“What’s the point?”
This was my friend’s reaction as we sat in the movie theater watching the ending credits of “Fifty Shades Darker” while “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift played.
I just looked at her, feeling defensive of the movie that I had just secretly and guiltily enjoyed, but also not really knowing how to answer.
What was the point of a movie that features six extensive and graphic sex scenes (yes, I counted), a blatantly dysfunctional relationship and an insane number of one-liners that weren’t intended to be funny but nonetheless made me burst out laughing?
The sequel picks up where the previous movie left off: Billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is trying to win back the love of Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson), who took off running once she saw the extent to which Grey’s sadistic sex fantasies could go. Steele eventually decides to give him another chance, but only if they renegotiate the terms.
Wait, you don’t resolve conflict in a relationship by revisiting a contract that explicitly states sexual “hard limits,” agrees upon acceptable sex toys and dictates how often the woman has to go to the gym? Yeah, me neither.
Perhaps the first point of the movie is this: Never trust a man whose response to “I don’t know what to do with my hair” is “I know a salon.”
From there, their relationship moves from dominant and submissive (it was clear from day one that Steele was never going to be the submissive Grey wanted her to be) to what Grey calls a “vanilla relationship.” This is what most people know as a relationship without secret documents and nipple clamps.
And, to Grey’s credit, he really tries. It also helps that the couple’s on-screen chemistry has significantly improved from the first movie. Scenes include them joking and laughing with each other, and you almost feel like you’re watching a normal couple until Grey pulls out a tube of lipstick to draw a map on his chest that outlines where she is allowed to touch him.
Also, when Steele asks, “Why do you have my bank information?” or Grey says, “I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank you.”
Second point of the movie: If he has a file that contains your birth certificate and stalker pictures of you walking on the street, it might be a red flag.
The movie isn’t without some action (the non-sexual kind). Steele fights off a perverted boss, and one of Grey’s ex-submissives is out to get Steele. At one point, a gunshot fires, causing the audience to gasp, and you know everyone’s thinking, “I just came for the sex scenes; where is this violence coming from?”
The movie caused me to think many times, “That close-up was just not necessary,” including a scene in which Grey instructs Steele to take off her panties at the dinner table, followed by a cringe-worthy elevator scene in which Grey and Steele perform some acts that really should be saved for the bedroom, not in a crowded elevator.
For me, the movie was a constant internal struggle of “Why can’t these two crazy kids work it out?” and “These two kids are crazy and should be institutionalized.”
So maybe the most important point of the movie is this: If you have to say “These don’t go in your butt” in a relationship, it might be time to reevaluate.