Fifty Shades of Grey Reviews
Jamie Dornan is sufficiently sexy and tortured and predatory, but the script is careful to make sure Ana's free will is at the forefront of every decision, though some may argue it's the illusion of freedom because she's so inexperienced and he's so persistent. Even so, that doesn't make her decisions any less her own, nor his lust any less an earnest desire for connection in the only depraved way he knows how. It's a problematic relationship dynamic, to be sure, and there's really only one Harlequin fantasy way to end it, but so far, the representation seems unmannered and unfettered (heh).
For a 2 hour story surrounding kinky sex, there is very little in the way of arousing excitement. The story is thin and it never seems to be heading in a forward direction. Integral plot details are far and few in between, leaving the sex to stand out.
On the subject of sex, there are a number of erotic scenes with a bunch of buildup for them. To associate with the R-rating, these scenes never fully engulf what makes the Fifty Shades of Grey what it's meant to be. Possible pushing to the NC-17 rating is what is needed.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are attractive in their own right, but viewing their performances is very tiring. Maybe the characters are meant to be this way, but it's easier to read then view on screen.
Fifty Shades of Grey does have a few moments, and only a few. Easily passable.
Anna (Dakota Johnson) subs for her sick roommate and gets to interview playboy billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). He takes an interest in her innocence. And so he runs into her at the hardware store where she works, he fetches her after a drunken text on her part, and whisks her away to his luxurious Seattle high-rise. Before things can get frisky he has to share a secret. He's a dominant looking the world over for women who are willing to submit to him and be his submissive. The world of sadomasochism is a new one for Anna, a 22-year-old on the verge of graduating college. However, she's drawn to Christian and accepts his terms, and that's when the sex gets taken to another level.
So much of the film is the drawn out flirtation between two characters that I found painfully uninteresting. Wasn't this supposed to be the exciting and sexy story of risqué sex and overpowering urges? I'm by no means the target demographic but I felt unmoved by the onscreen sex because it was so sedate by Hollywood standards. I've seen more enthusiastic and engaging sex scenes skimming the channels of late-night cable TV. It certainly doesn't even come close to rivaling some of the steamier sequences of films past, like 9 1/2 Weeks, The Dreamers, Henry & June, Last Tango in Paris, The Piano, Risky Business, Sex and Lucia, Don't Look Now, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Dangerous Liaisons, sex, lies, and videotape, Little Children, Mullholland Drive, and Secretary. For fans of romance with BDSM, please give 2002's Secretary a chance since it is 500 shades superior to E.L. James.
I understand that most erotic TV series and films are readily designed for men, and 50 Shades was designed for women, and there are differences in approach and stimulation, but for a product that is famous for the degree of kink involved, I was sorely disappointed by the results. In short, the movie needs more kink. It plays out as an introductory guide to bondage and S&M. This aspect isn't even explored until the very end. It's too timid to really give in to the thrills of its premise and likewise the demand of its readership. There's a lot of nudity, mostly from Johnson, but the sex scenes themselves are rather ordinary and sedate, all things considered. There are four of them in total for those curious readers wishing to keep track (I also tried keeping track of the times Anna bit her lower lip but lost count). The sex scenes are filled with plenty of moaning but not a one of them builds up to climax, a strange omission since we're tracking Anna's pleasures. I wasn't expecting the graphic, and graphically drawn out, onscreen sex of Blue is the Warmest Color, but I was certainly expecting more after all the hubbub. In the end, a sexy movie is going to be known for its sexy scenes, which may or may not include sex (I feel like fans are going to be justifiably irked by the absence of full-frontal male nudity - come on, give the fans a bone here). 50 Shades of Grey is ironically far too tepid to register as much more than sub-soft core eroticism.
Then there are the characters, both of which are too one-dimensional, and also boring, to bring much interest. Cinema has always been interested in good-looking people getting it on, but unless there's careful attention to plot and character, then you're just recycling the same soft core setups. It is wholly transparent that James' novel began as Twilight fan fiction because the couple occupies the same unhealthy relationship roles. The female lead is a stand-in for the audience/readers; she's a mousey, shy, normal girl who gets swept away by a brooding and dangerous man who tells her he's no good, insists she should not be with him, but cannot help himself falling for her because he sees her inner beauty. He's more male chauvinist than complex character, and his obsession is less a sign of a tortured psyche and more, as displayed, a clear indication of a sexual predator. Anybody who requires his paramours to sign legal documents about what he can put inside them seems like somebody not worth knowing. He tracks her down across the country when she dares to see her mother because Anna didn't ask his permission. Control freak or a budding sociopath? With a lack of tawdry sex scenes, the far majority of the film is Anna and Christian ramping up their almost endless sexual tension, which the movie will hit you over the head with. I didn't feel a single thing between the two of them, partly because of how poorly written they are and also because of the lack of chemistry. We watch her bite her lip a thousand times. We watch her stammer. We watch him stare rather intently like a shark. The filmmakers are doing the work for us rather than allowing a romance to blossom organically. It's cajoled and manipulated and feels inauthentic in every sense, even before the trip to the playroom begins.
