It can be said without a doubt that if you take away all movies featuring superheroes, Jedis, or post-apocalyptic rebels, the most anticipated movie of 2015 has been the adaptation of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. This book, which has taken the world by storm and titillated more middle-aged women than a young Brad Pitt, has generated so much interest on its’ journey to becoming a film that it is expected to break box office records all over the place this weekend.
But before I move on to sharing my feelings on the film’s quality I should probably come clean on how I’m approaching it. I have never read the book. I have no intention of ever reading the book. In fact, all I really knew about the plot going into it was that it was about a ridiculously handsome man who happens to be into all sorts of kinky sex. As a result, my reaction here is about the film and only the film. Those of you looking for comparisons to the book will have to look elsewhere.
Leading me into the movie of course was the protagonist with the discarded Bond Girl name of Anastasia Steele played by Dakota Johnson. And although Johnson doesn’t convincingly look like a young woman just graduating from college, she actually ends up being the film’s strongest asset with a nice mixture of humor and compassion that make her an ideal leading lady.
Through Johnson we experience Anastasia’s first encounter with the mysterious Christian Grey played by Jamie Dornan when she takes her roommate’s place interviewing him for the college newspaper. Grey, with his impeccable business suit and pretty boy looks, makes an immediate impression on Anastasia but the attraction is a surprising two-way street. Grey soon begins popping up in Anastasia’s life in a not-so-borderline creepy way in an attempt to woo her…in his own weird kinda way.
Anastasia, who is a virgin that works at a hardware store and still uses a flip phone, is naturally swept away by Christian Grey’s lavish lifestyle but not everything is as perfect as she might hope when she learns that the dashing Mr. Grey isn’t exactly into cuddling.
In fact, he’d rather whip her.
And he’s got a whole special play room for it, to boot! And when Anastasia first enters this “play room” she knows that this ain’t no normal courtship. Grey has no interest in doing dinner and a movie. Instead, he wants Anastasia to sign a contract agreeing to be the Submissive to his Dominant. In other words, he wants to be able to do anything to her. And what does she get out of the deal? According to him: “Me.” How charming.
Like any good hardware store-working virgin, Anastasia is leery about entering Mr. Grey’s kinky world but the two clearly have a strong connection and when she tries to resist it only makes him try harder. And that pretty much sums up the rest of the movie: Anastasia tries to resist, Grey breaks his “no romance policy” to woo her, and she relents enough to let him try some of his S&M moves on her. She then resists again and starts the process over.
The repetitive nature of the story might work for those who are only there to see the increasing intensity of Grey’s adventures in bondage, but everyone else is likely to find the cat and mouse game between the two lovers dull and frustrating. It eventually gets to a point where you have to question the judgement of Anastasia who keeps running back to a man who clearly has little interest in ever putting her desires over his own and repeatedly shows up whenever and wherever he wants against her wishes. It’s not cool.
The film itself is competently shot and put together, but what really kills it is a wretched screenplay filled with laughter-inducing lines that had the audience I watched it with cackling at every turn. Johnson manages to navigate most of the clunky lines but poor Dornan is crushed under the weight of bad writing on every page. The unintentional comedy is only amplified on his part though thanks to his attempt to make every line reading ooze with sexuality, which only succeeds in making him sound ridiculous 90% of the time. He may look good enough to make you consider letting him beat you, but that can only get him so far.
The giggles induced by the film are then only enhanced by a horribly cheesy score by the usually reliable Danny Elfman and a selection of pop songs that will date this film in painfully record time.
And so with a wonky script, bad music, a laughter-causing leading man, and an obnoxiously repetitive storyline, Fifty Shades of Grey is almost impossible to recommend unless you’re looking to poke fun at something for a couple of hours. Even the much-touted sex scenes were nothing to write home about! So now that it’s over all I can wonder is, “Are there really four more hours of this to come?!”