Fifty Shades of Grey follows the relationship between Christian Grey, a young and sexy eligible bachelor, and Anastasia Steele, a shy and rather plain girl. They are instantly attracted to each other, however Mr Grey has a darker side, one that he’d like Ana to be a part of if she’d only sign his contract. (Yes, a sex contract). As the man himself says, Grey’s “tastes are singular”. Translation: he’s massive control freak who is really into BDSM so when the Anastasia, innocent and virginal, stumbles into his office one day, he can’t help but try to get into her into his Red Room of pleasure (or is it pain?)
Given the hype and anticipation surrounding the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film, I was surprised to find myself in a near-empty cinema screen on the date of its release. This is particularly perplexing given that according to the ticket-selling site Fandango, Fifty Shades of Grey is the fastest selling R-rated title in the site’s history. Perhaps we’re a little more prudish here in Britain than audiences in the States. It’s also rather embarrassing on the part of British cinemas given that most of them had between seven and fifteen screenings of the film scheduled per day in the opening weekend. #awks
This film is full of cliché after cliché and I honestly could not believe how predictable some lines were. I laughed out loud on several occasions because I was utterly astounded by the shoddy script. It’s difficult to say whose fault this is, however, as the dialogue in the book is much the same. The film is much more creative than its paperback counterpart but the dialogue is still laughable.
Dakota Johnson plays the shy and innocent Anastasia Steele but I don’t think I’ve ever been more irritated by the protagonist of a film in my life. That said, the Anastasia Steele from the books is similarly irritating, so perhaps Johnson actually deserves a round of applause for being able to translate that irritability onto the big screen. Her co-star, Jamie Dornan, most definitely fits the bill physically for the role of Christian Grey. However, no matter how devastatingly mysterious and handsome he is, there was just no way that Dornan could make the dialogue sexy, rather than absurd.
One of the biggest issues this film has had to face is how to take E.L. James’ erotic novel and put it on the screen in a way that stays true to the novel, without being too pornographic. Unsurpsingly, the producers failed miserably. There’s not enough sex to excite fans of the books but there’s too much nudity for the average cinema-goer. This film is advertised as having a whole twenty minutes of on-screen sex in it, but I have to say that thinking back, I can’t really remember there being that all that much of it. What I do remember, however, is that the sex scenes were incredibly repetitive and escalated quite rapidly away from the realms of a little BDSM to borderline torture. Not sexy. What’s worse is that Anastasia questions Mr Grey’s twisted nature on several occasions but still does not cut ties with him. We’re presented with a story about a woman who knows that her ‘boyfriend’, if we can call him that, is deeply troubled and likely to hurt her and yet she does nothing and continues to obey him. No wonder Cuntry Living has gone crazy.
There was one moment where I definitely saw way too much of the general pubic region of both protagonists but (thankfully) these moments were fleeting. There is a fair bit of nudity in this film, which is to be expected, however the ratio of female to male nudity is incredibly unbalanced. There’s just so much boob. Dornan is topless in many scenes but he’s got nothing on Johnson who probably spends more of the film completely naked than she does clothed so it’s not surprising that feminist viewers are outraged.
Whilst the sex scenes leave something to be desired, what is incredibly sexy is the soundtrack. Most aspects of this film fail to live up to expectations, but the soundtrack most certainly does not. Featuring songs from Ellie Goulding, The Weekend, Sia, The Rolling Stones, and, of course, Beyoncé it’s not altogether surprising that the soundtrack has received generally favourable reviews from critics.
All in all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a substandard film that breaks the bounds of what is acceptable a few too many times. The book did not strike me to be quite as sadistic or anti-feminist as the film is, but when blown up on the big screen, Christian Grey comes across, not as a sexy bachelor, but as a twisted man who derives pleasure from another’s pain. That said, the film is probably still better than the book, but that’s not saying much. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t rather watch two attractive actors get hot and heavy on screen than read E.L. James’ pathetic attempt at erotica in a book?
*This review was first published on The Oxford Student