Salman Rushdie said that the novel FIFTY SHADES OF GREY made TWILIGHT (by which it was inspired) look like WAR AND PEACE.
Perhaps the film is therefore an improvement on the book, because I found it marginally more watchable than TWIGLET - sorry, typo - TWILIGHT. Perhaps that is because of the nudity. Both ultimately are tedious. I’m not the female audience they’re after, admittedly – and yet even I can see that there is an actually interesting story somewhere within 50 SHADES – about control, damage and power-play – but it’s been bound, gagged, trussed, blindfolded, handcuffed and had a rotten orange shoved into its gob by EL James (ironically, seeing as she came up with it), and now Hollywood.
What’s left on screen is a bemusing, bewildering and boring soft porn. There’s something quaint about the soft-lit sex in fact, in this porn-addled internet world. It reminded me of those 1990s sex thrillers that never really worked (e.g. BODY OF EVIDENCE, SLIVER). Never of the ones that did (e.g. BASIC INSTINCT).
The story is lame verging on surreal. Mainly because the characters – their back-stories literally laughable – are utterly two-dimensional, even in their birthday suits.
This is not helped by the fact that Jamie Dornan can’t really act. He doesn’t have much to work with, it’s true (compared to the brilliant THE FALL, in which he was very watchable). But he just looks self-conscious and silly most of the time here. Stilted. He is making an acting career out of very handsome men who have no emotions – because he is a very handsome man, who can’t portray emotions.
Dakota Johnson does well – she looks the pretty part and acts better than him. Although I did think her mum, Melanie Griffith, had a lot more charm playing a very similar role back in the day in WORKING GIRL. Though much better material, sure.
There are strange non-sensical moments. His mother drops in on Christian Grey just as he’s getting down with Anastasia Steel (“hey, Dynasty called, it wants its character names back!”)… Only the mum had no reason for coming over, other than apparently to interrupt them en flagrante, and so leaves immediately! This is very lazy storytelling.
Similarly, in the very first moment between our sadism-crossed lovers, when they meet, for some unknown reason, Anna takes an unprompted pratfall and collapses on the marble floor – but, again, for no apparent reason, other than we need to start things off with her in a heap at his feet.
I felt rather pervy going to this early screening with Mrs B. Many viewers will indeed perve over the riches and high-life opulence on screen, more than the sex.
Yet the film just is not that exciting in any department, I’m afraid. It’ll make a mint, sure. Sam Taylor-Johnson is a clever woman with a keen eye for what catches the eye. Kelly Marcel is a talented screenwriter. Seamus McGarvey is an amazing Director of Photography. The soundtrack is well-produced and will make everyone involved rich, in and of itself.
But, as that lovely old truism goes, you can’t polish a turd.