There is one standout scene that is actually sexy, and apparently it's quite different from the source material. As Anna and Christian go over his legal language for his submissive, they treat it as a business meeting with an arch sense of professionalism. It's one of the few times Anna displays a spark of personality, as well as decision-making, as she goes line by line and says what she will and will not do. It's played with a wry sense of humor but there's also a sexy undercurrent throughout the scene, where these two adults are having fun with the preliminaries. If the rest of 50 Shades of Grey had this same sense of personality and fun, it might have worked as an engrossing erotic fantasy.
Johnson (Need For Speed) is an enjoyable screen presence even if there's absolutely nothing interesting about her character. Anna is so absent a personality that it makes it easier for the story to present someone else doing all the work for her, pushing her, prodding her, giving her form. Johnson plays a lot of scenes for laughs, which work in a titter-generating way. I kept hearing Patricia Arquette's voice whenever she spoke, but I may be alone in this unusual observation. Dornan (TV's The Fall) on the other hand is terribly wooden. Again, he's playing a rather terrible character with rather terrible dialogue, but it's hard to feel any authentic sense of passion from the guy. It's hard to say whether these actors are miscast or whether there could ever possibly be a suitable matching because of how lacking the simplistic characters are. They're archetypes, and ones the movie has to keep persuading you are totally hot for one another.
So what is it that makes this property the would-be blockbuster that it is? The story arc has been done before for decades, going all the way back to Rudolph Valentino's Son of the Sheik: the mysterious prince who comes and sweeps the princess of her feet to his exotic world of privilege. 50 Shades isn't reinventing the wheel but it has struck a chord, and perhaps it's the wish fulfillment angle, the introductory angle to a world of BDSM, or the plain Jane ordinary heroine that acts as a cipher for readership. The books are the books and the movie must be judged on its own account. I'm sure most of the series' fans will be pleased one way or another, though I doubt many of them will find the movie an improvement over the book. Then again it does strip away James' wretchedly torrid writing. If it wasn't for the 100 million books sold worldwide, this movie wouldn't be generating any of the hype it is, but is that the film's fault? The hype machine unfairly builds expectations that will fail to be met, but then again it's the oversaturated exposure that has ensured 50 Shades of being a Valentine's weekend event for half the planet.
Surprisingly boring and rather tepid, 50 Shades of Grey feels too callow to be the provocative film experience it wants to be. It needs more of just about everything; more characterization, more organic coupling, more story, more romance, more kink. It is lacking in too many areas, though the production values are sleek, like it's the most technically accomplished episode of Red Shoe Diaries. It's a tedious story of the hazards and joys of giving up control, but I didn't care about the characters. I need more than pretty people staring at each other for an hour while a breathy remix of a Beyonce son plays over the scene (to be fair that Beyonce remix is hot). The actors don't connect together and the Christian character comes across as more of a monotone jerk than wounded bad boy. I'm sure 50 Shades has pushed millions into exploring aspects of their own sex lives they would not have felt comfortable exploring beforehand, and good for them. My friend Angie quipped that, if nothing else, the release of 50 Shades of Grey will cause a spike in battery sales for its opening weekend. It's a shame then that the movie is too limp where it counts to be serviceable.
Nate's Grade: C
I hate this movie.
Based on the originally self-published book by E.L. James, which originated as fan fiction of the TWILIGHT saga, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is as toothless as its inspiration and strangely enough, bloodless. This is odd considering the BDSM nature of its central relationship.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (NOWHERE BOY) and adapted by Kelly Marcel (SAVING MR. BANKS), the filmmakers appear to have borrowed more from its kinkier 1986 predecessor, 9 1/2 WEEKS, than from the aforementioned Vampire Trilogy. With sleek but barren 80s-style Production Design by David Wasco (PULP FICTION) and uncharacteristically faceless cinematography from the usually brilliant Seamus McGarvey (ANNA KARENINA, ATONEMENT), FIFTY SHADES feels like an empty product from a lost time. Think FLASHDANCE with light domination instead of tight gyration. I mean, Jesus! Our heroine uses a flip phone fer crissakes! A flippin' flip phone!
