Fifty Shades of Grey: Sort of Kinky and Stylish, but also Flat, Turgid and Silly

fifty_shades_of_grey_posterFifty Shades of Grey, arguably the most eagerly awaited movie (and pop culture) event of the year (until the release of Star Wars…) is a sporadically sexy and inviting, often silly and flat, and nearly always watchable if not memorable or particularly enjoyable.

As such, it is likely to offer some pleasure to all those readers (I am told women of a certain age and class) who made the source material such an international hit.

The studio (Universal) should be commended for hiring a female director and a female writer, unlike most riske Hollywood films, which have imposed a distinctly male POV, even when the tale’s protagonist is a woman. Case in point: 91/2 Weeks, made by Adrian Lyne, starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, to which inevitable comparisons will be made.

 

fifty_shades_of_grey_1_taylor_johnson_johnsonLikely to divide reviewers, the film is almost critic-proof, at least as far as opening weekend is concerned, due to the huge popularity of the book, which has sold more than 100 million copies and been translated into numerous languages.

The built-in female fan base should make a bonanza for Universal at the box-office this weekend this Valentine’s Day Weekend, and if my reading is valid, the movie will have legs (to use Hollywood jargon).

Author E L James should be satisfied that director Sam Taylor-Johnson and scribe  Marcel Kelly have been faithful to the book, capturing its essence and reflecting James’ authorial voice, without being too slavish.  James is not a particularly stylish writer as far as prose is concerned, and indeed, in many ways, the filmmakers have improved on the book, even if it still contains too many flat.  The screen protagonist, especially as plaued by Dakota Johnson, is far more interesting, complicated, confused and complex than her counterpart was on page.

fifty_shades_of_grey_3_taylor_johnson_johnsonAs almost everyone knows, Dakota Johnson plays a nervous, insecure English literature student at Washington State University. named Anastasia “Ana” Steele.  The tale begin when Ana is assigned to write a school newspaper article on Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a  young (27 or so), business magnate and university benefactor who is wealthy, successful, and handsome.

Talking to Ana in his elegant galss-walled Seattle office, Christian stares at Ana, and she responds to his gaze in what could be described as a mixture of curiosity, intrigue, and desire.  After their interview, Christian and Ana meet or communicate several times via social media before anything kinky ever happens.  A gentleman with certain peculiarities and proclivities, he sends her some rare first editions of books, shows up at the hardware store where she works, and eventually takes her to his chic apartment in his private jet

fifty_shades_of_grey_4_taylor_johnson_johnsonEarly on, he describes himself as a man of “many physical pursuits,” which include flying, stalking, playing the piano shitless, and (by the way) recreational bondage.  He turns out to be an serial psycho-seducer–American style, who chooses and then grooms young femmes who are willing to be bound, gagged, blindfolded, spanked, and used (or misused, depending on your perspective) for his various pleasures, only one of which is strictly sexual.

That said, Fifty Shades of Grey suffers from several major problems, prime among which is the lack of chemistry–emotional and especially erotic–between the two attractive leads, Dakota Johnson as the virginal princess and Jamie Dornan as the wealthy, slightly older than his partner businessman.

fifty_shades_of_grey_5_johnsonOf the two, I should note right away, that it is Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, who bears no physical resemblance to either parent) who gives the stronger performance.  Dornan, though physically appealing, seems too cool for his own good, too detached, as if he was not up to what was required of him.

Then there is the problem of rating: How do you turn a book that’s x-rated in contents into an r-rated film?  Rest assure that there is no skin shown on screen–male or female–and several of the kinkiest and most titillating scenes are performed by Dornan with his pants one, which is not particularly credible or realistic–or fun to watch.

As almost everyone knows, Dakota Johnson plays a nervous, insecure English literature student at Washington State University named Anastasia “Ana” Steele.  The tale begin when Ana is assigned to write a school newspaper article on Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a  young (27 or so), business magnate and university benefactor who is wealthy, successful, and handsome.

fifty_shades_of_grey_6_taylor_johnsonSpeaking to Ana in his elegant glass-walled Seattle office, Christian stares at her intensely, and Ana responds to his gaze in what could be described as a mixture of curiosity, intrigue, fear and desire.

After their interview, Christian and Ana meet in person or communicate several times via social media before anything “kinky” ever happens.  A gentleman, thoigh one with certain peculiarities and  proclivities, he sends her some rare first editions of books, shows up at the hardware store where she works, and eventually takes her to his chic apartment in his private jet.

See Variety Video of Jamie Dornan

variety.com/2015/film/news/7-secrets-about-jamie-dornan-of-fifty-shades-of-grey-video-1201409806/

fifty_shades_of_grey_7_taylor_johnsonEarly on, Christian describes himself as a man of “many physical pursuits,” which include flying, stalking, playing the piano shitless, and (by the way) recreational bondage.  He turns out to be an serial psycho-seducer–American style, who chooses and then grooms young femmes who are willing to be bound, gagged, blindfolded, spanked, and used (or misused, depending on your perspective) for his various pleasures, only one of which is strictly sexual.

Sheer curiosity or much ado about nothing: Ultimately, Fifty Shades of Grey is a stylish but emotioally hollow soft-porn film that succeeds more in titillating the viewers than providing them reasons to get aroused or provoked.

When we left the press screening, my friend (a movie lover but not a professional critic) said: “Is that all there is to it?”

A longer, more detailed review, analyzing the eroic and sex scenes will be published later.