E.L. James (Author of the Fifty Shades of Grey series) is one of those phenoms that increasingly makes me wonder whether I’m wasting my time. Her writing is terrible and the novels (or the 34 pages I read of the first novel before I hastily aborted the cringe inducing attempt) are limp, ludicrous trash. Like the wild scrawl of a 14 year old who watched the Twilight series back-to-back while flicking through cheesy, pulp throwaway romance fiction in a pilfered copy of Playboy magazine, with a background soundtrack of John Mayer. However, it was a monstrous commercial success, shifting millions of copies and netting James nearly $100 million dollars. Only furthering my belief, that Western civilization has become a kakistocracy (rule by the stupid).
Still, when the book was adapted for the big screen, you try and keep an open mind. Despite the critical snobbery towards the oft-compared Twilight, mainly from men, those films were very entertaining, although utterly bonkers. Fifty Shades of Grey was unfortunately not so watchable, basically equating to fifty shades of utter shite. Still, it ate up cash at the box office like Piers Morgan eats up scraps of food from Donald Trump’s hand every evening before curling up at the end of the presidential bed. And money, means sequels.
Fifty Shades Darker continues the series’ fine traditions of unofficially continuing the Carry On film series with “Carry On with Bondage.” Albeit a more accurate comparison would be with the infamously bad cult film, The Room. A film so storied and legendary its worthy of its own write up and an erotic-thriller so bad is inadvertently one of the finest comedy films ever made. For all intents and purposes, Fifty Shades Darker is The Room with more money and more logistically correct sex scenes.
The story – what little there is of it – surrounds Mr Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) a.k.a. Patrick Bateman without the cutting irony, attempting to rekindle his relationship with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). A pornstar name with a stunningly, seedy glamour offset by Johnson’s whiny voice and the fact she works in the vaguest publishing house in history.
The attempts to rekindle this relationship face hurdles, largely made up of Christian’s exes; Kim Basinger’s cougar ex-girlfriend who has walked straight off the set of an 80’s American soap opera and his former submissive Leila (Bella Heathcote) with a daytime TV tragic story.
Credit where its due in the flesh department, the producers responded to the complaints that the previous film was disappointingly tame with its main selling point – that’s sex in case you didn’t know. Ana and Christian couldn’t stop shagging throughout the film. Anything seemed to set them off. Dinner, parties, drinks, arguments, childhood trauma and the milk going off and our protagonists having to kill time before the shops opened.
I saw so much of Dornan – who bares more than a passing resemblance to The Fall’s controversial frontman Mark E. Smith – and Johnson I was almost gaslighted into believing I’d slept with both of them.
The film is unintentionally hilarious throughout, with Christian explaining anything away with the line “my people are taking care of it” and the even more hilarious “I have a place there.” The dialogue has all the subtlety of a Daily Mail headline and makes even less sense.
Major angles are set up and then either ignored for the rest of the film or hastily jettisoned for no reason. Angles such as helicopter crashes, the fate of several supporting characters, Anastasia’s job promotion or Mr Grey’s clear psychological issues than need urgent expert attention. It is a film that unknowingly revels in its own utter stupidity in a perversely entertaining manner, made more fun, in my case, by a rambunctious audience not taking anything remotely seriously.
Still, as accidently entertaining as Fifty Shades maybe, it lacks the comic timing, unsettling nuttiness and its ability to pass through the lexicon into “so bad its worthy of repeat viewing” territory of The Room.
If you want a film with sex rendered inadvertently into silliness and quotable classic, comedy lines then watch The Room. If you are still one of the ignoramuses – such as the couple behind me unamused with my loud laughs – wanting a serious film exploring BDSM and the relationship between sex and power, then go and watch James Spader and Maggie Gyllanhaal in the fabulous, Secretary.
Fifty Shades will hoover up plenty of money, but that doesn’t mean its any good.