The second Fifty Shades is flawed but easy on the eye, while Annette Bening gives the performance of her life as a single mother in 70s LA
I don’t believe in the term “guilty pleasure”: if a film, however ropey, gives me pleasure, I’m not ashamed to concede that something about it is working. Still, the delight I take in Fifty Shades Darker (Universal, 18) pushes this attitude to its limit. The first film based on EL James’s potpourri-porn novels was surprisingly sly, pruning and embellishing the author’s lilac prose with something like irony. This follow-up, directed in gaudily gilded fashion by James Foley, falls into more of the source material’s pitfalls of whiplash plotting and inconsistent, doll-like characterisation.
Still played with sporting gumption by Dakota Johnson, S&M novice Anastasia Steele has gone from a curious but self-contained woman to a yes-no-yes-no marionette to sexual impulse – not necessarily her own. Yet the surface pleasures remain as the camera creamily wallows in yacht-rock luxury, the soundtrack curls up in the breathy cooing of Taylor Swift et al, and the two gorgeous leads amply expose their gorgeousness. It’s not profoundly sexy, it’s not built to last, but it’s swipe-right film-making of the most superficially attractive order.