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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Fifty Shades of Grey | Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan | Review

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3sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE Judy Thorburn

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3lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is MEDIOCRE


Fifty Shades of Grey

The wait is over for fans (and those curious, like me) of E.L. James' 2011 erotic bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, who are anxious to see how her work has been translated to the big screen.  There hasn't been as much anticipation over a movie based on a best selling novel since the first installment of the Twilight series.

Even if you haven't read the book that became an international phenomenon, if you don't know by now from all the media buzz, Fifty Shades of Grey (the first of a trilogy) tells the story of a pretty, virginal college student majoring in English literature whose sexual awakening comes in the form of a dominant/submissive relationship with a 27 year old billionaire. I've been told the book is poorly written but that didn't stop millions of women young and old from living out their sexual fantasies through the lead characters.  

She is Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) and he is Christian Grey, portrayed by Irish model turned actor, Jamie Dornan.  

The film begins with the shy Ana filling in for her flu stricken roommate (Eloise Mumford) to do an interview with Christian, the handsome, rich business magnate in his Seattle office, for her college newspaper.  Intrigued by Ana's awkward naivety and her habit of biting her lip, Christian begins to pursue her, first showing up unexpectedly to buy tape, rope and cable ties (just a few hints of what is to come, pardon the pun) at the hardware store where she works part time, and then rescuing her from a drunken night out at a club.

Soon, Christian is sending her a gift of expensive first edition books, whisking her away in his helicopter to his luxury apartment, and buying her a car.

Before going any further, Christian lets Ana know that their relationship is bound by rules. A self described control freak that exercises control in all things, Christian explains that he doesn't do romance and that his tastes are very singular. In other words, he gets pleasure in being a dominant and having total control over his submissive partner in his playroom, a dungeon like red room equipped with whips, chains, handcuffs, blindfolds, canes and other bondage paraphernalia. Touched on but not explored is that Christian is a damaged man stemming from some deep issues that goes back to his childhood.  

Ana says that she is a “hopeless romantic”, but nevertheless is drawn to Christian agreeing to be his sex slave, although she resists signing a written consent in a formal contract that clearly lays out what she is willing to submit to in his S & M pleasure room. He says there will be punishment and pain involved, but she will like it. Hey, smart as she is supposed to be, rather than moving on, being seduced by the trappings of a mega rich hunk trumps anything else.  

While reported to be faithful to the book, the film is a toned down version, in regard to the more outrageously kinky sex scenes that have been eliminated. That isn't to say there isn't graphic sexual content and nudity that displays all of Johnson's attributes. Yet, it becomes obvious the double standard is at work. While the actress bares all for the camera, Dornan appears, at the most, shirtless, with only a one time quick view of his naked butt and not even a flash of his “johnson”.

In her first lead role, Johnson turns in an impressive performance as the likable, wide eyed twenty two year old, whose introduction to sex occurs in an (to put it mildly) unconventional way. Although good looking and fit, Dornan is somewhat wooden and intense, and lacks the smoldering on screen charisma, required for this role. In any case, not to their fault, both actors must suffer the task of spewing awful, laughable dialogue, such as when Christian tells Ana, “I'd like to f-ck you into the middle of next week” that had the entire audience at the preview screening laughing hysterically.

The fact that this film is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) from a script by Kelly Marcel, both of whom are women, doesn't lift the subject matter to a respectable level. Fifty Shades of Grey is essentially a beautifully filmed soft core porn flick masquerading as an erotic romance aimed at main stream audiences.  At least if there was an interesting story to dig your teeth into, but no, it is just one meeting after another, some silly conversation, before getting down and dirty.

I personally don't care what sexual activity people consent to behind closed bedroom doors. But, by glorifying male domination and female submission sends a negative message to both sexes.

Fifty Shades of Grey ends with a cliffhanger that leaves the door open for the second chapter of the series. Hopefully, it will be a shade more compelling than this unsatisfying film.

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