Fifty Shades of Grey Movie Review

Fifty Shades of Grey since it's release as a book has been a cultural phenomenon selling millions of copies, and igniting countless fantasies. It started out as Twilight fan fiction, and although it really is not well written, it has swept the world and brought many under its spell. The movie hits theaters this weekend, and by many critics its getting killed in reviews, but its exactly what it set out to be. Lovers of the book will enjoy the adaptation, but the uninitiated will be left scratching their heads.

When college senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) steps in for her sick roommate to interview prominent businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for their campus paper, little does she realize the path her life will take. Christian, as enigmatic as he is rich and powerful, finds himself strangely drawn to Ana, and she to him. Though sexually inexperienced, Ana plunges headlong into an affair -- and learns that Christian's true sexual proclivities push the boundaries of pain and pleasure.

The first meeting between Ana and Christian conveys her awkwardness best and with perfection. She's never been the hot blonde, like the women that work for Christian, or the center of attention, and her clumsiness does her no favors. Ana trips and falls on her face upon stepping into Christian's office, and she is as graceless as can be, yet Christian finds himself intrigued. She's ordinary, guileless and somewhat dull, yet this enigmatic aristocrat with peculiar tastes and dark secrets finds that he cannot stay away. I have to admit that I was most uneasy about Dakota Johnson's casting, but she works, and most of it is in her giggle. When she giggles I believe it. She makes Ana wry but playful, cocky and funny and manages to somehow make it sexy. Sure there's plenty of lip biting and vacant stares, but you've seen Twilight, and well this is a huge part of the character. Thankfully all the “inner goddess” monologue from the book has been completely removed, allowing Ana to have a quirky and fun personality.

Christian is on the opposite spectrum. There's a cool aloofness to Christian that Jamie Dornan displays perfectly. He wasn't my first choice for Christian Grey (Henry Cavill takes that honor) or even my second or third, but his casting was one I fully supported. Since his turn as the Huntsman on Once Upon A Time, Dornan has been a wanted man. Christian has huge walls built around his heart and soul, and yet he has moments of tenderness. Christian disdains love and romance, but creates both without trying. He claims to just want to lure Anastasia to his "red room of pain," as she labels it, a chamber outfitted with whips, chains, handcuffs and other toys. He's got deep seeded issues from a rough start in life, and just can't bring himself to open up to her when she's awake, or even let her touch him in or out of the bedroom.

It's in those scenes when she's trying to get close to him and touch him that are the hardest to watch. Not only do they feel out of place with everything else in the movie, Ana comes off as whiny and Christian as wooden. They don't match the tone of anything else, and seem to be thrown in at will. The chemistry between Johnson and Dornan isn't just strained and nonexistant in these moments, but in the more mundane ones too, but when it counts its there.

While Johnson is going to get much of the praise for the film, its in the bedroom where Dornan's intensity is at its dominating peak, that really makes it all work. There's plenty of steamy moments between the pair but little pay off, sorry not a single O face. The sex scenes are greatly paired down from the book. The much featured elevator scene doesn't go further than it does in the trailer, or the book for that matter. Although Christian says he “doesn't make love, he fucks hard.” that's about the extent of his dirty talk. There's body sweeping views, plenty of thrusting, but a complete lack of Ben wa balls, vibrators and canes.

During the screening one person commented that no self respecting woman would ever let anyone do the things that Christian did. Here's the thing. Ana is torn between a world she doesn't understand and falling for a man she really doesn't know. Being of sound mind and intact virginity, Ana doesn't take Christian's proposition lightly, and google isn't her friend. She doesn't feel comfortable, and isn't able due to a non-disclosure contract, to talk to anyone about what she's about to embark on so she's all on her own with Christian. Her struggle to overcome her aversion to what she perceives as being abused, degraded and isolated just to please her man is the real challenge. Her lack of understanding, and mental preparedness leaves her acting irrational and immature at times. While she is very book smart, she's naive when it comes to love and life. Being young and in love, there's a whole lot that she can be talked into, that anyone could be talked into and Christian Grey is use to negotiating to get what he wants. Say what you will about the domineering Christian, but at least he knows himself. Ana is a blank slate, and wanting to be enlightened but really not prepared for what she's asking for.

Some will see it as glamorizing sexual violence, and implying that women seek to be controlled. Instead I feel that its a twist on traditional gender roles and blurs the lines of transgressive desires. Christian’s sexual tastes are intriguing to Anastasia, but they are the result of deep emotional wounds. He has to control her, and she can't help but to fall for him as she sees glimpses of the tenderness he's capable of and his wounded soul. She tolerates his kind of sex, and even enjoys some of it, but she wants more, and she wants him to want it too. She wonders why he wants to change her, never realizing how much she's changing him, and that is the hook, that kind of love that can heal the past, that can change you for the better.

Fifty Shades of Grey was never meant to be an introduction to BDSM, though there is a dominance/submission relationship. If you're looking for the BDSM 101 movie look further. Nor is it the sexfest that many are expecting. The books themselves may have been labeled "mommy porn" and yes there is a lot of sex, but its really not about the sex, there's a deeper story beyond the sex, and that story is just at its beginning. Fifty Shades of Grey shouldn't be looked at like a trilogy, it really isn't that. Most films in a trilogy are their own films that tell a complete story, but are also linked to a much larger story. Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't tell a full story, it's part one of a miniseries really. The series really is his way, her way, the compromise.

The supporting cast isn't given much, with all the focus on Ana and Christian. For the most part they're well cast, but I would have gone with different choices for Christian's brother Elliot and Ana's roommate Kate. Elliot and Kate will remain of the canvas through both sequels should they remain close to the books. Elliot is too sleazy looking, and didn't work for me at all. Better than the nonexistent parts for anyone outside of Ana and Christian was the music. The song choices were perfect for the film. The haunting tones of familiar songs, showcased the deep obsession and worked well with the blues and reds director Sam Taylor-Johnson utilized to match Ana's emotions. 

Fifty Shades of Grey may not be a great movie, really it isn't. But it is exactly what it set out to be. It's fun, it's trashy, its the movie that you'll get teased about and tease your friends about seeing and it does plenty to make you squirm and giggle. Lovers of the book will cherish the adaptation, even though it is very paired down. Newcomers will be left in confusion or wanting more. And well haters are gonna hate, hate, hate. But with two sequels in the works and high presale numbers, Fifty Shades of Grey will have no trouble just shaking it off. Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed were recently announced, no release dates for either yet.

Fifty Shades of Grey hits theaters February 13, 2015.


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