UNIVERSAL PICTURES / FOCUS FEATURES (2015)

 

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson

 

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes

The book was an utter phenomenon. The mind of E.L. James created a series of novels that have so far sold in excess of 100 million copies worldwide, and regardless of anyone’s opinion on their quality, that is nothing short of unqualified success. So it soon became obvious that a movie would be made based on the novel, and here it is – Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the movie had a solid fan base to appeal to already, therefore already having one advantage under its belt. Another advantage is curiosity – those who haven’t read the book want to see what all the fuss is about. Thankfully, the movie is better than the book. But it still isn’t great.

Being better than the book is like receiving a punch to the face rather than a kick in the balls (which is probably a clause in Mr Grey’s ‘contract’)

 

Christian Grey (Dornan) is a billionaire recluse (who leads Grey Enterprises within the massive, inconspicuous skyscraper Grey House…) who one day finds himself being interviewed by young Anastasia Steele (Johnson), an English literature student writing a scoop for the college newspaper. It’s a bumbling interview, yet Mr. Grey can’t take his cold eyes off Ana – and so begins the contractual courtship. Whilst rocky, the pair can’t seem to tear themselves apart, and Christian offers Ana a romantic idea – be my sex slave but you can’t tell anyone, however you do need to sign a contract with the terms laid out. Flowers probably would’ve been a better idea. The plot goes back and forth with this premise without really going anywhere. It feels long and drawn out – more business arrangement then steamy and sexy.

 

What? There’s no breakfast scene at the International Pancake House? Fiends.

 

Dakota Johnson does the best with what she has (including some gloriously bad dialogue) and gives a good performance. However, when the sensual stuff started, every flick of Christian’s nostrils has Johnson panting and pulling pained faces and looking far too into it, and, please, stop biting your lip! Her character is portrayed as intelligent, yet can’t see past Christian’s well-groomed cheeklines. Jamie Dornan had the unenviable task of playing Christian Grey, an emotionless billionaire who likes S&M. The character is cold and hardly the alluring type, more a stalking perverted menace. Dornan plays the character too mysteriously and seems awkward delivering his hideous dialogue, but again, he did what he could with the instructions given.

 

The movie is very slick in its appearance, a quiet colour palette offset against striking reflective surfaces and many tall glass windows lends an entrepreneurial vibe to the movie, but at times it seems almost too slick, too glossy. The real colour is in Christian’s Red Room, and we’re barely in there. As for the sex scenes, they’re OK, tasteful without being gratuitous – though is this because we’re all so desensitised by it all now? There are lots of wide shots followed by close ups to try and appreciate the beauty of what was supposed to be happening. There’s nothing vile here, so don’t expect XXX porn. There’s a lot of Dakota Johnson’s breasts and bum though, however, if you want a peek at the Groin of Grey, bad luck, you’re getting none.

 

The ending, when it does happen, is watered down by the meandering that preceded it, and even then there is no real payoff. Perhaps this is because there are two more movies to follow, perhaps it’s because the writing was bad. There’s no shattering climax here guys…

 

Fifty Shades of Grey certainly isn’t the worst film released in the last few years (Hi, Independence Day: Resurgence) and it does have some redeeming moments. The humour laced throughout is well received and certainly necessary, mostly coming from Ana as she proves she isn’t quite the pushover Christian may have hoped for (though some of Christian’s lines are so bad, you will laugh, but he is "fifty shades of fucked" up so it’s OK). Early scenes of the pair in the hardware store that Ana works are fun and the movie’s better scenes probably don’t have any sexual nature at all.

 

It also has a great soundtrack, so that’s a bonus.

 

With two more movies following, get yourselves comfortable, Fifty Shades isn’t going away just yet. A movie that’s a bit better than a bad book is probably the best compliment I can pay this, the dialogue is awful and the lack of urgency is alarming for a movie surrounding sexual ‘submissives’ and S&M.

 

Mr Grey will see you now. On seconds thoughts, tell him to cancel our meeting.

 

Maybe the tampon scene would have elevated the movie. Nope? OK OK…

April 20th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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