Fifty Shades Darker

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: James FoleyFifty Shades Darker

Producers: Michael De Luca, E L James, Dana Brunetti

Based on the novel by: E L James

Screenplay by: Niall Leonard

Soundtrack score: Danny Elfman

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Marcia Gay Harden, Eric Johnson, Bella Heathcote, Rita Ora

The second film in the Fifty Shades series, based on the novel Fifty Shades Darker by E L James, is lame, tame and generally depressing, especially when compared with Fifty Shades of Grey, which had some lighter moments associated with the excitement of first love.

The second film was like watching a Mills & Boon telemovie with a wanna-be feisty heroine, brooding hero, and situations where the characters are forced to admit How Much They Mean to Each Other, set amidst a backdrop of obscene wealth (why are the heroes never accountants?).

Originally an e-novel loosely inspired by the Twilight saga, Fifty Shades of Grey ended with heroine Anastasia Steele (perky breasted Dakota Johnson) breaking up with gloomy yet ripped businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because she couldn’t be the “submissive” he needed.

In Fifty Shades Darker she now claims “things are different”, deliberately teasing Christian and trying to seduce him in the Red Room, totally negating the strong stand she took earlier.Fifty Shades Darker

The Fifty Shades books and films have been criticised for glamorising domestic violence and abusive relationships. The books certainly depicted Christian as being oppressive, sexually deviant and overbearingly bossy, whereas the films portray him more as a once-victimised and still vulnerable person who has to be in control, and who probably just needs a good woman’s love to redeem him.

I don’t find the criticisms about emotional/physical abuse valid because Ana returns here of her own free will, makes conditions and often instigates the sexual interludes with Christian, who says that although he desires the kinky stuff, he needs her more. She seems compelled to test his resolve by deliberately encouraging him in sexual activities that are like awkwardly shot soft porn but curiously lack any arousing power, and which interrupt the actual story, such as it is.

Christian’s work life barely gets screen time (how does he make all that money?), while we’re supposed to believe Ana is a gifted business woman because she pitches one idea breathily at a board meeting to publish “new” writers instead of just established ones, which is received as though no-one had ever thought of it before.

Fifty Shades Darker has quality production values, beautiful cinematography (by John Schwartzman) of mountains and rain-slicked city streets, and a bopping soundtrack. There are established actors in minor roles, including Christian’s adoptive mother (a dignified Marcia Gay Harden), and his former Dominant, Elena (a well preserved but wasted Kim Basinger), but other characters from the first film barely register.Fifty Shades Darker

A former Submissive (Bella Heathcote) stalks Ana and appears to pose a threat that is resolved too quickly. The villain here is Ana’s former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who in one hilarious scene produces a printed photo of one he took earlier on his phone, just so he can evilly burn a hole through Christian’s face as a sign of future revenge in the third film.

Subtlety, credibility and entertainment are not hallmarks of this film, although there are some unintentional laughs. For sexual titillation watch the Sylvia Kristel version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1981), while for brooding romance you can’t beat Jane Eyre (Orson Welles version, 1943).

 

A Bigger Splash

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Director: Luca GuadagninoA Bigger Splash

Screenplay: Dave Kajganich

Story: Alain Page

Starring: Tida Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corrado Guzzanti, Lily McMenamy, Aurore Clément; Elena Bucci.

An English language Italian-French erotic thriller.

After having throat surgery, Marianne Lane (Tida Swinton) goes on a retreat from her rock star career with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film opens to an idyllic life of sun, mud, the blue of the ocean and the relaxation of naked lovers lounging by the pool.  Until Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives.  Bringing his long lost daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) with him.

I’d never thought of Tida Swinton as sexy until seeing her playing Marianne.  Think, We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Constantine (2005) and I’ll never forget her in Orlando (1992).  But there’s a genuine love and warmth in this silent yet expressive character.  And the chemistry between Marianne and Paul is totally believable.  As is the subtleties of the narcissism of youth in Penelope and the unbalanced, lost, selfish but, gotta love him for his dancing moves, Harry.  The guy dances like a demented chicken.

And I admit I became a bit jealous of the love between Marianne and Paul, so intimately portrayed to the audience.

What a great mix of characters.  All so well cast and well played.  At one point Harry states, ‘Honesty is the greatest fidelity.’  Where Paul responds, ‘The world isn’t ready for your honesty.’

Set on an island somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, the elements are used to build the tension: the desert winds, the porcelain faces of pots; ruined boats flaking red and blue and the lost immigrants appearing from behind crumbling buildings set on baron clifftops.  And the ever present snakes.

