Given the hype surrounding the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I was surprised to find myself in a near-empty cinema on the date of its release. This is particularly perplexing given that according to the ticket-selling site Fandango, Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling R-rated title in the site’s history. Perhaps we’re a little more prudish here in Britain than audiences in the States. It’s also rather embarrassing given that most British cinemas had between seven and fifteen screenings of the film scheduled per day in the opening weekend.
The film follows the relationship between Christian Grey, a young, sexy eligible bachelor, and Anastasia Steele, a shy college student. They are instantly attracted to each other. But Grey has a darker side, one that he’d like Ana to be a part of, if only she’d sign his contract. (Yes, a sex contract). As the man himself says, his “tastes are singular”. Translation: he’s a massive control freak who is really into a questionable interpretation of BDSM. So when the innocent and virginal Anastasia stumbles into his office one day, he can’t help but try to get into her into his Red Room of pleasure (or is it pain?).
This film is filled with cliché after cliché, and I honestly could not believe how predictable some lines were. I laughed out loud on several occasions because I was utterly astounded by the shoddy script. Yet it’s difficult to say whose fault this is, as the dialogue in E.L. James’s book is much the same. The film is much more creative than its paperback counterpart but it’s still pretty laughable.
Dakota Johnson plays the shy and innocent Anastasia Steele, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more irritated by the protagonist of a film in my life. That said, the Anastasia Steele from the books is similarly irritating, so perhaps Johnson actually deserves a round of applause for being able to translate those annoying character traits onto the big screen. Her co-star, Jamie Dornan, most definitely fits the bill physically for the role of Christian Grey.
No matter how devastatingly handsome and mysterious he is, there was just no way that Dornan could make the dialogue sexy rather than absurd.
One of the biggest issues this film had to face was how to take James’ erotic novel and put it on the screen in a way that stays true to the novel, without being too pornographic. Unsurprisingly, the producers failed miserably. There’s not enough sex to excite fans of the books but there’s too much nudity for the average cinemagoer. The film is advertised as having a whole twenty minutes of on-screen sex in it, but I have to say that thinking back, I can’t really remember there being all that much of it. What I do remember, however, is that the sex scenes were incredibly repetitive and escalated quite rapidly away from the realms of a little BDSM to borderline torture. Not sexy. What’s worse is that Anastasia questions Mr Grey’s twisted nature on several occasions, but still does not cut ties with him. We’re presented with a story about a woman who knows that her ‘boyfriend’, if we can call him that, is deeply troubled and likely to hurt her and yet does nothing and continues to obey him. It’s infuriating to watch.
There were a couple of moments where I definitely saw way too much of the general pubic region of both protagonists but (thankfully) these moments were fleeting. There is a fair bit of nudity in this film, which is to be expected, but the ratio of female to male nudity is incredibly unbalanced. There’s just so much boob. Dornan is topless in many scenes but he’s got nothing on Johnson who probably spends more of the film completely naked than she does clothed – a troubling fact.
While the sex scenes leave something to be desired, what is incredibly sexy is the music. Featuring songs from Ellie Goulding, The Weekend, Sia, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, Beyoncé, it’s not surprising that the soundtrack has received favourable reviews from critics.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a substandard film that breaks the bounds of what is acceptable too many times to be forgiven. When blown up on the big screen, Christian Grey comes across, not as a sexy bachelor, but as a twisted man who derives pleasure from another’s pain. That said, the film is probably still better than the book only because it doesn’t feature references to Anastasia’s “inner goddess”, but that’s not saying much. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t rather watch two attractive actors get hot and heavy on screen than read E.L. James’ pathetic excuse for an erotic novel?