Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey Review

 From Twilight fan-fiction to best-selling romance-erotica trilogy, thanks to both E.L James and Universal Pictures both couples and singles had something to do this Valentine's day.

Virginal lit student Anastasia Steele's (Dakota Johnson) world is turned upside down upon being sent to interview intimidating businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in lieu of her friend Kate, for her university newspaper. The two decidedly have a shared fascination for one another which quickly turns into much more. As the domineering Grey rapidly makes more and more appearances in Ana's everyday life, the two decide finally to surrender to their lust and their relationship begins. Ana soon discovers that Christian does not 'do romance', and in fact would rather they follow a contractually dictated agreement whereby she becomes his 'submissive' (read: sex-slave, pet). However, tension arises when Ana discovers that Grey's controlling and insistent nature goes far beyond his playroom of sexual, sadomasochistic pleasure...

First and foremost, it has to be said that you have to admire Sam Taylor Johnson for taking on this thinly veiled story of abuse, though you have to wonder what it would/could have looked like had the studio gone with Soderbergh or Angelina Jolie as director instead. Still, stylistically what Taylor Johnson brought to the screen was interesting, and it seems it would be an injustice to her as a director to pass it off as a complete and utter disaster. You very much get the impression that she was overly constrained by author E.L James' insistence that the script remain as close to the source material as possible. Thankfully there was no drippy, 'inner goddess' voice-over for our female protagonist, however all in all the dialogue was pretty appalling. 

For an R-rated film about BDSM, it all feels very vanilla, and the tedium of the film's ultimately very self-conscious approach to nudity (particularly male nudity) and eroticism, compounded with its simple yet agonizingly overdrawn premise means it all gets very dull quite quickly. Rather than eroticism, Fifty Shades seems more focused on mode and sophistication; the luxurious lifestyle money can buy. From nice cars, helicopters and gliders, to expensive looking paddles, whips and cuffs. However, we only see glimpses of this stuff getting used. Most of it is there for show, The Red Room itself looks like a kinky themed hotel room.

That being said, Fifty Shades is still entertaining, just for the wrong reasons.You find yourself laughing at it rather than with it, particularly with some of the ridiculous lines Dornan is made to come out with, a choice quote being, 'I would like to fuck you into the middle of next week.', a line blurted out in the most awkwardly wooden delivery ever. Throughout the film nothing about any of Dornan's delivery felt racy or provocative, just misplaced. He often just sounded quite silly and robotic, which brings me on to our leads...

It didn't feel like anything Dornan said had even an ounce of emotion behind it at all, as though he was focusing all his energy on his intense, meant-to-be seductive stares and pinning down a half-decent American accent. None of his actions felt particularly erotic either, whether it be spanking, kissing or whatever. Johnson appears to have put somewhat of an effort in, showing promise despite a role that doesn't allow for much wriggle room. She is believably innocent, and portrayed sympathetically despite some pretty dumb decisions and again, stupid one-liners. Though for the most part I'd say the parts of the film in which she did come across this way were mainly down to the source material itself and the script, she did the best with what she had.

 The characters make absolutely no sense as a realistic couple, and of course this is the point, it was a fantasy that came from the mind of a horny middle-aged woman. That being said, this also means that a lot of the success of this book to screen adaptation rides on its performances, and a chemistry that its actors simply can't provide.

All in all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a well-lit, well-shot and overall aesthetically pleasing attempt at soft-core porn with an added dose of angst and the worst dialogue heard on-screen since, well, the Twilight movies. Be that as it may, with a nice enough camera, some interesting angles and good lighting you could also shoot a turd and have it look as good.