These wounds run deep, Fifty Shades. It may have been two years since the biggest theatrical shaft in history, but we haven't yet forgotten. The time was February, 2014, and the occasion was Rita Ora's press tour.
The singer-turned-actress had been campaigning all over towns (make that multiple towns in multiple countries) for the much-anticipated onscreen version of Fifty Shades of Grey. She gave interviews, she did the talk show circuit, she took to Instagram to reveal her character poster. She even got a kicky bob wig!
Sure, she gave a few hints to the possible small nature of her part, saying things like, I may not be in it as much as Dakota or Jamie, but her fans were not nearly prepared for the editing she received. When viewers flocked to the theaters, they were shocked to discover that Ora had, at most, a few sentences worth of screen time.
Where was the justice? Where was her SAG-AFTRA representative? How do all those Rita stans get their money back?
The scandal made it all the way to the upper echelons of the Internet, and by that we mean Twitter. The social media platform was simultaneously enraged and entertained by this egregious misrepresentation of Rita's impact on the film. Which leads us to present-day 2016. The singer was supposedly set to reprise her role as Mia, Christian Grey's mysterious sister with the razor-sharp hair ends, but the proof would be in the kinky pudding. (Make that the kinky f--kery pudding—a little inside joke from one Fifty Shades Darker fan to another.)
Things did not get off to a good start for Rita watchers. It was an agonizing 40 minutes before her first appearance. The audience watched Anastasia Steele go about her daily business as a single woman post-Christian breakup, while an incredibly wistful cover of Coldplay's "The Scientist" lulled us into a depression. We watched her have a meet-creepy with Christian at an art gallery, where he wooed her by buying every piece in a photo exhibit of her portraits, to keep "other men from looking at her." We watched them text each other "Laters, baby" and undress each other while saying things like "I want all of you."
We bore witness to several close-up shots of Dakota Johnson's nipples, all the while silently debating whether this was going to be February, 2014 all over again, when finally she appeared out of the mist like the mythical creature that she is. There was Rita, in all her ball gown-ed glory (the setting was a masquerade charity ball at the Grey home), and sporting a new wig, no less! This time around she went for long blonde locks, because, as the onscreen Mia proclaimed, "It's the all new me!"
Damn straight it is, girl.
During her big debut scene, which lasted all of approximately three minutes, she sat at an auction table with Ana and Christian and, well, that was it. Later during the gala the camera pans past as Rita laughs at a clown hired to perform (the work was all in the face!), and also appears in a family portrait as a creepy and mysterious masked man takes an even creepier cell phone photo of the picture frame.
If this were the first installment of the series, Rita's screen time would end there, destined to be a Twitter discussion topic and nothing more. But instead, it seems that director James Foley is a much bigger fan of her work than Sam Taylor-Johnson was. She's back later on in the movie for a few groundbreaking turns. First, she calls Anastasia to ask about birthday ideas for Christian's upcoming party and even makes a joke! "You have an assistant? I thought you were an assistant." Chills.
This is accompanied by B-roll of her shopping in a men's store, admiring ties, all the while wearing a beautiful set of long blonde curls.
She's back before the birthday party even happens, for a dramatic performance in the face of a possibly tragic circumstance. We don't want to spoil it in case anyone hasn't read the books or watched the trailer or followed any movie news in general. Actually, scratch that—Christian gets into a helicopter crash and the family is gathered at his apartment watching the news (apparently there aren't any more pressing stories in the Seattle area), and she attempts to comfort Ana during the agonizing wait. She offers to get a sweater to cure Ana's chills and then never returns.
Where is this sweater? Is Ana still cold? Will this mystery ever be solved?
It seems we never find out, because the next thing we know, Ana and Christian are in the shower, and finding a sweater seems to be least of their problems.
For Rita's final scene in what we can now describe as a full supporting role (goodbye guest appearance!), Mia is a guest at Christian's birthday party. She even gets her own grand introduction this time ("Ladies and gentleman: Mia!") and gets to wear curly hair again. She's happy that Christian and Ana have found lasting love and we're happy that Rita has found a lasting acting career.
Talk about a fairy tale ending.