Fortunately, that heroine is played by Dakota Johnson (daughter to Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), and she is so good here that she almost makes the film worthwhile. I loved her on the short-lived sitcom, BEN AND KATE, noting her ability to utilize terrific comic timing while making room for vulnerability. Her style is highly reminiscent of her mother's, who claimed she learned how to relax and breathe in front of the camera by working with Mike Nichols on her star-making triumph, WORKING GIRL.
Her daughter has clearly taken her mother's advice and brings such charm to her role. The character is Anastasia Steele, a ridiculous name that I think even Fabio would be embarrassed were he to pose for a book cover called THE BODICE RIPPINGS OF ANASTASIA STEELE. Indeed, it's exactly where that character name belongs. Regardless, Johnson is poised to become a huge star, and her work here is deserving of praise.
Back to the story - Anastasia is sent by her roommate Kate, who comes down with the flu (Eloise Mumford, a dead ringer for Sienna Miller) to interview business tycoon, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in her stead. Grey, of course, turns out to be young, gorgeous and manipulative. They quickly fall for each other. You can tell because she chews her pencil and he stares at her. Soon enough, he admits to her that he doesn't do romance and instead prefers a dominant/submissive relationship.
Naturally, because he's rich, great looking, has a helicopter, rents out gliders, and owns a killer apartment, she says yes. I suppose that's the aspirational appeal of this claptrap, but let's not kid ourselves; had Christian Grey been played by Jonah Hill as a homeless sexual deviant, she would be spraying mace instead of her scent all over this stinker.
Eventually, Grey starts raising the stakes by...um...really? He spanks her? He flogs her lightly? He covers her eyes and binds her hands with a necktie? I'm sorry, but I've seen more subversive acts in a Village People video than anything going on here. Late in the film, she asks Grey to bring out the big guns. He chooses a simple belt to whip her a few grades harder than before, but that damn belt was hanging next to notched paddles and fare edgier fare. Why pull punches at the climax? Many will say it's because Grey is developing feelings for Anastasia. That would be true if I believed Grey possessed them, but as portrayed by Dornan, he's a one-note empty shell. Sure, that's the part he was hired to play, and I'm sure Dornan has some talent, but he's just not given the chance. I kept waiting for something shocking - a cigar burn, welts, blood, crazy zipper masks - I don't know. When did sex movies become so tame? This is just kinda boring, meandering, and oftentimes silly. It's not the disaster everyone was fearing/hoping for, mainly because of Johnson, but it's not gonna make anyone whip out a c*m rag either. SHORTBUS seems so long ago.
SO, while these women fight over better seats, because they're not sitting in their allocated seats, the arguments that prevailed was the highlight of my night... with groups of 50+ year old women refusing to move seats so they could get a better view of their knight and shining armour they all fantasied over all these years... security was called, popcorn was COLD and even Mr. Grey took his bloody helicopter and said they're all fifty shades of f%# up...
Put aside my traumatising event of attending this premier because of those being psychotically frustrated around me, the film started 30 minutes late because of these selfish seat issues. I found my self enjoying the awkward funny element of the story more than I liked the book. With only reading half of the book, I only seen half of this coming..
For those who don't know, 50 Shades is originally a popular book trilogy that traces a relationship between a college graduate and business man. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM)., if you didn't catch that... there you go.
Anyway, the film entertained me and of course, my girlfriend, who would be the only reason I sit in fear inside my home away from home watching a movie like this at the cinema... on a full moon... full of hungry vampires.... lol.. no.. It's a great film to get out with your girlfriend, boyfriend.. or.. your right hand... or, that creepy person sitting next to you.... just take this as a warning that the cinema for this flick, may or may not turn into WWE WrestleMania 50.
I can see this being a cult classic, with Team Grey T-shirts and maybe some vampires or shiny diamonds of some sort in the next movie, just sayin... more dragons would be cool too.... However, I really enjoyed this film and loved the ending (because I was able to get to my helicopter and fly very far away) haha, nah, It was a great ending and I will look forward to the next film... Just not the premier... I may even read the bloody book because I'm bloody interested now ain't I...
Overall... that's all. Later baby.
PS. Dear Local Cinema, if you ever hold the sequel premier, we're going to need a bigger boat.
In this R-rated adaptation of the erotic romance novel by E.L. James, literature student Anastasia Steele's (Johnson) life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey (Dorman).
Director Sam Taylor-Wood attempts to bring some verve to their 'dating' portion, trying to get you invested in these rather colorless characters. Ultimately, however, she and screenwriter Kelly Marcel fail to make the goings-on go flush with liveliness. Dakota Johnson seems bound for bigger and better things despite this tourist trap stop in Dullsville. Jamie Dorman, meanwhile, sometimes looks the part but sometimes looks like he doesn't want to be there either.
Bottom line: No Spank You, Ma'am