Film, OldVenue

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson 4

Screenplay: Kelly Marcel

Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle

Runtime: 120 mins

Genre: Drama/Romance


Opening with a rather crude montage of grey Seattle cityscape, a clumsy reference to the title, we meet Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) as they prepare for an interview at his towering silver office block. Anastasia is there on behalf of her roommate Kate, a journalism major who has bagged an interview with the elusive young billionaire but gotten the flu. Anastasia bites her lip a little too often through the awkward conversation, as rather stiff sexual energy simmers under their poorly written dialogue. This sets in motion a string of uncanny coincidental meetings, as Christian begins to stalk her all the while claiming that he ‘doesn’t do romance’.

Unfazed by his obsessive tendencies, Anastasia is drawn in by his cryptic charm and probably, if we’re honest, his private helicopter. Not too long into this unravelling romance, Christian presents her with a non-disclosure agreement and a contract which she must sign, listing her willingness to partake as his submissive in a BDSM relationship. But not before showing her his ‘playroom’, an altar to sadomasochism, walled in red leather and all manner of instruments of sexual torture. Christian is however, surprised to learn that she is in fact a virgin, further firing his passion to possess her. The film then falls into a string of nudity and rather polite BDSM, which is occasionally interrupted by hallow conversations in which Anastasia frets about his tortured past and tries to grapple with her role as his sexual plaything. The film then stops dead at an excruciating cliffhanger that leaves the audience cold, slightly bored and entirely unaffected.

Expectations surrounding the film were mixed due to the original novels widely acknowledged literary deficiency, but Fifty Shades of Grey holds up better on film than it does on the page. The meticulously hygienic home of Grey and his army of tall, blonde secretaries are effective on screen whilst Dornan’s classic good looks satisfy those looking for an onscreen wet-dream. However, there is no ignoring how utterly ridiculous the nature of Christian Grey, the 27 year old, sadist billionaire is; perhaps due to him being based on Edward Cullen with E.L. James originally composing the story as Twilight fan fiction.

Baring in mind that the root of the story is homage to teenage sexually repressed vampires, the performances of Dornan and Johnson seem to make the best out of a rather abysmal situation. Dornan performs well as the cool, calm and collected Christian (although faced with lines such as: ‘I’m fifty shades of fucked up’), whilst Johnson suits her clumsy and rather drab character.  The sex scenes are plentiful and not nearly piquant enough with a complete absence of Grey’s much discussed member. Pop star Rita Ora also features in the cast list, with a rather random performance as Christian’s adopted sister in which she appears for about five minutes babbling in French, all of which merely feel like a pathetic plea for media attention.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a rather comically commercial affair that will leave you feeling less aroused and more sickened by the consumerist fantasy it aims at spinning. Birthed from the literary wasteland that was E.L. James’ fan fiction ebook, the film could hardly aspire to be a cinematic masterpiece. Occasionally sexy, but consistently silly, Fifty Shades ultimately spirals into a vacuous, fetishized capitalist orgy.


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August 2022
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