In celebration of the release of the highly anticipated Fifty Shades Darker, I’m posting pictures of the premiere event that I attended with my best friend, Janice! I feel I should tell the story of what led up to this dream-come-true opportunity: I follow a few social media accounts featuring Fifty Shades, including all of the official ones. Those fan based social media accounts and blogs who have supported the books and movies since the beginning are a part of a select group called the “Official Fifty”. I had read in one of the accounts that there would be a premiere party and masquerade ball where fans and those involved with the Fifty Shades franchise would be able to celebrate together then watch the actual movie. The Official Fifty then started to let other fans know that we could also sign up to receive a special invite to join them at the event. I took a risk and signed up, and then let my friend, Zach , know that I would take him if I were to be invited (I watched the original Fifty Shades of Grey movie with him in 2015).
As the time for the release of Darker drew closer, I started to see more and more of the Official Fifty post pictures of their invites, so I felt I was out of luck. To my surprise, I received an email last Monday entitled “Your Invitation to Fifty Shades Darker Premiere”. I opened the email and read the following:
Dear Cyrillynn Chen,
You and a guest are invited to the Fifty Shades Darker Premiere Event, and your RSVP IS REQUIRED to confirm your attendance.
Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, February 1st.
Stunned, I read the email over and over and just couldn’t believe my eyes. I replied to ensure I would get into the event no matter what, then contacted Zach to let him know I received the tickets to the event! Due to work and health reasons, Zach couldn’t make it, but Janice was more than happy to step in! I made arrangements with my new job to leave early that day, and off we went to take part in an event to remember!
Janice and I made the trek from San Diego to Los Angeles and arrived just in time to get a quick bite to eat and change. Thankfully, valet parking was provided for all guests free of charge! The party itself started at 5:00 pm and was held at Vibiana, a wedding, events and performing arts venue. The event was a beautiful masquerade ball made to emulate the one in the movie. We were treated to delicious food, entertainment and lots of activities to participate in where we could take home souvenirs to prove it wasn’t all just a dream. To our surprise, Eric Johnson (“Jack Hyde”) and Dana Brunetti (producer) made their way through the crowd and caused quite the stir. I got the chance to say to Dana Brunetti how excited we were to see the movie, to which he replied “You will love it!” Jose James, who appears in the movie in the masquerade ball scene, also entertained us for the evening. The highlight was obviously when director James Foley and author EL James were joined on stage by the main stars Jamie Dornan (“Christian Grey”) and Dakota Johnson (“Anastasia Steele”). They briefly thanked everyone for being there and headed to the theater to greet everyone and introduce the movie. Right around 7:30 pm, fans were transported by shuttle bus to the gorgeous Theatre at Ace Hotel.
My Review of Fifty Shades Darker
(WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, AND REMEMBER TO STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS!)
What can I say about the movie other than Oh. My. God! In hindsight, I see the initial movie of Fifty Shades of Grey was definitely a teaser or maybe a really well executed college project. I have seen the first movie more times than I care to count, and I now see a bit of awkwardness between Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson that I had not noticed before, or maybe denied to myself because I wanted to defend my precious Fifty Shades. But I attribute the awkwardness to being put in a situation where so much was asked of them physically as actors, before they really got to know each other as people. I initially reviewed the intimate scenes as simply stylized to avoid being graphic, but I clearly was being too kind. The more I think about it, the more I think the envelope could have been pushed in the first movie. But again, being that Jamie and Dakota were “thrust” together and didn’t quite fully trust each other as actors and friends, they clearly made up for that fact in Darker.
James Foley is known for movies like At Close Range, Fear and the series House of Cards. He definitely brought forth a different style and directorial maturity than Sam Taylor-Johnson, the director of the first movie. I felt this was more of a suspenseful movie with a plot that revealed Christian Grey’s complicated life behind his alternative lifestyle. I could feel the desire and love between Christian and Anastasia, despite having to navigate through all of the craziness in his life. With Niall Leonard, EL James’ husband, as screen writer, James’ vision was more clear in Darker, and this movie catered to what the fans wanted, which was lacking a bit in Fifty Shades. At the premiere, I could tell that there was more of a partnership and trust between James and Foley, which ultimately made this sequel far better than the first.
