Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson and Jennifer Ehle
Running Time: 125 minutes
Release Date: February 13th
We’re going to assume that everyone with an internet connection and the ability to read already knows the plot to this movie, so we’re not going to waste precious space going into detail on what little there actually is. For all its wants to be taken seriously as an erotic drama, Fifty Shades actually has more in common with The Devil Wears Prada than it does with Basic Instinct. A poorly-dressed college graduate, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), has an interview with a rich and powerful figure, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), and while getting caught up and seduced by a world she’s not quite used to, begins to question whether or not this world is changing her for the worse. The only difference is leather is very in fashion this season. And every season for the foreseeable future.
Plot-wise, that’s your lot. With the erotica taken out of its usual comfort zone of “erotic thriller”, the summation of the story’s arc consists of Anastasia thinking she might be into S&M, tries it for a bit, decides she doesn’t like, then remembers how hot Grey is so she thinks she might be into it again, tries it again, decides again that it’s not for her… on and on she goes on this tantric merry-go-round, driving both Christian and us mad with indecision.
Both Johnson and Dornan try their best, but are uncomfortably shackled by a script that has harnessed itself to E.L. James’ original dialogue (apparently at the author’s request/demand), so they’re left pumping what little chemistry they can into conversations that no normal human beings would ever have. Dornan comes off the worse of the two, trying to play the sympathy card of a tough upbringing, but forgetting that nobody is going to feel sorry for a billionaire that happens to looks like Jamie Dornan.
Then there’s the sex, which should cause some moans and groans from the audience, but not in the way you’d hope. Building up to Grey’s big reveal that he’s into BDSM might’ve been gasp-worthy a couple of decades ago, but this is nothing we haven’t seen Sex & the City do better back in the 90s with a single episode. While trying to bring sadomasochism into mainstream cinema and literature should be commended, it ends up taking two steps backwards, suggesting that Grey’s abusive past is the reason why he’s got such a (compliantly) abusive present.
Talented director Sam-Taylor Johnson is just as restrained by the source material as Catherine Hardwicke was when she brought Twilight to the big screen, but for all the lush soundtracks and pretty cinematography, we’re still left with this limp, lifeless lump of a film that just lies there, putting next to no effort in. Plus, that smug “we already know the sequel is greenlit, so we’re not even going to attempt to end this movie properly” cliff-hanger? Puh-lease.
Mister Grey will see you now, but take our word for it, you won’t want to see him.