SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE BOOK AND THE FILM!!
We continue the storyline seeing Grey as a broken man mourning the loss of his Ana. As well as Ana trying to continue on with her life, starting the new job at SIP while still missing him. There is no described length of time between the two films. However if you read the book it states a very unbelievable amount of time. One week. Christian isn’t willing to give up on Ana, even though he once told her that If she left that was it, she could never come back. He sends her flowers, stunning white roses to her old apartment to wish her luck on the new job. Which Ana nearly throws away, but just can’t bring herself to do so.
When she goes to her friend Jose’s photography exhibition she is shocked to discover he has a series of large photos of her on display. Photos which have all sold, leading her instantly looking for Grey knowing it must be him. He comes over to her, looking a mess, unshaven, red eyes, a jumper over trousers and a random jacket. Nothing like his usual prim and proper outfits, he convinces her to go to dinner with him and talk. Which she does, he explains that he is interested in renegotiating the terms of their agreement. As in no rules, no punishments and trying again. Which Ana reluctantly agrees to.
Leading us into a convoluted storyline of the girl who follows her everywhere (an ex-sub of Christian’s called Leila), Elena causing problems, Ana’s new job, Charlie Tango, trying to win their ‘love’ back, stalking, guns and broken hearts. A very busy and confusing amount of subplots for one movie to try and handle. Leaving you quite unclear in many places to what actually is the main plot and what is really going on in the production.
The only thing I can say in defense of the film here is that the book is just as twisted and confusing. E L James just seems like she shoved a load of random ideas together, mixed with (yet again) a huge amount of sex scenes which are not required and do not really support or progress the storyline. The director has done his best to try and separate the threads and keep a sense of balance in the production. Yet this is one of the few times I have stormed out of a movie theatre at the end moaning to friends that they ruined the book when I don’t even enjoy the book!
Let’s take the central thread. Christian and Ana trying to fix their relationship. Christian trying to discover what love is, and how to show it while trying to control his urges to possess Ana and control her every motion. While Ana is trying to balance work, her own thoughts, and feelings as well as try and teach Christian slowly how to should be with her. A good part of this is with Doctor Flynn helping Christian, a character who has been completely removed from the film when he actually had a desperate need to be there.
I already made my views very clear in my last review, that I do not like this series very much, as well as finding it dangerous. Promoting unpleasant ideas of love/obsession which I find damaging to younger people. The book was slightly better than the film, and made Christian at least seem slightly less crazy. As I continued with the second and into the third books I actually found myself starting to enjoy parts. Not for the pointless so-called BDSM sex, or the relationship with the bland and uninteresting Ana who as far as I am concerned (even though they have changed the start of the film to show her standing up for herself more) should have put Christian through hell before she took him back, standing up to him far more and on more points than she actually does.
What I enjoyed was the character of Grey himself. A beautifully screwed up man, who went through hell as a child, abuse, starvation, seeing his mother head, addiction, adoption, then falling into fights, and eventually Elena’s abuse and turning into the lifestyle he has now. A classic case of the abused, becoming the abuser because he knows nothing else of life. Not realizing that every time he abuses someone he darkens himself a little further. As well as the clear Stockholm syndrome of not understanding that Elena actually destroyed him, not helped and befriended him as he thinks. The whole second and start of the third film (like the books) should be focused on Grey himself, and his journey of self-discovery. As he starts to see everything he believes in isn’t real, everything he trusts isn’t actually what he needs. And think he was in control of himself? No, he never was, Elena had all the power to control him. Even now he is a dominant himself. by controlling his subs and his relationships with other people.
It SHOULD have started with that very first dinner after the photo shoot, where it is Ana herself, not Christian who wants no rules. That breaks the cycle of his growth, as the idea of no rules terrifies him yet he is still willing to try for her. Secondly, in that scene, they removed the fact Ana admits she should have used the safe words and forgot to. Which is exactly why Christian didn’t understand what he had done or why she left. To him, if she was unhappy she should have used the words. Not using the words breaks Grey’s trust in her and leaves him scared to come near her without permission. Which should have been important in the ‘stir-fry’ sex scene a little later on. Whereas now, it stands with you thinking why is Ana telling him what to do to her and why is he waiting for that instruction? Which if they had kept the piece in from earlier it would have made sense.