When I compare Darker to Fifty Shades, Darker is paced more quickly, which allows time for more of the scenes we as fans wanted to see from the book. Fifty Shades had longer scenes, but not necessarily of the ones I wanted to see. For instance, quite a bit of time was spent on the interview scene, but not enough time in Georgia. Christian seemed to be more aloof in the Fifty Shades movie than in the book, which is where I think Jamie was criticized for being a bit stiff in his initial portrayal. Again, I think the chemistry is a bit off in the first movie because Jamie and Dakota did not know each other well enough to be as comfortable with the more intimate scenes. In Fifty Shades, Jamie skimmed Dakota’s body rather than ravage it as Christian does in the books. In Darker, all that has gone away and I do recall Jamie saying in an interview that he and Dakota decided to just go for it, since they had time to build up a true friendship which created the trust needed to go as far as they did. To me, that’s what shows in this movie, a definite closeness between the two main characters, which makes for hotter scenes that pleasantly shocked me.
I also noticed gaps in Fifty Shades that I filled in myself because I know the books so well. For instance, Christian says in the elevator right after their first kiss, “What is it about elevators?” Although that’s a line straight out of the book, what’s missing is seeing a couple who was giggling in an elevator after also getting caught kissing prior to them going in. Later, when Christian and Ana are getting ready to go to dinner at his parents, he asks Ana “Do you got everything you need?” She remarks knowingly “Yeah”. Well, what movie-goers don’t know that fans do, is that Ana’s panties are missing, which means she is going to meet his parents sans underwear, which drives him crazy throughout the evening. Darker is more of a complete movie that can actually stand alone if needed. Christian’s horrifying childhood is more fleshed out with flashbacks and they refer back to the original movie by mentioning why Christian was so eager to get out of Georgia (Leila), why he can’t bear to be touched, and the actual introduction of Elena.
I also found more humor and lightness amid the drama in Christian’s life. Jamie mentioned in another interview that the funnier moments are now evenly dispersed between the two, and I find myself so drawn to their cuteness as a couple. In one scene, Anastasia wanders into The Red Room and Christian catches her there. He said that Ms. Jones must have left the door unlocked and Anastasia says something to the effect of “What does she do in here…dust?” In another funny scene where a certain piece of sexual paraphernalia is finally introduced (true fans will know what I’m talking about), Christian gives Anastasia the “second chance” Cartier earrings he meant to give to her previously, prior to the masquerade ball. Christian then says “Don’t worry, these are for your ears,” much to Ana’s relief!
Still apparent in Darker is Anastasia’s strength. Despite all that happens with her boss Jack Hyde, meeting Elena Lincoln and her run-in with Christian’s ex-sub Leila Williams, Anastasia provides the emotional stability Christian needs and desires. Most of the scenes that we love from the book showing their developing emotional intimacy come alive on film: the “road-map” scenes, Christian as submissive, their confrontation with Elena and the proposal scenes are all present and accounted for. In all of those instances, it is Ana who is the most honest because this is her first real relationship, where Christian’s relationships were always premeditated and outlined in contracts that eventually terminated. Ana knows that does not a relationship make, and Christian eventually comes to that realization as well. What Foley does well in this film is marry all of Christian’s past with their sexual and emotional discovery, creating a nicely packaged erotic thriller.
Some wants that didn’t come to life on-screen: They didn’t use the “Put the chicken in the fridge” line prior to their first sexual encounter in Anastasia’s apartment; the pool table scene, which was filmed and cut from this version (I hope and pray there will be another “extended cut” with that scene added); and Hugh Dancy does not make any appearance, nor is there any mention of Dr. Flynn. Despite those missing parts, Darker was more exciting, thrilling, sensual and emotional than Fifty Shades of Grey. Foley’s tenure in film far exceeds Taylor-Johnson’s and although she gave it the good old college try, it just doesn’t stack up to Fifty Shades Darker. I cannot wait to see it again tonight (with Zach)!
Photos from the Masquerade Ball Premiere Party
Our bracelets for the event, as taken by Janice.
Our first selfie inside the ball. Doesn’t it look like Christian Grey is walking behind us?
We received free masks, along with our ticket for the movie premiere.
We had plenty of food and drinks, some of it served by mysterious gentlemen in masks!
Lovely “Shades of Red” lipsticks provided by Sisley.
From the top left: Myself with producer Dana Brunetti; Eric Johnson making his way through the uber-excited crowd; Jose James performing.
I had to include this picture as taken by Instagram user @fiftydornan because that’s me behind Eric Johnson…looking shocked that he just walked through the crowd!
EL James, Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson and James Foley. What a treat for them to be there!
Fun souvenirs from the magical evening!
I really loved the 360 camera. We were in quite a line, but it was so worth the wait!