Fifty Shades of Grey

Movie Review #953


Premiered in Los Angeles, California on February 9, 2015. Nationwide release on February 13, 2015. Drama/Romance. This film is rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language. Runs 125 minutes. An American-Canadian co-production. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. Screenplay by Kelly Marcel. Based on the novel by E.L. James. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Max Martini, and Dylan Neal.


By Alexander Diminiano

E L James’s recent resurrection of erotic literature is without a doubt a cult classic. Though it’s important to note that the Fifty Shades trilogy did not start as three separate novels. In fact, it started as fan fiction about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, posted regularly on a website devoted specifically to Twilight fanfics. Frighteningly, she was nearly 50 years old when she started doing this, but I suppose that’s beside the point. This was until the owners of the site asked James to remove her Twilight fanfic because it was too sexually explicit. At this point, James revised and expanded her story, which we now know as the Fifty Shades trilogy.

This back story effectively foreshadows the written quality of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the eponymously titled cinematic treatment of the first Fifty Shades book. So much of the dialogue seems as if it were written by someone whose talents just don’t reach beyond the grasps of fan fiction. For instance, there’s an entire scene where a supposed “business meeting” escalates into our two protagonists—Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan)—talking dirty to each other. Except that’s not exactly what it sounds like they’re doing. It sounds like they’re reciting steamy poetry written by a lustful college girl. Moments of strange dialogue seem to make “Fifty Shades” a lot more enjoyable than it deserves to be. There’s actually a number of one-liners to pull from the script, but I only dare mention them here.

Another reason “Fifty Shades” is so much fun to watch is the complete lack of chemistry between its two leads. Singularly, their performances are fine, but together, there’s an overwhelming awkwardness that I’m sure wasn’t intended, but I still found wonderful. Dornan plays Grey, a wealthy business magnate who takes an interest in Johnson’s Steele (the irony!), but not romantically. Grey is an interesting character, and a great part of the reason “Fifty Shades of Grey” is so intriguing as a romantic drama. Grey doesn’t believe in romance, nor does he believe in sex. What he does believe in is BDSM.

With the exception of a revolting, saddening climactic scene, the twisting of love into BDSM makes this “Beauty and the Beast”-inspired fable something of a revelation in its own right. So many scenes in “Fifty Shades of Grey” are the strangest, most erotic, and most enjoyable sex scenes one will ever witness in a mainstream American movie. They’re terrifically edited, and polished with spectacular music cues. Beyoncé is the star of the show here, even when Dornan and Johnson are as well. A couple of memorable scenes are highlighted by her recent hit “Haunted”. Though I’d argue the best scene as the one featuring Sofia Karlberg’s deep, emphatic cover of Beyoncé’s less recent “Crazy in Love”. This is one of two scenes that seems to end too soon and leaves us wanting more of it. The other scene is the instantly memorable final scene. How ironic that the scene (and the film itself) ends on a closing elevator door, and yet it has left a door wide open for a sequel. The good news is, whoever is standing in the open doorway can see and hear us begging for more.


7 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey

  1. I was telling Zen for Zoey this, but one problem I’ll have with 50 Shades going in is the lack of full frontal male nudity. To me, these films should be even-handed with the nudity since they’re about a unique, consensual relationship- to show only one end is to underwhelm the other side.

    You may say it was done to avoid an NC-17 rating from the severely flawed MPAA, but I personally believe Susan Wloszczyna’s theory that it was done so that “the majority of the millions of women who bought the pop-lit phenomenon would rather revel in the romantic fantasy of a brainy lass trying to tame a broken man than fixate on the sight of male genitalia in the flesh”. And for the record, I’m not gay.

    I actually am disappointed by the lack of chemistry, but your suggestion that it actually aids the film is an interesting thought.

    I feel like a lot of critics walked into 50 Shades with a self-fulfilling prophecy in mind. It’s funny- people keep asking Hollywood to make more original movies, and when several come along this year (Jupiter Ascending, 50 Shades) they’re attacked.

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