The lipstick roadmap scene is another complete screw-up, and cringeworthily acted by both characters. They only cover his chest, not his back as well. Which loses time and doesn’t allow Christian to properly show how much it is actually scaring him or hurting him for Ana to do this. Which is again ruined later on, by HER being the one to ask if she can wash it off not Christian asking her to do so. Showing again his love and determination to fix himself for her. A little bad editing here where Ana suddenly states it means the world to her that he tells her these things when he actually didn’t tell her anything at all! Which in turn throws out the whole scene where it should be important that she says for him that he loves her and he agrees. Making it unbelievable and quite tacky.
I do like the fact that they make Grey a lot less stalker-like than he is in the books, allowing pieces like Ana to choose herself not to go to New York with Hyde. In the first film, the character made me feel sick how much he controlled her. Yet again they haven’t caught the right balance between things, as now Christian hardly objects to anything she does and comes across as a complete pansy. Oh Ana, I want you back, no rules, no BDSM and oh baby I’m fine with that! Anything for you! How High School Musical of emotions. Although Jamie Dornan does the happy, relaxed, friendly Christian in a way that is very believable. He has very little emotional range when it gets into the darker places. The darker places are far too key to the storyline to hire someone without the emotional range to deal with this. I am not even going to comment on Dakota Johnson or her acting, I haven’t seen anything so shockingly bad since Bella Swan so I would rather just skip over it. They have zero chemistry together, making a highly unbelievable couple.
I mean does this look like they are in love? I don't think so.
I can see why they removed some characters and downgraded people like Kate, and Elliott and Mia to allow time to get through some of the threads. I’m fine with that, Kate and Mia are not exactly anything other than filler roles. What I do not understand is why they removed so much of the Elena and Leila storylines, removing a lot of Ana’s chance to actually be Ana like and kick Christian’s ass for things. Leaving the whole ‘giving his power up’ scene, which to me was the most important piece in the entire book. Just being blah, and tbh something best left on the cutting room floor. He answered Ana, straight away, he did as she asked. None of the (tries to phrase this so I don’t ruin the books for anyone) comatose shocked nature he should exhibit.
Seriously?! Elena, they cut out the whole fact he was just 15 when she abused and trained him. She was having sex with an underage boy! She groomed an underage boy! She is a pedophile! Should go to jail for what she did! Talk about screwing up why fifty is Fifty Shades of fucked up! To help the viewer understand why he is still affected all these years on, I believe he is meant to be 27 in this. This is the whole reason why Ana hates Elena and doesn’t want him near her!
By this point, I had completely given up on the storyline! Which is a shame as some scenes were done amazingly, like the masked ball. With all those wonderful costumes, and dancing. It looked like something out of Phantom of the Opera. Stunning! The fireworks and ‘flowers and hearts’ scene in the boathouse also fantastic. If they had just edited out a few of the more pointless sex pieces, and put back in the parts which grew the characters storylines it would have actually been a pretty good movie. Worthy of 7.5/10
Instead, in the position it is I can only grudgingly just about give to a 6/10. Which is still higher than IMDB’s 4.8.
Before I gain another round of people telling me this is just good cheesy fun, stop looking for plot in a sensual piece or calling me a snowflake who shouldn’t watch it if I don’t like it. Perhaps you should look a little more inward to see why you do? Even Ana states at several points that Grey is all about ‘Ownership’ and that Elena is a child abuser. Perhaps it is you who have missed the point by finding it a sexual piece. For E L James to put so much research into different abuse, and to bring it up more and more as we go through the books. Maybe that is the real author’s intent, to bring this to light and show you it is wrong. Trust me, if I get the chance for an interview I will ask.
I leave you with one passing point from Ana herself.
‘What if it was your son?’
(Re Elena’s abuse.)
Are you telling me that you would be perfectly happy if your son was raped and abused at 15? Or your daughter taken, controlled and locked in?
Think about it.
Sarah Beth James