I attended the Fifty Shades Darker premiere and had ALL the fun! Read my review of the fan events and the latest installment of the Fifty Shades franchise.
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
Fifty Shades Darker, starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, based on the best-selling novel by EL James
4 out of 5 stars
By now you all know that I’m a massive Fifty Shades fangirl: I’ve loved this series for years.
After the blockbuster hit that was Fifty Shades of Grey film, I think we were all eagerly anticipating the next two installments of the franchise. We knew there was a shake-up on the Team Fifty, with James Foley and Niall Leonard coming on board as the new director and screenwriter, respectively. There was some speculation about what this might mean for potential creative changes, but as Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed filming got underway in February 2016 and we got our first look at FSD later that year, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we knew another hit was in the making. But honestly, EL’s magic should never be in doubt!
Like with FSoG, I was lucky enough to attend Universal/The TODAY Show’s premiere events for Fifty Shades Darker in Los Angeles on February 2, 2017. From beginning to end, it was a dream come true!
First, there was a masquerade ball in Downtown LA (homage to an iconic FSD moment). Upon entry, we were given lace masks and treated to delicious drinks and sweet and savory snacks. The decor was chic, the live jazz music put you in mood for some fun, and there were several activities (including a 360 degree picture, picture with you inserted into the official film poster, and a VR experience in the film masquerade ball). What was even better was when EL, James Foley, Dakota Johnson, and Jamie Dornan took to the stage to thank fans and wish us a great premiere evening.
For me, the highlight was hanging out with fellow Fifty fangirls… we were all in awe to be there together, celebrating EL’s phenomenal achievement.
Then, it was time for the movie screening. After arriving in the Theatre at Ace Hotel, once again EL, James, Dakota, and Jamie introduced the film, and then it was under way…
Believe me when I say that Fifty Shades Darker was EVERYTHING. I can’t count how many times I’ve read this story and I thought I knew it, in and out. But I left that theater in awe and with so much joy. FSD shocked and swooned me. As soon is it ended, I just wished we could replay the movie again from the very beginning. It was *that* good and I didn’t want to let this world go.
Fifty Shades Darker picks up right where the first film leaves off.
Ana and Christian are broken up after that jarring Red Room of Pain session, but she’s trying to move on and get back out there. She’s started her job at Seattle Independent Press as executive assistant to Jack Hyde, the commissioning editor. Ana also attends Jose’s photography exhibit, where she gets two big surprises.
First, she is unwittingly the subject of several of Jose’s most popular pieces… but more shocking, Christian shows up at the exhibit to meet her. Ana reluctantly agrees to dinner, which ultimately becomes a new turning point in their relationship. She makes it clear that she doesn’t want any rules or punishments. Christian promises to open up and try vanilla.
All seems well, and truth be told, Ana just can’t let go of the kinky fuckery (neither can I 😉 ). But soon danger surrounds our favorite couple on all sides, threatening their relationship and their lives.
1. Dakota Johnson’s still got it!
My FAVE part of FSoG was Dakota’s Ana, and this is still very much the case in FSD. Dakota totally carries this film with her comedic timing. Her Ana is hilarious, quirky, and I so want her to be my bestie.
What I enjoy most is watching Ana come into her own, personally and professionally. She wants a true relationship with Christian and all it comes with. Ana isn’t afraid to demand Christian’s honesty and she calls him out when he’s being ridiculous (e.g. taking Ana to Mrs. Robinson’s salon for a “submissive special”, not telling her that a potentially murderous woman has been stalking her).
Similarly, at work, she shows gumption and initiative, even in the face of a difficult boss… but we’ll talk about that later…
Ana grows more confident, but never loses her playful curiosity. Watching Dakota play the evolution of this character is a true joy.
2. Fifty, Fifty, Fifty!
OK, so in my FSoG review, I mentioned being a little disappointed with the portrayal of Christian. At that time, I missed the magnetism and vulnerability. Everything I believed was missing in the first film shows up by leaps and bounds in this sequel.
The film opens with what I think is one of the most heartbreaking moments in the series—we watch as young Christian hides from his mother’s abuser, who eventually comes for him. We see that adult Christian is still very much plagued by those nightmares. It’s his early experiences of abuse that most mold him, at least until meeting Ana. She chases the misery away.
So yeah, Christian thought he needed the sadomasochism, but quickly realizes (and acknowledges!) how he needs Ana way more. As with any relationship, it’s a process of compromise and some change.
Jamie is dazzling as he brings the honesty of Fifty’s struggle and eventual capitulation to life.
You know good and well that I can’t talk about Fifty Shades without highlighting the OOLALA sexy times and they are HOT, HOT, HOTTTTTTT!
Yes, Ana and Christian are trying the vanilla thing, but there’s nothing boring about it.
