’ mansion, festooned with pictures of his dead birth mother, a wrestling match program and a poster for the nearly unwatchable Vin Diesel vehicle The Chronicles of Riddick.
With Fifty Shades and Riddick both being Universal Pictures properties, maybe the set designer just rifled through some old boxes laying around the office the morning of the shoot? This is the only logical answer I can come up with.
Photograph: Doane Gregory/AP
Christian Grey is a man with physical boundaries. But Anastasia can be easily confused, I guess, so asks for a clear roadmap. As such, the frequently shirtless Jaime Dornan takes a tube of red lipstick and draws an enormous square around his torso. You can’t touch him here. (And that includes his heart! Nooooo!)
If this weren’t silly enough, cut to many scenes later, when Christian takes his shirt off again (of course) and the red traces are still there! Unsmudged! No cheap makeup on Christian Grey’s watch!
Print, the legend
Thanks to some storytelling gymnastics that would score straight 10s at the Olympics, Anastasia ends up as the head of the fiction division at an important publishing company. At her first staff meeting all the grey hairs are fumfering about declining numbers. What ever shall they do? Reduce output and stick to their core product? No! young Anastasia pipes up. “We could expand it!” She suggests finding young writers (like one she’s particularly keen on) who “got 50,000 hits just last night!”
“Internet hits don’t convert to print sales!” a boardroom fossil cries, but another, slowly, wonders: “What if they did?”
I couldn’t hear the rest of the scene because everyone in the theater was cackling so loudly. And then applauding because Dakota Johnson is so sunny and likable you want this fairy tale to continue.
Early in the story there’s a cute moment where Anastasia learns that Christian has a vacation hideaway in Aspen. He’s also force-fed $24,000 into her bank account that she doesn’t want, so as a way to tidy up that mess she bids that exact amount on a raffle to stay at his Colorado pad.
Then the topic is never brought up again.
And even with all the nudity (Ms Johnson and Mr Dornan both rather fetching, most would agree), all I kept thinking was, “When are they going to go skiing?!”
Photograph: Doane Gregory/AP
The rhythm method
The skis never come but there’s other sporting equipment. During another randy moment (and the sex scenes really serve the same function as song-and-dance numbers in a musical), Christian straps Anastasia to something that Sextoy.com tells me is a “spreader bar”.
The bound feet and adjustable span aren’t what sell it, though. It’s that each of Christian’s virile moves are perfectly timed to the music on the soundtrack. So when Anastasia just can’t contain her passion any longer and he flips her over like a prurient pancake, the cymbals crash on the quietstorm mix he’s playing in glorious syncopation. What a guy!
I could go on (did I mention Kim Basinger is in this thing?) but I don’t know if you or I have the stamina. I guess that’s why we need fantasy in our lives.