Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey
5 10

PLOT: When college student Anastasia Steele finds herself interviewing the very handsome and successful business man Christian Grey, she begins to fall for the mysterious stranger. However, taken by her innocence and beauty, Grey has other plans that are far more physical than a dinner and a movie.

To say that we at JoBlo.com are not the target audience for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is a massive understatement. Yet my plan was simply to go into the film with an open mind and get my BDSM on for the two hour plus Valentine’s Day release. And to be fair, at times this odd yet stylish romantic fable actually managed to entertain. Much of that credit should go to the undeniably charming and absolutely stunning Dakota Johnson. As the tempted and confused heroine Anastasia Steele, she is remarkably charismatic. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the mysterious and brooding Christian Grey - leading man Jamie Dornan gives a very one-note performance that pretty much offers only one shade of grey. Think an older, more physically fit Robert Pattinson from Twilight and you have his performance in a nutshell.

Let’s start with the plot. No, really, what is the plot? Well, there isn’t much of one. Anastasia Steele is interviewing the mysterious millionaire Christian Grey for a college paper - don’t worry folks, she is legal. The two connect, and soon he begins to pursue her as she falls for his charms (?). Yet much like a certain bloodsucker that sparkles, he has a secret, one that quite frankly is a little more interesting than that whole vampire thing. Mr. Grey loves BDSM. He doesn’t date. Whips and chains excite him. In fact, the entire film revolves around him wanting her to sign a contract so that he can use her for this explicit reason. But what about romance? Is there any heart left in this cold, yet super wealthy and handsome, man? Whatever.

Based on the novel by E.L. James, this exploration of bondage and the conflict between love and domination could have been far more risqué than it is here. As Anastasia slowly finds herself immersed in his world, she finally wants to experience just how bad it can get. This leads to a surprisingly tame sequence where she truly questions the relationship. Taking on this intense sort of drama could have been a far more provocative cinematic experience. It has an element of trashy, but only a hint of it. Christian’s “playroom” is filled with a number of toys and devices, yet we are witness to but a few - the most shocking being a belt. This is a studio film that deals with a very specific sexual practice, and with that, they play it as safe as they possible can.

So what is the point of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY? Judging from the many giggling females in the audience, it is to present this erotic subject with a little camp and hopefully some romance. And occasionally, especially in the first hour or so, the film manages to be slightly better than one would expect. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson explores this story with a very stylized collection of images. It is a pretty picture for sure with a catchy collection of modern and classic pop songs. There is even a certain amount of intentional humor that gives a much needed break to the crappy monologues about a mother on crack and other nonsense… wait until you see when he tells her about his youth.

As dull as Dornan may be, it is hard to fully blame him. The actor has given very solid performances in other roles, but Christian Grey is so generic that you’d be hard pressed to find an actor capable of pulling it off. Then of course there is Johnson. She really is a revelation here. No matter how dumb this gets, you can’t take your eye’s off her. Whether she is fully dressed or completely naked - and she is quite a bit - the actress is able to give an impressive performance no matter how stupid the dialogue gets. It’s a shame that the two don’t really spark much of a romantic fire, but again, you have to credit much of this to a thin and uninvolving screenplay.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is by no means a masterpiece. Yet there are moments where it rises above the material thanks to the lovely Dakota Johnson who is luminous, and a director that helps paint a very pretty picture. This is not fine art. This is a trashy novel brought to life and occasionally it delivers on it. It’s a shame however that they didn’t take it just a little further and truly explore the BDSM lifestyle. Instead, they only hint at it with a handful of moments involving bondage, and a little whipping here and there. While it definitely earns its R rating with nudity on both ends, it could have pushed the envelope much further. The truth is however, it doesn’t matter one bit what the critics say about this erotically tinged romance, because the target audience will probably relish nearly all of it. Of course that means we will probably have a couple more sequels to drag this already pointless story out just to make millions of dollars off fans of the book.

Source: JoBlo.com



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