One of my favorite scenes is their first sexy times after getting back together. Some foreplay in the kitchen leads to a romp in the bedroom and OMG HOLY ORAL. (P.S. This is definitely a film that appreciates female sexual stimulation, EEEP!)
But, at the same time, Ana and Christian do incorporate elements of Red Room kinkery, on her terms. My FAVE FAVE FAVE is the *spreader bar*
Picture it: Ana gets back to Christian’s apartment after a long day at work. While waiting for him to finish a phone call, she explores and eventually ends up in the Red Room. What can she say, she’s curious! 😉 Christian walks in just as the spreader bar catches Ana’s attention. Long story short, he ends up carrying her (and the spreader bar) back to his bedroom. Sexy fun commences! The best part? When Christian grabs the spreader bar (now attached to Ana’s ankles) with both hands, checks to make sure she’s OK, and then FLIPS HER ALL THE WAY OVER *fans face* As the kids say, YASSSSSS honey!
Incidentally, I need Twitter and/or Apple to start working on that spreader bar emoji. Thanks! x
4. So many villains…
You know how I said earlier that danger surrounds Ana and Christian on all sides? This is not an exaggeration. The typical movie has one big-bad? FSD has THREE!
First, Leila, Christian’s former submissive has been stalking Ana throughout the film. Leila eventually corners Ana in her apartment and what follows is nothing short of intense. There is a moment that shocks me so much, I jumped out of my seat! (And the second time I saw the movie, I had to close my eyes and ears!)
Of course Christian comes to the rescue by using his Dom Fifty side to subdue Leila. The intimacy unsettles Ana and it unsettles us too.
If I’m to offer any critique, it would be of this scene. In the book, Ana eventually learns that Christian bathes Leila in her bathtub, clothes her in Ana’s things, and cradles Leila in his arms as he rushes to get her help. If the audience could have watched Ana observing a little more of that Christian/Leila dynamic, I think it would have heightened Ana’s dismay. It would also provide an even more emotional transition to the “Fifty, the Submissive” moment.
Next, Mrs. Robinson, AKA Elena Lincoln (played by the spectacular Kim Basinger) feels way more sinister in the film. The first time Ana (and we) observe Mrs. R. with Christian (at the salon), she’s clearly asserting her claim with the intimate touches. Later at the masquerade ball, when Elena confronts Ana, she says outright that Ana can’t be what Christian needs. And in one of the final scenes of the film, Mrs. R. makes her feelings known again, this time in front of Christian… and Mama Grey. WELPS. Elena Lincoln is seemingly out of the way now, but we shall see.
Finally, there’s Jack Hyde. So, I hate this guy in the book and there should be no expectation that this would change in the film, right? SO WRONG. Eric Johnson brings a swagger to this character that I find simultaneously frightening and attractive. It surprises me!
Jack “I’m the boss” Hyde is FINE and charming as hell, but there’s also something clearly out of place with him. You see it in the reactions from his other co-workers. You certainly see it when he attacks Ana in his office (of course, Ana knees him in the junk and takes off).
You have to wonder about Jack’s intense dislike of Christian “I’m the boyfriend” Grey. I mean, the final scene in the movie is of a highly distraught and unkempt Jack using a cigarette to burn Christian’s face out of a photo. Nope, we definitely haven’t seen the last of him.
5. Mr. and Mrs. Grey
We read/watch Fifty Shades for Ana and Christian and in FSD, their relationship grows so much. Each obstacle brings them closer together.
Leila and Mrs. Robinson make Ana question her ability to fulfill Christian’s needs? He makes himself completely vulnerable to Ana (down on his knees!!!!!!!!) and lets her finally touch him. Jack wants to make threats? Christian has his ass fired, Ana takes on the editor position, and they move in together. Christian almost dies in a helicopter crash? He survives, Ana gives him the perfect birthday present (YES!), and then Christian proposes with hearts, flowers, and fireworks.
These two make me so happy, plus the post-credit glimpses of their wedding and honeymoon in Fifty Shades Freed make me feel ALL THE THINGS.
Simply put, Fifty Shades Darker is MUSTWATCH. We get to witness Ana and Christian’s evolution and it’s a beautiful thing. Plus, the thrill of the fantasy that we love so much about the series totally infuses this film.
Thinking about the final installment of the movies fills me with excited anticipation. At the same time, this couple we adore still has several bumps in the road before they get to their happily (kinkily) ever after. But I am all in for every single moment!
I’ll save the majority of my sappy feels for February 2018 and Fifty Shades Freed… but I will say that EL and this series will always hold a super special place in my heart. I have so much respect for EL as a brilliant businesswoman/author/artist/producer, and I love her as my fellow fangirl and friend.
How many times have you watched Fifty Shades Darker? What are your favorite moments? Share your thoughts with me in comments!