Fifty Shades of Grey – Review

Film Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey has risen to a level of infamy that few books do, without being written by a dictator. Despite many, many criticisms, the Fifty Shades Trilogy has become a cultural phenomenon and each book in the series has reached the, “Bestseller” status. Finally, the long-awaited (or long-dreaded) film adaptation has arrived and looks to capitalize on the Fifty Shades craze. Will the film succeed in showing moviegoers why the books have captured so much attention by mainstream America?

Fifty Shades of Grey opens on Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who is covering for her sick roommate, Kate (Eloise Mumford). Kate was supposed to be interviewing young business magnate, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), for the college newspaper, so Ana takes it upon herself to follow through with the engagement. Clumsy from the beginning (Ana’s no graceful Swan), she attempts to complete the interview, but is too intimidated by Grey and leaves partway through. Ana assumes that her encounter with Grey will be the last, until he arrives at the hardware store where she works. Thus begins Christian’s series of questionable actions, including purchasing only binding equipment, whisking Ana away from a party when she has had too much to drink, and citing a helicopter ride as a valid reason for having a meaningful relationship. After a quick Non-Disclosure Agreement and a makeout session, Ana discovers that Christian only has sexual relationships with dominance and submission, asking her to sign a contract that would name Ana as his, “submissive”. It would also set the limits of pain and pleasure she is willing to experience and endure. This begins Ana’s journey into the world of BDSM and into the secret life of Christian Grey.

Film Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

I have to admit, I’ve never read any of the source material for Fifty Shades of Grey, but I have heard that they are some of the most poorly written, cardboard thin books ever to grace the bestseller list. Well, if that is the case, this may be the most authentic and accurate translation from a book to the silver screen. The plot of Fifty Shades of Grey is shamefully thin, consisting of little more than I described in the previous paragraph. Much in the style of The Wolf of Wall Street, there is a lack of anything but despicable flaunting of wealth and sex (except that The Wolf of Wall Street was well done and entertaining). Most scenes are either montages of Ana and Christian making love or montages of extravagant gifts that Christian bestows upon Ana. Somehow managing to snag a two hour running time, the major plot points can be counted on a single hand.

The next issue that Fifty Shades of Grey encounters is the combination of the dialogue and the acting. Jamie Dornan took on the role of Christian Grey, after the role was turned down by Ryan Gosling, Garrett Hedlund, Stephen Amell, and Charlie Hunnam. After watching the film, I can see why so many passed on this opportunity. I understand that the character of Grey is supposed to be an intense, intimidating, terse man, but the dialogue written for him is completely wooden. While watching the movie, Grey’s lines sound like what a fourteen year-old would write. I’m not sure if Dornan’s performance was poor or if he was restricted (bound, if you will) by the terrible script. Unfortunately, Dakota Johnson in the role of Steele wasn’t much better. Though Fifty Shades of Grey claims it is no longer a fan fiction for Twilight, the character of Bella Swan still leaks through in Ana Steele, minus the Mormon overtones. On screen, it seems that Johnson is playing the role of Bella in Fifty Shades of Grey. While her dialogue does contain the few welcome glimpses of humor in the film, it is overshadowed by the sheer vapidity of her character. I couldn’t really tell you if Johnson succeeded in her role, just like I couldn’t tell you if John Travolta could succeed in playing the role of drywall.

Film Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

The artistic direction of Fifty Shades of Grey is an unpleasantly mixed bag. It constantly shifts and changes between fantastic, self-aware, and cheesy. There is a lot done right with the cinematography, the use of lines and colors, but these are broken up by cliche scenes and settings. The soundtrack is an expected mix of pop, r&b, and a few love songs. While the song choices are certainly relevant in content and lyrics, they do nothing to enhance the story or intensify the scenes.

Fifty Shades of Grey is an exercise in patience. It fails as a coherent love story, the lack of any major events rule it out as a drama, and it’s probably too tame to stand as pornography. So, we’re left with a jumbled, overlong, angsty mess. I have no doubts that fans of the books will be happy to see the big screen adaptation, but I can’t genuinely expect many people outside the fanbase to find a reason to watch. The awkward performances, painful script, and general boredom inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey are enough for me to wish I had skipped this one.

Fifty Shades of Grey


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