Fifty Shades of Grey
Directed by: Sam-Taylor-Johnson
Written by: Kelly Marcel and E.L. James
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden
When Fifty Shades of Grey hit the bookshelves in 2011, it became a worldwide phenomenon within the female community. Women found the book oddly liberating, and discovered that it was okay not to clutch your pearls anytime something vaguely smutty crossed your mind. It seemed everybody had read it, or knew someone who did. Soccer moms started hawking sex toys to their friends in lieu of skincare products and cookware. Fifty Shades of Grey made it acceptable for repressed women to explore their sexuality, and it practically revolutionized the way women thought about sex.
Naturally, movie studios were eager to snatch up the rights, and there was much conjecture on who should be cast in the lead roles. The role of Christian Grey was originally given to Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Jamie Dornan eventually landed the role. It’s telling that his major claim to fame was being an underwear model.
At the beginning of Grey, graduate student Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) is sent to interview Christian Grey, a business tycoon who keeps a low-profile when it comes to his personal life. Christian seems to have an immediate affinity for Anastasia, and before long he approaches her with an odd proposition. Christian, it seems, can’t get his rocks off when there is any sort of emotional intimacy. He prefers keeping women at arm’s length and making them sign a contract so he can play the role of “dominant”. He demands non-disclosure as well as a list of things he expects his “submissive” to consent to. After Anastasia has a chance to look over the contract, she asks him to remove a few requirements – the most memorable of which is anal fisting. It’s an odd interaction that is treated like a business exchange, which is exactly how Christian wants to keep it.
The rest of the movie consists of lots of sex scenes involving some S&M. There’s nothing hardcore, mainly handcuffs, blindfolds and some pretty tame whipping. Since there is very little substance, the film relies on the coupling of the two actors. Dorman is dreadful. I get that Christian is supposed to be a cold, emotionally unavailable character, but Dorman just furrows his brow and doesn’t emote anything for the entirety of the film. He’s as bland as oatmeal.
Johnson, however, is actually quite good. Most of the time she is naked, but there are some moments where she shows some promise as an actress. She’s beautiful but believable as a rather naïve women who gets drawn into a complex situation. It was disappointing that her character was not more assertive, and that she is so utterly submissive. Although technically everything that happens between Anastasia and Christian is consensual, there is something creepy about the fact that he preys on a young ingénue. I didn’t find it romantic at all. I thought he is a sociopath who objectifies Anastasia. Referring to her as “the submissive” dehumanizes her.
For all the hype surrounding this film, it’s pretty uninteresting. There are some hints that Christian has some sort of past that has contributed to his present behavior. I would have found the film far more interesting if it would have explored the background of Christian’s character in any length. As the film stands, it’s just a montage of porn lite. — Shannon