Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey
By: Ashley Butcher
Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson
Fifty Shades of Grey, the much anticipated film adaptation of E.L. James’s best-selling novel, turned out to be fifty shades of disappointing. Having not read the book, I decided to put aside all the negative commentary I’ve heard about the series and go into the theatre with an open mind. I even got my hopes up, being a fan of romantic movies. Unfortunately, it seems that all of the negativity surrounding Fifty Shades is well founded.
The plot revolves around the developing relationship between most eligible bachelor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and graduating college English-Literature major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). However, there is about as much romance involved as a lion stalking its prey. Grey only wants to be with Ana if she signs a contract where she agrees to be his submissive in a BDSM relationship. Christian goes to great lengths to influence her decision, despite her obvious hesitation and naivety concerning his sadomasochistic desires. He buys her expensive gifts, flies her around in his helicopter, and even negotiates the terms of the contract by adding in one date per week. He stalks Ana, showing up at her work, then the bar she’s at, then her house, and he even follows her to Georgia where she is visiting her mother. Christian is manipulative and controlling, and he abuses the power he has over her. And while Ana consents to all of their sexual activities, it is hard to believe she’s doing it for any other reason than the fear of losing him. She is in love with Christian, but doesn’t want to be his submissive. She doesn’t understand why he wants to cause her pain, yet she continues to agree to it. And it takes the whole movie, literally until the last scene, for Ana to assert herself.
Controversial relationship aside, the plot is extremely unsatisfying. It moves at an excruciatingly slow pace, and somehow the sex scenes even become old. With so much hype surrounding the eroticism of the novel, the sex scenes in this film will probably be a let down for anyone who enjoyed the books. Considering the S&M nature of Christian and Ana’s relationship, the way the sex scenes are shot is nothing exceptional compared to any other R-rated film, aside from the occasional peacock feather, handcuff, and whip.
Also disappointing is Dornan’s flat performance as Christian Grey. There is no intrigue or depth in the performance, though I doubt he had much to work with from the source material. However, he is quite attractive, so that counts for something, right? Luckily, Johnson’s performance is slightly better. She brings life and energy to the rather underdeveloped character of Anastasia Steele. Her performance is actually a highlight of the film. She is funny, likable, and even entertaining to watch at times.
However, what it all boils down to is the fact that this film glamorizes an abusive relationship. Grey is possessive, controlling, violent, and manipulative. The power imbalance between the two main characters is concerning, and not the least bit romantic. You’d expect more considering the director, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, are both women. So, if you decide to go see this film expecting a romantic and sexy love story, you should expect to be disappointed.