MOVIE REVIEW: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SAM TAYLOR-JOHNSON / SCREENPLAY: KELLY MARCEL / STARRING: DAKOTA JOHNSON, JAMIE DORNAN, JENNIFER EHLE, ELOISE MUMFORD, MARCIA GAY HARDEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Based on the worldwide best-selling first instalment in a trilogy of potboilers by E.L. James that dealt with the hair-raising topics of BDSM, Fifty Shades of Grey follows virginal English student Anastasia Steele, who interviews wealthy entrepreneur Christian Grey. However, upon meeting each other, the wide-eyed, lip-biting Ana immediately becomes smitten by Christian and they soon get involved in a torrid romance that happens to be driven by Grey’s S&M obsession. But even though she contractually agrees to be the submissive to his dominant, it’s not long before Ana starts to yearn for a normal relationship with Christian, which he feels uncomfortable by the notion of.
The source novel is unreadably bad, which is unsurprising for being Twilight fan-fiction, but a movie adaptation was inevitable, and Sam Taylor-Johnson is a smart choice for being the film’s director as she has dealt with edgy romance before. Plus, Kelly Marcel does make significant improvements to the story by taking out the incessant narration, as well as all the Burt Ward-esque “Holy’s!” and “inner goddess” elements. However, both Marcel and Taylor-Johnson are occasionally shackled down by, not just the rest of James’ poor dialogue, but also the film’s R rating in order for to appeal to a mainstream audience.
Despite all the hype and taboo about the film’s sex scenes, the end result is toothless and vanilla when compared to films like Blue is the Warmest Colour or Nymphomaniac, and those scenes aren’t as shocking or as outrageous as many were expecting. This does bare similarities to Steven Shainberg’s Secretary, and there is nothing in Fifty Shades that can match the fun, wit, edge and sharpness of Secretary, and that offered a more deep insight into the world of BDSM and the consensual passing of power than this does.
As far as the performances are concerned, Jamie Dornan lacks the committed edge he possessed in TV’s The Fall and one would’ve wondered what Charlie Hunnam would’ve done with the role hadn’t he got cold feet. But Dakota Johnson is by far the best thing in the film, and she’s almost the reason for making the whole experience bearable. She brings a fun, quirky, yet emotionally nuanced, performance that contrasts against Dornan’s stiffness, and it’s thanks to her that she makes the character of Ana much more compelling than the annoyingly bland, one-dimensional airhead she is in the book. However, you don’t completely believe in their relationship, which is not surprising considering that both Johnson and Dornan reportedly didn’t get on well during filming.
Overall, Fifty Shades of Grey can be a slick, stylish (gorgeously shot by Seamus McGarvey) and consistent romp while it’s there, and it’s worth watching for Dakota Johnson’s dominating performance, but the end result is terribly ordinary and mainstream friendly. It’s not as terrible a movie as many expected, and it’s much better than it could’ve been, but it’s nothing like as shocking or exciting as it wants to be, and one wonders what all the fuss was about.
Expected Rating: 4 out of 10
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