When the inevitable film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey was announced, I couldn’t have given less of a crap. By the time I heard of the source novels, they were already a punchline. The badly written, middle of the road erotica for bored housewives, based on badly written fiction by a bored housewife who liked the Twilight series way more than anyone who isn’t a 12 years old girl ever should. What could the movie possibly have to offer? Then I heard the slightly negative review by the BBC’s Mark Kermode.
He didn’t like the movie, but he gave it a fair shake. He also commented on the amount of super negative reviews that he felt like had been written long before those reviewers even saw the movie. So with that in mind, and with the giant piles of money Fifty Shades of Grey brought in, I figured I needed to see it, just for its cultural impact value.
When Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) housemate has the flu, Anastasia fills in for her, interviewing reclusive billionaire businessman, Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman). He immediately takes a liking to the mousey Anna and is creepily showing up at her day job where she works in a hardware shop. After she drunk dials Grey, he creepily shows up at a nightclub and whisks her away to his hotel room. She wakes hung over to a proposition, he doesn’t want a relationship with Anna, he wants her to be his. It’s only after a helicopter ride from her native Portland to Grey’s home base fuck pad in Seattle that Anna discovers what that means.
Inside his play room, filled with whips, leather and other forms of kink, Anna learns that Christian is a dominant, and only wants a relationship with Anna if she’ll formerly agree, in writing, to be his submissive. So in the space of about 30 minutes of screen time, and what I assume is a day or two in the world of this movie, Anna goes from a virginal, shy girl, to deciding that some of the ol’ S and M might be right up her ally, and possibly up a few other place as well.
First of all, the good. Sam Taylor-Johnson knows how to make a movie. Fifty Shades of Grey looks good and it moves at a pace good enough to make the ludicrousness almost fly by. While in no way a riveting movie, I could imagine it being a whole lot harder to watch if someone else was at the helm. Taylor-Johnson manages to find life in what is a pretty lifeless story.
The bad. Well, the major part of the blame has to go to the source material. The story is just as clichéd and lazy, and the dialogue is just as awkward and corny as I had heard it would be. Apparently the book’s author, EL James, retained a good amount of creative control and insisted in exercising it. Almost every criticism I’ve read about the dialogue in Fifty Shades of Grey seems compelled to point out that the worst examples come straight from the book.
The other major weakness in this movie is Jamie Dorman as the supposed epitome of male perfection that is Christian Grey. Who’d have thought that casting your lead role with an underwear model might lead to a wooden performance? By the looks of it, his interpretation of intense is to frown a lot. His interpretation of tortured is to frown a lot. His interpretation of falling in love is to frown a lot. And his depiction of telling the story of his origins as a crack baby is outright hilarious.
I’m sure there’ll be worse movies made in 2015 than Fifty Shades of Grey. But I don’t think there’ll be such a huge gap between movie quality and movie box office as that generated by Fifty Shades of Grey.