FIFTY SHADES DARKER — Review by Susan Granger

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When we last saw Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson), she’d brusquely walked out on domineering Seattle billionaire Christian Grey (scruffy Jamie Dornan) after he not only took her virginity but turned her into his sex slave. Three weeks later, she has a job as an assistant to the editor in a publishing house. But when Christian buys an entire art exhibit of her photos, gullible Ana returns to his bedroom – with a “Chronicles of Riddick” poster on the wall – and his kinky Red Room (a.k.a. dungeon), which has been sensuously redecorated. Their arrangement is renegotiated and, this time, he promises: no pain – unless you count nipple clamps. Read on…
Problem is: in addition to a creepy, spurned stalker (Bella Heathcote), there’s a pivotal woman lurking in Christian’s twisted psyche. It’s his mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) best friend, Elena (Kim Basinger), the cougar who taught Christian all about obedience and sado-masochistic sex.

“He needs a submissive – in life as well as in the bedroom,” she tartly informs skittish Ana.

Complicating matters further, Ana’s smarmy editor Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) loses his livelihood when Christian buys the publishing house where she worked, and he’s determined to wreak revenge.

Adapted by Niall Leonard from his wife E.L. James’ novel with its Harlequin dialogue and ineptly directed by James Foley, it’s now obvious that Christian is a psychologically disturbed sex addict.

There’s no romance or erotic foreplay en route to the simulated, stylized sex scenes, just silly soft-core porn, which quickly becomes so ludicrous that it’s laughable.

FYI: Film buffs may recognize Ana’s line, “I don’t expect you to fetch me coffee unless you’re getting some for yourself.” In a sly tribute to Melanie Griffith – Dakota Johnson’s real-life mother – screenwriter Niall Leonard lifted it from Griffith’s sassy 1988 “Working Girl.”

Over the end credits, there’s a teaser for “Fifty Shades Freed,” scheduled for 2018.

On the Granger Movie Gauges of 1 to 10, “Fifty Shades Darker” is a trashy, tawdry 2, tarnishing the luster of Valentine’s Day.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.