The 400-Word Review: Fifty Shades Darker

By Sean Collier

February 13, 2017

Please go away now. I can't stand the chemistry between us.

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A significant chunk of the dialogue in Fifty Shades Darker consists of relationship clichés — stock lines about breaking up, getting back together, committing and seducing likely to be found on daytime soaps.

The prevalence of generic aphorisms is, I think, deliberate. The films in this franchise aren’t concerned with coherence or consistency, just with tossing out as much as possible in the hopes that something will resonate.

Like an abusive partner, this movie will say whatever it has to in order to convince you to let the violence continue.

Darker, directed by James Foley — who hadn’t directed a feature in a decade, with 2007’s bomb Perfect Stranger being his most recent — picks up where the abysmal Fifty Shades of Grey left off: Anastasia Steele (dear god that name) has had enough of Christian Grey’s (dear god that name too) unmitigated and unforgivable abuse and left. Because he is an obsessive, dangerous stalker, he’s surveilled her; when a friend includes portraits of Ana in an exhibition, Grey buys all of them. “I don’t like other men staring at you,” he explains.

I don’t need to explain to anyone why that’s horrible, right?


They quickly reconcile so we can arrive at the series’ raison d'être — bland, soft core pornography! They try to build a normal relationship, despite challenges: She’s got a lecherous boss, he’s a horrible rapist monster, old flames creep up, he’s a horrible rapist monster, she’s unsure of her role in his life, he’s a horrible rapist monster.

It does not go far enough to say that the Fifty Shades films depict, and apologize for, an abusive relationship; that’s obvious. But the film itself is an abuser — assuring the audience that what it presents is love, when it is only anger, control and the prolonged gaslighting of its main character and the viewer. There’s nothing romantic here; there’s not even anything sexy.

There’s also less sex than there was in the first film. So why are we even watching?

It’s a terrible movie besides, amateurish and dull. This is partially due to the structureless ramblings of series creator E.L. James, who should be barred from coming within 100 yards of a writing implement. But it’s more due to the fact that no one seems to care about the project. Which is sad, in a way; it’s awful to see filmmaking that’s simultaneously apathetic and evil.

My Rating: 1/10

Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at



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