Two years ago, the hype over Fifty Shades of Grey proved so deafening, that I decided to give the book a shot. While it was certainly entertaining (with all the sex, sex, and more sex), I couldn’t believe such a badly-written story had even gotten published. E.L. James’ writing was downright abysmal, with repetitive phrases (“my inner goddess”) that would get endlessly pummelled over the course of the story. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by the prospect of a film adaptation. Maybe director Sam Taylor-Johnson could overcome the book’s flaws, and replace its signature trashiness with a worthwhile story? I guess I was far too naive, because the movie might be even worse than the book it’s based on.
The primary reason the film is a flop is this: its two leads are completely miscast. Both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are just terrible in the lead roles. The former is shockingly artificial as Anastasia Steele; I didn’t buy her shy goody-two-shoes role at the start, so her supposed sexual awakening felt even more fake. As for Dornan, he has absolutely zero charisma, and that’s definitely not something you want when you’re dealing with a character who’s as supposedly magnetic and charming as Christian Grey. The rest of the support cast is barely given a chance to shine, with the immensely-talented Marcia Gay Harden totally wasted as Christian’s mysterious mother. Also underused? Ana’s best friend, played by Eloise Mumford, who I kept envisioning in the lead role because she outshines the film’s star at every turn. Disastrous.
Not that the script gives our ill-fitted stars much to work with. Fifty barely scratches the surface of what makes Christian Grey tick, and it doesn’t even try to craft a captivating evolution for our characters to undergo. Instead, the script is more preoccupied with stringing together the book’s cheap dialogue before jumping into the next tame sex scene. And let’s be clear, the film’s “kinky” moments are boring when they should be erotic. There’s a whole lot of talk about bondage and sex toys, but the film simply shows you the same repetitive shots of Ana gasping and moaning. It gets old, and it gets old quick.
So what did I like? Well the music was fine (not that the film can take credit for that). But the combined star power of Ellie Goulding, Sia, and Beyonce (among many others) would have produced a sensual body of work no matter what script Universal Pictures approved. Aesthetically, the film is also a bore. A handful of shots are admittedly well framed, but nothing ever really pops from a visual perspective.
But prepare yourselves people, the film has predictably broken a whole lot of records since its release, and parts two and three will surely be coming our way soon. I guess the apocalypse has begun?
Forced and ridiculously boring, Fifty Shades of Grey feels like a manufactured product shipped straight off the assembly line to exploit the book’s hype. But don’t be fooled, Grey is a misfire on every level. Avoid this mess and watch something worthy of your time (The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Birdman, or Still Alice).