Sunday 3 November 2019

Movie Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015)

An erotic romantic drama, Fifty Shades Of Grey is a slight improvement on the book but is still an exceptionally poorly written bore.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is about to graduate from her Portland-based university. She heads to Seattle to interview young business tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the student newspaper. Despite Ana's clumsy nervousness, the two are immediately attracted to each other. Christian initiates a few dates, but then darkly hints he is possessive and that Ana may want nothing to do with him.

He nevertheless starts showering her with gifts, then reveals he is only interested in a contract-based dominant/submissive sexual relationship whereby she would be his consenting sex slave. Ana is unsure, and takes her time reviewing and mulling over the contract while trying to understand why Christian cannot establish normal human connections. Without her committing to the contract they anyway initiate sex, and he introduces her to his playroom, filled with bondage, dominance and submission equipment.

The source material by E.L. James consisted of kitschy sex scenes stitched together with laughable prose, all originating as fan fiction. Yet the enormous commercial success of the books spawned an imperative for a film adaptation, and here writer Kelly Marcel and director Sam Taylor-Johnson sign up for the unenviable task of creating a viable movie out of tawdry erotica. They fail.

With plastic dialogue and character actions extracted from delusional reveries, Fifty Shades Of Grey is a slow motion fantasy in cold colours. The film stretches for a mind-numbing 128 minutes all bathed in blue, grey and black (except, of course, for the red playroom), while what passes for sensual music floods the soundtrack.

Within this milieu Jamie Dornan cannot manage anything other than a deer-in-the-headlights performance as Christian Grey, a supposed genius gazillionaire suddenly bamboozled by a woman who refuses to sign away her sexual freedom just because he demands it. Of course almost nothing will be known about Christian, because the script requires he stays silent and mysterious about his troubled past while Ana asks him essentially the same question for about two hours. Dornan can deal with the silent part, but rather than mysterious he is just blank.

Ana fares better, and in the hands of Dakota Johnson she is the one marginally tolerable part of the viewing experience. Whether intended or not, the film carries a feminist message of Ana only acquiescing to a man's obtuse demands after conducting due diligence and then on her own terms. Johnson does what she can with the flimsy material, at least for the parts when she is not naked.

The sex scenes are far fewer than in the book, but the second half does feature a steady stream of love making sessions ranging in kinkiness from vanilla to various forms of bondage, all filmed on the mainstream side of softcore. By the time Christian graduates to whipping, Anastasia decides she has wasted enough time with a man who can only express compassion through inflicting pain. In a non-ending meekly surrendering to the inevitable, she asserts her independence but unfortunately cannot escape the all-powerful clutches of the compulsory sequel.

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  1. never understood the hype surrounding this film or its series. it's like a typical adult erotic drama/thriller only more glamourised


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