Fifty Shades of Grey Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Screenwriter: Kelly Marcel
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden Universal Pictures
Rated R | 125 Minutes
Release Date: February 13, 2015
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), Fifty Shades of Grey is based upon E.L. James‘ best-selling erotic novel about a steamy, masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman.
Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, 21 Jump Street) stars as Anastasia Steele, a student at Washington State University Vancouver, where she majors in English literature. For a college newspaper assignment, Ana visits Grey Industries to interview the wealthy, handsome, and charismatic entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, The Fall).
Of course, the attraction between the two is immediate. Ana learns, however, that Christian is only interested in a relationship on his own controlling terms. When the dominant Christian introduces the submissive, virginal Ana to his very particular tastes, she finds herself exploring her own desires for the first time.
Really? This is what all the fuss was about? Blindfolds, ice cubes, and spanking? Teenage Mennonites are having better sex than this! Fifty Shades of Grey is a shallow, exceedingly mild, and infinitely mediocre “erotic drama” that fails to move the needle (figuratively and literally) in any way.
The thing is, there’s probably a good movie in here somewhere. It’s competently made, with cinematography from Seamus McGarvey (The Avengers, Atonement) and decent direction, but it’s Kelly Marcel‘s bare-bones screenplay that dooms Fifty Shades to failure.
Granted, Marcel’s script is a marked improvement on the source material (which started out as Twilight fan fiction), but it’s still mired in preposterous dialogue, unbelievable characters, and a surface-level understanding of the film’s subject: BDSM. Essentially, it’s the community theatre version of two children playing “doctor.”
The film portrays a sadomasochistic romance between an improbably attractive virgin and an impossibly perfect rich guy with a dark, haunted past. The idea is that only a severely damaged and fucked-up individual could possibly be into anything other than vanilla sex. As someone with a BDSM kink, Christian Grey might as well be as deranged and unhinged as Elijah Wood in Maniac – a sick-in-the-head whacko who draws up detailed sex contracts when he isn’t busy flogging pretty girls in his “playroom.”
And then there are the performances. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are doing the best they can with what they’ve been given, but their romance is limp from the get-go. It’s like they’re in two entirely different movies; Johnson’s in He’s Just Not That Into You and Dornan’s stuck in American Psycho. Instead, they should both be acting in the BDSM version of Dirty Dancing – a movie that has more sex appeal in one dance number than the collective moan-and-groan of this film’s 125-minute duration.
Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Hell, with movies like Jupiter Ascending and Seventh Son in theaters, it might not even be the worst film of this month, but it is entirely uninteresting on nearly every level. Johnson and Dornan manage to salvage a few moments of sizzle from Marcel’s silly screenplay, but it isn’t enough to save the film’s poorly constructed ending, which leaves the door open for sequels.
As Twilight taught us, one bad movie simply isn’t enough – it has to be a franchise of bad movies to really leave a mark. And with three books in James’ Grey series, masochists can look forward to years of shitty, softcore erotica to pleasure them in the most painful ways possible.
PS: I didn’t entirely hate Fifty Shades of Grey – it’s biggest sin is that it’s just plain boring. I’d totally see it again before I’d dare revisit Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), RoboCop (2014), or Transfomers: Age of Extinction. Of course, I’d rather get the measles at Disneyland than rewatch those movies, so I’m not sure that’s much of a compliment.