Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dorman
I usually start off my reviews with a brief plot synopsis but there is no plot. None. Anastasia Steele (Johnson) and Christian Grey (Dorman) meet and fall for each other because of reasons. And that’s basically the whole story. It’s just about their relationship. There’s really nothing more to it. Except that he’s not into a conventional relationship and doesn’t ‘do’ romance.
Okay, where to start with this. Hmm. Let’s talk about the technical aspects of the film first.
It’s boring. I have rarely been so bored in all of my life. There’s no sense of progression or escalation, one scene runs into the other without any build-up and the climax is completely flat (kinda ironic considering the material). There are some nice backdrops of cities and some of the staging of the shots is good, but it’s just devoid of any spark. Repetitive sex scenes are sprinkled throughout boring character interaction and inconsequential interactions with supporting characters. The film had an almost surreal quality to it. Nothing about it came across as genuine or authentic. The dialogue, especially in the first part of the film, was cringeworthy and the only good part of the film was the music as that actually helped to generate some atmosphere and mood.
The acting was okay I suppose. I think the problems were more with the characters. Anastasia was biting her lip every other scene, but at least she had some presence and livened things up, unlike Dorman who just seemed bored throughout.
So on those levels it didn’t work for me, and yet it also struck me as a dangerous movie as well. Christian Grey is a controlling, manipulative man and his relationship with Anastasia is firmly in the abusive category yet I fear that a lot of people won’t pick up on this and will confuse it with romance. I even heard people around me whisper “Why can’t real men be like that?”. Okay let’s see…
– He buys Anastasia expensive and over the top gifts creating a sense of obligation in her.
– Just after they met he orders her to leave a bar she’s at and shows his possessive nature, then turns up to ‘rescue’ her.
– In fact he repeatedly turns up out of the blue without asking her, invading the space she’s asked for.
– Continually says he’s devoted to her when actually he won’t open up to her emotionally or even let him touch her. Also says things like, ‘you’re the one changing me,’ and pays lip service without ever actually committing to anything.
– Tells an inexperienced woman to research ‘submissive’ and drafts up a contract deciding what is and is not permissible. Really, a relationship like this is something that should be talked about in a mature and healthy way rather than have the terms of it dictated in a contract.
– His idea of a relationship is extremely one-sided and it’s clear that the pleasure he gains is from exerting control and power over her, rather than giving her pleasure in her own right. As he’s introducing her to his lifestyle he says things like, “To please me…but you’ll enjoy it too,” “Just try it, I promise you’ll like it,” and basically makes it clear that if she wants to be close to him this is the only way it’s going to happen.
– Gets angry when she makes plans without telling him, gets jealous of her friends, tells her that he wants her to be “mine, all mine”. And it just comes off as creepy.
– Shifts the blame and doesn’t take responsibility for his actions by saying that it’s just ‘the way I am’.
– Makes a big deal out of the contract but then starts to punish her for being ‘bad’ even though she hasn’t signed that contract, in which punishment was one of the items discussed.
See, I come to this film with a bit of a unique perspective since I actually write erotica for a living so I know something about this lifestyle and how these stories tend to go. What Christian proposes in this story is not a fair representation of the BDSM community because it’s all about making people feel safe and comfortable, and in Fifty Shades of Grey I rarely got the sense that Anastasia felt comfortable. It seemed to me that she was doing this stuff because it was the only way to be close to Christian. One sequence made me incredibly uncomfortable as she ends up crying…yet he does not stop. You may argue that she should have used the safe word, but I counter that by saying Christian should have a basic respect for people and if someone you supposedly care about is breaking down and crying…yeah that shouldn’t be a turn on.
It seems to me that Christian simply wants Anastasia as an object to control and play with, and that is in no way the basis of a healthy relationship. I actually think this film could have been good if it was used to show how relationships like this can be abusive and dangerous, but it never gets that deep into the psychology of the characters. It’s a mundane, monotonous film that offers nothing of merit.