Watching Fifty Shades Darker is like sitting through a very uncomfortable, yet very entertaining second date.
Deep down, you know this is not a long-term relationship worth investing your heart and soul in, but by God it’s fun to sip that glass of wine while the person in front of you ignores all social conventions and continues to wax lyrical about their cat/weird food fetish/sad millennial issues.
Fifty Shades Darker is the follow up to Fifty Shades of Grey, the blockbuster film that carried movie ticket and soft core sex toy sales through 2015, and picks up where the first film left off.
For those of you who have not seen it (solid life choice, by the way), the audience was left hanging after our heroine Anastasia Steele, she of the perpetual lip chew and lover of “English books”, decided that being whipped by a control freak with otherworldly good looks yet no actual extra super powers wasn’t the best use of her time.
(Source: Universal Pictures)[/img_caption]
Look, we all make mistakes. When I was her age I accidentally dyed my hair and eyebrows Raggedy Anne orange. Ana's scarring should be far less permanent.
However, in Fifty Shades Darker, all those fears Ana seemed to have about shacking up with American Psycho: The Early Years seem to have quickly ebbed away and she is beyond keen for round two.
And Christian, the guy who couldn't commit to a relationship unless it involved total submission from his woman and no mention of his unfortunate case of Resting Serial Killer Face, has decided that Ana is the one for him.
So, take note ladies. You CAN change a man if you're just willing to act out some Twilight fan-fiction with him. What a relief.
Thanks to this mutual decision to ignore reality and give it a second go, we are treated to the rom-com version of Christian and Ana's relationship. A relationship where they lovingly indulge in romantic morning boat rides, cuddle-up on gym equipment and exchange cutsey key-chains with hidden messages.
It's all very much like a Kate Hudson movie. A Kate Hudson movie with a side of vaginal balls, elevator orgasms and a sprinkle of traumatising workplace sexual harassment thrown in for good measure. How To Make It Work With Your Emotionally Stunted Boyfriend In 10 Days....if you will.
Look, since we're all friends here, I have to admit that I was not on board with the first movie installment of Fifty Shades of Grey. A masterpiece of cinema, it was not.
I found the characters wooden and the script appeared to be penned by a prison inmate in a work/study program who was planning ahead for their future.
Which is why I was left quite shocked by Fifty Shades Darker, because I didn't expect to like it so much.
I didn't expect to find it funny, so engagingly and I certainly didn't expect to be discussing the finer plot points and ideas well into the next day with my co-workers. But here we are.
To be honest, the franchise has had a reset and is all the better for it. It no longer wants to be a love story for the ages, it has accepted that the audience has tuned in for the cheesy dialogue and kinky sex scenes and has dialed both up to 1000.
As Ana, Dakota Johnson no longer seems to be masquerading as Kristen Stewart's poor cousin and has made the role her own.
This time around, her character has a larger dollop of agency and character development and in particular she makes the sex scenes her own. If there's a better mainstream movie out their celebrating female sexuality and oral sex, I'm yet to see it on the big screen.
On the flip side Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey is....doing his best.
He has all the makings of an actor who signed up for a role, realised it was not for him, but had already filmed too much to pull out. You can almost see the cogs whirling in his head as he tries to look alluring and mysterious rather than just plain old socially awkward.
Look, Dornan is a fine actor, but he's no match for the mythology already built up around the character the of Christian Grey. The best he can do is stare hopefully into the camera and try not to break anything while he's moving around the Red Room Of Pain.
The biggest win for Fifty Shades Darker is that this time around, the story moves a lot faster and there is no room for a slow burn that becomes boring.
In under two hours we are treated to a mentally deranged stalker, a death-defying air-crash, more family drama than an episode of the Kardashians and an in-depth look at everything that's wrong with the book publishing industry. It's a mixed bag of delights, to say the least.
For those of you who enjoy a bit of exposed human skin (for purely artistic purposes, of course) I'm sorry to say this flick is a touch light on the nudity, compared to the first film.
In Fifty Shades Of Grey we were treated to some rich shots of Ana's untamed pubic hair (just popping that sentence on the old resume, BRB) but this time around it's all about The Nipple.
Ana's perfectly pert, erect nipples stole the show in so many scenes that I won't be surprised if, come next awards season, Mery Streep finds herself pitted against those scene stealing areolas. I just hope those nips have their Screen Actors Guild accreditation up-to-date so they can receive full benefits following that scene-stealing turn.
At the end of the day Fifty Shades Darker should be treated like the aftermath of a terrible/yet hilarious second date. It's best approached with a whole lot of alcohol and a gaggle of girlfriends you can laugh it out with and dissect all the nitty-gritty details.
It's cringe-worthy, cheesy, but oh-so-entertaining.
Fifty Shades Darker is out now in cinemas Australia-wide. It is rated MA15+.
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