When the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey was first announced, many people surely expected it to essentially be a mass-marketed porno because the novels were erotica that passed as pop-fiction. After a troubled production with hesitations on who would actually be willing to act in what is basically a porn-flick, we now we have what was marketed to be the sexiest, most salacious and erotic film ever produced. Unfortunately, the buzz “teased” us far too long into thinking that this could be something more than a poorly written, shockingly tame film about a subject that is anything but, yet if you go in with low expectations you might find a slightly better movie than first thought.
When Anastasia Steele covers for her roomie at an interview with the mysterious and affluent Christian Grey, a chemistry sparks. The naive, green-behind-the-ears, and unnecessarily awkward Ana becomes infatuated with Grey and the feeling is reciprocated with a degree of obsession that crosses the border into stalker-territory. Nevertheless, the two start a relationship of sorts that eventually gets to the point where we find out that Grey has a thing for control in every aspect of his life, which is where we get the big selling point in the film, and if you don’t know what that is, kindly remove your blindfold.
For a film that is based on a novel that is infamous for its gratuitous sex-scenes, Fifty Shades of Grey is exceedingly “vanilla” for its own good. If you are going into this movie without realizing what it is, there is surely something wrong with you. For those of us who have not read the novels, we anticipate the big reveal of the “Red Room of Pain,” but just like Ana, the reveal leaves us in uncomfortable giggles because of the way it is handled, and because we are experiencing this absurdly set-up moment with dozens of other people around us who probably feel as uncomfortable as you. At times the film feels like a Cinderella story—a young, loveless girl meets a Prince Charming who introduces her to helicopter rides, fast cars, and an extravagant lifestyle, but these moments feel far too cliche for what the movie is really about, resulting in an awkward tonal shift.
The dialogue leading up to theses scenes is pretty horrendous, and you will definitely be seeing lists of some of the hilariously bad writing in the coming weeks. The scenes involving BDSM never reach the explicitness that they probably do in the books. It is like the filmmakers did not want to deliver what the book promises, which severely…punishes…the film. With 14 minutes of the 125 minute film being devoted to sex, it feels like there needed to be a lot more if you consider the reputation that the book has. But, unfortunately, it is more dry than steamy. Its structuring also makes the film run a little tediously, and the, uh…climax…comes, well, far too fast (excuse me) and the ending comes even faster shortly after, making us scratch our heads at the blatant build up for the following two films.
Luckily the two leads, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, work well enough together to make the movie decently interesting to see what happens between them. Their chemistry is probably the best aspect of the film, though that probably is not enough for some people. In terms of the quality of acting, both handle the poor dialogue and script as best as possible, but there are some moments that make you cringe rather than get in the mood.
In the end, the sizzle of Fifty Shades of Grey is too weak to have you begging for more. Its poor dialogue will make you laugh more than any of the few actual jokes in the film while its sex scenes will feel surprisingly weak for such a controversial film that has religious and women’s rights groups so angry. Fifty Shades of Grey will hardly tie you down, and its dialogue will have you groaning with pain rather than, well, moaning with pleasure. But you will still probably see it, despite how much you protest; we all know you want to see the Red Room of Pain; just say your significant other dragged you along to it, because let’s be honest–that’s what everyone is saying.