MICHAEL DE LUCA PRODUCTIONS
MICHAEL DE LUCA PRODUCTIONS

★★★★☆

Mr. Grey will see you — again. Bolder, darker and intensely intimate, “Fifty Shades Darker” is the much-anticipated sequel to the global sensation “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Based on the erotic romantic trilogy by E. L. James, this film continues the story of Anastasia Steele, a recent college graduate, and her tortured love interest, full-time young billionaire and part-time sexual dominant Christian Grey.

Returning to the risqué world of Steele and Grey can be a quite a heady experience; as the film’s central characters become increasingly complex, their relationship becomes increasingly emotionally charged — and electric to watch.

“Fifty Shades Darker” opens exploring Christian’s past, a scene that proves to be of great significance throughout the film. Viewers are then placed back in Seattle, seemingly days after the events that concluded the first film, as Anastasia comes to terms with her recent breakup. After reconnecting at a photography exhibit, Ana decides to give Christian another chance and agrees to attempt a “normal” relationship with him.

However, as noble as Christian’s desire to change is, he cannot escape his dark history and soon, Anastasia must come face-to-face with those scorned by the man she loves. “Fifty Shades Darker” is thus aptly named, as it delves into the dramatic, tortured history of a seemingly perfect man.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return as Anastasia and Christian and improve upon the sense of the awkwardness between them in the first film. Although there are still many moments of humorous tension between the characters in this film, there is also a greater sense of familiarity and chemistry between the two.

Furthermore, as “Fifty Shades” fans will expect, the film does not hold back in its portrayal of Christian and Ana’s intimate encounters. There are undoubtedly some eyebrow-raising moments that will prove entertaining for those who choose to watch the film in theaters — nervous laughter was a frequent occurrence at the DC Press Screening.

As with the first film, “Fifty Shades Darker” follows E. L. James’ work closely and delivers an interpretation that honors the book as best as can be achieved in a film adaptation. Dornan and Johnson are natural and charismatic, while delivering dramatic moments and lines with commendable poise and believability.

The plot in this second film is far more dramatic and complex than that of the first film. Viewers will be engrossed by the mystery and eventual revelation of the film and entertained by the racier scenes.

The film falls short at times, however, in the way that particular scenes — those of great importance in the book — are glossed over quickly or depicted inadequately. Dornan, likely aiming for a brooding, husky voice, mumbles during notably significant scenes and thus distracts from what could be a convincing retelling of a dialogue-intensive book.

Ultimately, the level of comedy in this film makes up for any of its substantial shortcomings and contributes to a truly enjoyable experience for viewers. Fans of the series will experience all that they enjoyed in the book, along with a beautiful portrayal of the glitz and glamor of Mr. Grey’s lifestyle.

In this sense, the film is clear a step up from the first in terms of its depiction of Grey’s extravagance and love of adventure.  In addition, there are impressive shots panning over water and sweeping views of landscapes — and the Seattle Skyline — sure to catch viewers eyes. Audiences  cannot help but appreciate the artistic way in which the film is presented. Evidently great attention has been paid to achieve a stunning and riveting aesthetic experience for viewers. The soundtrack, featuring Taylor Swift, Zayn, Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas, Halsey and Sia, is a remarkable addition to the film, as well.

If so inclined, watching this film would serve as an entertaining Valentine’s Day date, but a night with friends is probably the best way to appreciate it. The drama and story take a more central focus in this sequel and make the film an engrossing experience. That said, be prepared to raise an eyebrow and shift awkwardly in your seat, for ”Fifty Shades Darker” does neither seek nor achieve distance, only hot and heavy intimacy.

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