A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley

FIFTY SHADES DARKER (Rated R) Just when you thought it might be safe to go back to the cinema, along comes a sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” an exercise in titillation that brings the lithesome Dakota Johnson back for more gratuitous nude scenes with her control freak billionaire lover. Consumed with the frequent mission of disrobing its female lead, “Fifty Shades Darker” has seemingly little purpose other than reuniting Johnson’s Anastasia Steele with the masochistic Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for more sex play, even if slightly tamer. 

 Indulge me for a minute to quote the press notes that describe the male lead as the “wounded Christian Grey” trying to entice a “cautious Anastasia Steele back into his life.”  I’d say that Mr. Grey is more “troubled” for his kinky desires, which apparently he still harbors. Ana may want a new arrangement before giving Christian another chance.  If I am not mistaken, I think Ana moved away after finding that Christian’s dominant, possessive tendencies were too much to take. Now Christian comes for Ana with promises of being a changed man.  She’s working at a publishing firm which he soon buys so that he can tell her not to take a business trip to New York with her editor boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who later reveals a sinister undercurrent.

There’s not much plot to this story outside of Christian’s manipulative behavior to so deeply burrow into Ana’s life that the two of them are soon living together, exploring the Red Room of Pain and talking of marriage Christian’s troubled past also gets more fleshed out with the appearance of his own “Mrs. Robinson,” a friend of his mother who had seduced a young Christian into the finer points of bondage and domination.This sexual tutor is Elena Lincoln (played by Kim Basinger, who long ago was a sex symbol in the sensual thriller “9 ½ Weeks).  Basinger’s Elena has no other purpose other than to create ineffective friction. Having not read the E.L. James novels, I am guessing that enjoyment of the “Fifty Shades” movie franchise would be enhanced by familiarity with the source material.  For the uninitiated, “Darker” comes across as somewhat boring.

 Fans of the books, knowing the character details, are much more likely to enjoy “Fifty Shades Darker,” and so I will leave it at that. One thing that is certain is that the third chapter is on its way.  “Fifty Shades Freed” was being filmed simultaneously with “Fifty Shades Darker” so that the wait would be truncated to this time next year.