FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
*** (out of 5)
February 13, 2015
Dakota Johnson as ANASTASIA STEELE
Jamie Dornan as CHRISTIAN GREY
Jennifer Ehle as CARLA
Eloise Mumford as KATE
Victor Rasuk as JOSÉ
Luke Grimes as ELLIOT GREY
Marcia Gay Harden as MRS. GREY
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The most positive thing that I could say after I left my screening of “Fifty Shades of Grey” was that I didn’t hate the film. Trust me, that’s high praise coming from me, considering the film’s roots were in a book that started as nothing more than erotic fan fiction with the Twilight characters.
And this is pretty obvious with the movie. Not only are the main characters of Anastasia and Christian clearly non-vampire versions of Bella and Edward, but there are multiple scenes throughout the film that appear to shamelessly rip off the mold that Twilight made. Not that these things are all that original. They’re not, mind you. However, in this case, the copy of a terrible movie isn’t as bad as that original in the first place.
I know… it’s probably the sex that helps.
The story follows Anastasia (Dakota Johnson), a mousy soon-to-be college grad who stumbles into an interview with 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). There is an instant attraction, and soon Anastasia becomes one of Christian’s conquests. In this particular conquest, his life is filled with BDSM kinky sex, and his hope is for her to give herself to him as an unquestioning submissive to his dominant.
If you were to boil down the characters and story into a mathematical formula, it might look something like this:
Perhaps part of what made this instantly better than the Twilight series is that it doesn’t shun sex with a not-so-subtle allegory of coitus and vampirism. (For this manner, the sex isn’t nearly as graphic as you’ve been led to believe. It’s some of the softest, gentlest S&M material you’ll likely ever see, no matter what your dotty old aunt tells you about the sins of the film.) Or perhaps I simply found Dakota Johnson to be much more appealing, pleasant and charismatic as an actor than Kristen Stewart ever was. (Let’s ignore Dornan for now, considering he comes across with about as much excitement as a paralyzed herring in this film.)
I suppose I’m more forgiving with “Fifty Shades of Grey” because I took it at face value. When you look at is as nothing more than horny housewife erotic fiction, it serves its purpose. Forget the hype, and forget the phenomenon. The writing is what you’d find in a dime story paperback from the 60s, so don’t read anything more into it, or your brain will hurt.
Yeah, the film gets the whole dominant/submissive relationship wrong from frame one. In real kink, it’s about what turns both sides on, not a power grab to force an object of desire to enjoy something that she isn’t really into. In this sense, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is as uptight as any other film, simply because it equates sexual fantasy with being emotionally damaged. But even with the film missing the point completely when it comes to fetish and kink, it still works as a daring fantasy few of the books’ readers will likely ever want to play out.
Yup, the first hour or so could play as the perfect beginning to a horror movie, with the obsessive love interest keeping tabs on the vulnerable female protagonist. Sigh… I suppose the essence of Twilight always steers close to a horror story but never manages to get there.
While Dornan himself is an uptight prude in real life, he is passable as Christian Grey, once you get past his pretending-to-be-serious look which appears ready to crack at any point into silly giggles. It’s Johnson who carries this film, giving all the emotion and innocence to the project.
Sure, Christian Grey is as stereotypical of a female fantasy as the Manic-Pixie-Dreamgirl is for hipster guys. However, his attraction lies in his rock-hard abs, his obsessive nature and his deep pockets. Consider him the Wealthy-Controlling-Dreamstalker that we’ve seen before in everything from “Pretty Woman” to the aforementioned Twilight so-called saga.
Still, “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t delivering a heavy message. It’s not meant to be a deep book. It’s escapist fiction replete with genital imagery in everything from construction cranes and pencils to pillows and hairstyles.
It’s a fantasy and nothing more, and it’s going to make many a viewer practically wet herself with vicarious passion. And in this sense, warts and all, it does its job rather effectively.