Sunday, February 15, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey reviewed

by Melissa Scott

At the conclusion of this movie, about ninety-five percent of the audience laughed and not
appreciatively. These were snickers of derisive disbelief. At least we all walked out of the theater in good-ish spirits.

The movie itself was not downright awful. The acting was clumsy and dry at times, but on the whole it wasn't as cringe-worthy as I expected. In fact, given how weak I thought the book was, the adaption held its own considerably. Certainly, it wasn't worse than the book. But anyone who’s read the novel knows that director Sam Taylor-Johnson didn't have much to work with. Stemming from its original form as a Twilight fan-fiction piece, the main plot tumbled down a painfully basic course. Shy, na├»ve, and of course, virginal Anastasia “Ana” Steele sought to interview powerful businessman Christian Grey, for a segment on him in the school paper. The two immediately became infatuated with each other, and everything played romantic and wonderful. But then, Ana realized Christian wasn't the picture perfect boyfriend type. He enjoyed blindfolding, tying up, and flogging Ana in his Red Room of pain. He called it the “playroom.” Rather than resorting to the words masochist or sadist, however, Christian casually called his game “dominant and submissive.” Ana must sign a contract, making the torture consensual, and in return? “You get me,” Christian simply replied. Sounded like a fair trade to me . . . .

Ana didn't sign the contract. Instead she tested waters with Christian’s rules—negotiating terms of the agreement, and experimenting with the “fun.” Trying to convince her to sign, billionaire Christian bought her a new apple computer and a car, and even flew her around on his shiny helicopter. Finally, Ana decided that she wanted more than orders of S&M. She wanted a real boyfriend, and not the kind that liked to smack her with a belt across her naked backside. In an emotional climax . . . Ana stormed from the playroom crying (and naked of course), gave back her brand new computer, and dramatically broke up with Christian by using his elevator to make a grand exit. The end. Literally—the movie ended with the elevator door closing on her teary, distraught face. Cue the laughter.

Dakota Johnson did the best an actress could do, playing the embarrassingly dull character of Ana Steele. She may have been the movie’s saving grace: her humorous snickers and sarcastic comments at least allowed the audience to take the movie less seriously. Luckily, Johnson seemed to acknowledge the absurdity of her role, and included a lively wit that E.L. James’s written Steele never had. Her acting showed impressive potential. But, sadly, trapped playing a vapid, love-struck college student, Johnson didn't have much room to excel.

On the other hand, I would claim Jamie Dornan offered little more expression in his role than a brick wall. I mean, a hot brick wall--a really hot one. He did an incredible job knitting his eyebrows ferociously and flexing his muscles whenever possible. One thing was certain: I saw no fifty shades of Grey. Dornan gave Christian Grey maybe a shade and half. It wasn’t even until about three-fourths of the way into the movie, when he awkwardly grumbled into a windowsill, “I’m fifty shades of f***’ed up”—just to clarify for the audience. As Rolling Stone put it, “He’s a human Ken doll with a kinky set of accessories that go unused.”

Whether for better or worse, the movie also significantly toned down the “erotic” notoriety of the book. In terms of sexually-driven movie scenes, Fifty Shades of Grey barely struck a spark, let alone exploded with uncontrollable, forbidden passion. Aside from the fact that Johnson and Dornan had next to no chemistry whatsoever, the “passionate” and supposedly kinky love scenes hardly surpassed a PG-13 rating—except maybe when a peacock feather was casually thrown into the mix. And that wasn't presented illicitly, it was just weird.

I can’t recommend Fifty Shades of Grey for Valentine’s Day weekend—unless you’re single, and you’d like to feel grateful for not having a significant other (at least one that doesn’t spank you repeatedly with a whip). Dornan didn’t disappoint on a physical level--the film provides a two hour close-up of his chiseled abs. You’ll undoubtedly let out a few hearty ones as the movie drags on. Don’t anticipate the steamy, romantic depiction from the promotion. It wasn’t so much as a romantic comedy as a romantic farce. But sequels! So there’s that.


  1. Hilarious review for a much anticipated and let down movie!


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