In Which We Always Desired A Normal Relationship

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Mr. Grey’s Beads

by DICK CHENEY

Fifty Shades Darker
dir. James Foley
118 minutes

screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-9-29-43-amIn a Seattle cafe, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) explains in the most half-hearted manner imaginable that he wants Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) back in his life. He is willing to change, he admonishes her, why would you ever believe otherwise? A moment before, the waiter struggles with a bottle of wine. Both diners appear flummoxed. You see, when two people are together, one of them always feels the slightest bit awkward.

Later, during the first sex scene in Fifty Shades Darker, Jamie Dornan pants like maybe he is going to be out of breath. Regular sex is much more taxing than torture, and it is part of the reason he used to have a contractual agreement that allowed him to take powders for water and gumballs. Next to his stash of various whips, chains and chokers is a glorious room of gumball machines that he only shows to Matthew Fox, and on more serious outings, former child stars. It reminds them all of what they lost.

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Grey tells much of his backstory while trying on this normal relash for size. His mother was a crack-addicted so-and-so. It is quite disturbing and boring to realize someone’s past explains their present, and even more so when it does not fully take into account the considerable weight Jamie Dornan has put on his slender frame for this important sequel. Comparing him to the original Christian Grey, it might be said that there are now two of them. If you did not know any better, you might conclude that Dornan does not give a fuck.

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Ms. Johnson on the other hand, really gives her all in this role. She clearly does not want to seem ungrateful: the money from being “fucked” by this man will keep her on easy street for the rest of her life, and she does not actually even need to wintercourse with the blubbery mess like Chloe Sevigny. When Grey gives her an iPhone and a Macbook as a gesture after they reconcile, he texts her to dream of him. She responds, “Maybe. Laters Baby,” and Dornan gets this little smile on his face, like how is this woman wanting to work in publishing when she sounds like Demi Lovato after four drinks?

Ana is not really liking her new job, because why would she be an assistant for some guy who looks remarkably similar to her boyfriend, when she could just serve her boyfriend? Eventually, Grey purchases the publishing company. She is not only unsurprised by the fact that she is suddenly working for him, she does not complain. Later, she accepts the position her boss had filled at the top of the editorial chain. Her first memo naturally ends with Laters Baby.

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No it does not. She never sends out a memo, or knows what one is, since she has only been an assistant whose main job is to book hotel rooms and relay messages. Despite having nearly unlimited economic resources, Grey keeps having strange women approach him with vague accusations. Normally this would be a red flag for his girlfriend, but it’s not like he did anything else weird recently. Bored with their sex life after a single week, he introduces anal beads and a new haircut into their lovemaking. She raises her right eyebrow like The Rock.

Involving Kim Basinger in these proceedings, at an Eyes Wide Shut style masquerade charity event no less, is a bit of a low blow. Director James Foley makes her look like Chelsea Handler a decade-hence. Basinger still gets my blood moving, and it is hard to realize why she is wearing a headscarf like a cancer patient. It turns out that she introduced Christian to this whole psychosexual lifestyle. “Without me, he would be in jail or dead,” she tells Ana. “If you really want to make him happy, you’ll let him go. Nothing lasts.”

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Afterwards, Ms. Johnson washes Mr. Dornan with a loofa. During each subsequent sex scene, Mr. Dornan’s body is more and more burnt and abused, whereas in some scenes they don’t bother applying the makeup since it distracts from his penetration. Everyone who has ever loved anybody knows that Kim Basinger is right and this relationship is going nowhere fast, but she really enjoys the high points: his cabin in Aspen, his massive yacht. I think the subtle moral code here is that having a lot of money is more important than good sex, and maybe a lot more important.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

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