I went into Fifty Shades of Grey with the same open minded attitude that its central character Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) goes into with her unconventional relationship with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). I was completely unfamiliar with the source material, though certainly aware of the wild popularity of the E.L. James novel it’s based upon. And I knew the breathless anticipation of its fans due to their love of the book. I’ve heard some writers claim that this film adaptation improves on the novel and I’m skeptical. 1) That’s normally not the case and 2) It must be a really bad book.
Fifty Shades is essentially a soft core porn with higher production values and admittedly lovely cinematography. The soundtrack is decent too. This is where my praise ends. The picture is also a boring and overlong melodrama with subpar acting and a one note screenplay that utterly fails to generate any genuine interest in the leads.
Anastasia is an about to be college grad majoring in English literature who meets Christian, a wealthy business magnate. Sparks fly in short order and she soon learns that his sexual tastes lie in the world of sadomasochism and bondage. Not only is Anastastia not accustomed to that world, she’s still a virgin. This sets off a crisis of conscience for Ms. Steele that goes on and on and interminably on. One minute she’s into it. The next she isn’t. Christian does what he can to get her into it while yawningly explaining his troubled backstory. We meet both of their families who add nothing. The next crisis of conscience arrives. Tears flow. Beyoncé song. Sex scene. Repeat.
Even when certain films or novels become cultural phenomenons, which this is, and I don’t enjoy them – I can usually understand why they became so popular. I’m stumped with Fifty Shades of Grey. As mentioned, there’s little that separates it from a Cinemax flick that airs at two in the morning. At least those pics know they’re trash. Perhaps some roles will come Johnson and Dornan’s way to show their capabilities but we don’t see it here. For all the talk about punishment in the two hours of this movie, we the audience receive the lion’s share of it. Not in a good way either.
* (out of four)