Director, Luca Guadagnino shows the story using the landscape and montages, almost glitches in the flow to set a slight unease in the audience.  There’s a tension that brews in this film and I loved the classic soundtrack used to set the flavour of the film giving a clarity to the mystery, almost like cleansing the palate.

There’s a fair bit of nudity here, but the film has such a mature feel, it’s just another part of the character’s personality.  How comfortable they are naked in front of others.

The only negative is there was a loss of momentum where the peak of the film was reached too early.  But the story continued giving a greater depth of character.  That looking back with regret, or the feeling you never have to do that stupid thing again.  Or, hell, maybe I will.  But now things are different.  Life is different.  And the consequences of previous choices are now being felt.  And either forgotten, held for ransom, cut away, forgiven or gotten away with.  Life; people.  You just don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I enjoyed watching this film, the subtleties of each character and the beautiful scenery.

Nice to watch one made for the adults.

 

YOUTH

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Youth_movieWritten and Directed by: Paolo Sorrentino

Music Composed by: David Lang

Starring: Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda, Mădălina Diana Ghenea; Paul Dano.

This is a quirky, life affirming movie that goes deeper than expected: a meandering journey of many moments caught of people coming to terms with their lives.

Opening with a band playing, a close up of a girl singing while slowly revolving with the background of characters blurred, sets up the theme of the film – music being the soundtrack that gives cohesion to the life of the main character, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine), the retired maestro taking a holiday at a Swedish Health Spa.

After being asked to conduct at Prince Phillip’s birthday at the Queen’s request, the film follows Fred after his refusal, revealing his reason of refusal while showing his character through his interactions with his daughter and assistant, Leda (Rachel Weisz), his best friend, Mick (Harvy Keitel) and the famous actor on holiday, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano).

The director and writer of this film, Paolo Sorrentino, has created a sensory experience for the audience: Great loves, music, beauty, art, bubbles, the bells around cows’ necks ringing, wild flowers, snow, levitating, hot baths, blood tests, communicating through touch, smoking and sometimes just talking. The character, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), an aging writer and director in conversation with his best friend, Fred, describing the various nude scenes so well: “There’s the ugly, the beautiful and the inbetween who are just cute.”

There were some beautiful truths spoken here. One of many spoken by Mick, “I have to believe everything in order to make things up,” gives a simplicity to the individual experience.

I liked how the film scratched the surface of the mundane to show the real beauty of the pain of life. The pain of growing and struggling to make something of ourselves. The misunderstandings between people.

Many moments of the characters getting to know themselves and others are pieced together into a not always cohesive storyline. The momentum of the film sometimes lost when caught in the space between these moments. But what was lost in cohesion was made up by the beauty of the scenery, well thought-out camera angles and some light cheeky humour.

Not a perfect film but some thought provoking moments, some great dialogue delivered by some great actors.

 

By the Sea

GoMovieReviews Rating:
By The SeaDirected by: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Written by: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Arestrup, Richard Bohringer

The drinking, the smoking, the difficult relationship and the seaside… If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was about to watch a film based on a Hemingway novel.

There were definite echoes of the novel, The Garden of Eden (published in 1986, posthumously).  But without the amazing dialogue Hemingway is so famous for, By the Sea, was, listless.

Set in a French, beachside resort in the 1970’s, By the Sea, could have been a 1930’s film, bar the public nudity. And there are some soft porn moments here. But this film is definitely about the strained relationship between Vanessa (Angelina) and Roland (Brad).

It’s not an easy feat depicting depression. Watching a relationship disintegrate can be a boring business. I was left wondering how it was possible for people to have so much time to do nothing.

The silence of what is left unsaid between Vanessa and Roland is juxtaposed with the loud and happy love of Lea, (Mélanie Laurent – she was fantastic in Inglourious Basterds (2009), also cast alongside Brad Pitt) and François (Melvil Poupaud) on their honeymoon. Nothing highlights an unhappy couple more than a happy one.

The beauty of the setting, the turquoise water, the rocky landscape of the French seaside gives the audience a break from the sad-faced Vanessa.   The old French café owner, Michel (Niels Aretrup) and hotel owner, Patrice (Richard Bohringer), gives warmth to the story. But the dominance of Vanessa makes it a somewhat boring film because the character is so incredibly lifeless.

There are moments of interesting dialogue, mostly between Roland and the other characters, and more thought into what was spoken, or perhaps framing the silence better would have made a more compelling film.

I didn’t mind being lulled by the silence because I don’t mind the feeling of listlessness. But you’ve got to be in the right mood for this one.