Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jaime Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden
Written by: Kelly Marcel and (based on the novel) E.L. James
Running Time: 125 mins
Release date: 13th February 2015
The most hyped movie of the year (it won’t be the last) has finally arrived and after being bombarded with posters and adverts leading us to believe that we are in for a sexually-charged slice of erotica, was the whole thing worth waiting for? Absolutely not. For this is about as steamy as a suet pudding.
Anastasia Steele is a graduating English Lit major who is sent to interview billionaire businessman Christian Grey for the University’s newspaper. Immediately they form a connection and Ana finds herself falling for this cold, unapproachable man, not knowing that he has some interesting control issues, not only in his business world but also in his private one. A world that Ana finds herself hopelessly drawn into.
Based on the phenomenal successful book by E.L. James, this is a film that seems to have been made by a committee and not by a single director. Sam Taylor-Johnson is a very talented film maker who gave us the excellent John Lennon biopic, Nowhere Boy. Being an artist as well as a director, she has a keen eye for how to frame a shot. There are moments where she obviously commands the scenes with strong lighting and a visual flair.
However, this whole film comes across as a very safe affair. The book, legendary for not only being a world wide success but not exactly being a literary classic, seems to have the corny, unintentionally funny dialogue lifted from page to screen. It has been reported that James wasn’t happy with Taylor-Johnson bringing in writer Patrick Marber to aid in removing the awful lines and demanded her words to be kept intact. It shows, as we have to sit through scene after scene of utter drivel, that had me biting into my hand in cringing embarrassment.
The film is about secret obsessions and the world of sadomasochism. A subject matter that, in the hands of an independent film maker or even a European movie, would have been examined in detail and probably in quite graphic form. This is about as graphic as Confessions Of A Window Cleaner. It’s Hollywood’s idea of soft porn, that of a woman topless, tied to a bed and spanked while the man, virtually fully clothed, takes control of the whole situation. A sequence involving ice cubes was lifted right out of that other famous S&M film, 9 1/2 Weeks.
This is the film’s major flaw. After movies like Nymphomaniac and Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which deal with sex in honest, graphic and sometimes shocking ways, this film fails to even excite. Instead the sex scenes are filmed in a lifeless way and they soon become tedious and boring. You’d see more if you searched the internet on safe mode.
Then comes the connection between Ana and Christian, a pivotal part of the whole film. This relationship should sparkle and erupt with sexual tension. We get none of it. Instead we get sketchy characters who have no chemistry whatsoever and we are expected to believe that they will be drawn into a sordid affair. Dakota Johnson is fine as Anastasia, all wide-eyed innocence, yet all she is expected to do is bite her lip and look amazed. Jamie Dornan, who, I am told, is excellent in the TV series, The Fall, is nothing more than a blank canvas. Wooden and completely uninvolving, he doesn’t bring any gusto to the part. Playing mysterious is one thing, playing a piece of wood is another.
Fifty Shades Of Grey isn’t a terrible film, as I was expecting it to be. It does look like a copy of GQ magazine with an occasional whip but it lacks any real excitement. It’s far too long and laborious and when it does finally end, you find yourself saying “Is that it?” I’m sure fans of the book will lap it up and I do know that this isn’t aimed at a middle aged man but I would have expected something more lively and vibrant that this dull and bland experience.