Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey

Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Written by: Kelly Marcel
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Jennifer Ehle
Released: February 12, 2015
Grade: B-

Fifty Shades Of Grey
Fifty Shades Of Grey is, without doubt, going to be one of the year’s most talked about releases.  Those who want to see it, will be telling you how much they want to see it.  Those who don’t want to see it, will be telling you how much they don’t want to see it.  Those in my Twitter feed tonight seemed to fall into the latter category.

For those living in the dark, Fifty Shades Of Grey is the first in a trilogy of novels that was first published in 2011.  Writer Erika Mitchell, going by the pen name of E.L. James, was as surprised as anyone when her books became so popular.  Within a matter of years, she’d gone from writing Twilight fanfiction… to an author who had sold more than 70 million copies around the world.

This first instalment, brought to the screen by director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) and writer Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks), is ultimately two hours of seduction.  Anastasia Steele is a shy, bashful, 21-year-old college student studying literature.  Christian Grey (Dornan) is a strong, influential, 27-year-old entrepreneur who has already has a net wealth exceeding one billion dollars.

The two meet thanks to a curious twist of fate.  What follows is a love story very different from what we usually see out of Hollywood.  Christian clearly has feelings for Ana but he also has a series of peculiar ground rules.  He refuses to be romantic, he won’t go out for dinner, and he even makes Ana sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from discussing their relationship.

You might think Ana would be running for the hills but not so.  Thanks to his chiselled good looks and mysterious personality, she decides to stick around and get to know him a little better.  It’s around the 45 minute mark where we get treated to the “big reveal”.  After dancing around the subject for days, Christian tells Ana that he’s into a bit of kink.  His luxurious apartment features a “playroom” which a wide assortment whips, paddles, cuffs, toys and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

Just as he operates in the business world, Christian likes being in control.  He seeks a relationship with Ana where he acts the dominant and she serves as the submissive.  There’s a humorous scene where the pair sit in a boardroom and flesh out terms for a contract!  It will outline exactly what Christian will have the power to do inside the playroom.

The subject matter is intriguing.  I’ll say that much.  I’ve commented several times recently that sex seems to be a subject that is avoided in today’s mainstream films.  Not only does Fifty Shades Of Grey feature several sex scenes, it goes a step further and takes inside the world of S&M.  As to the nature of the scenes, Taylor-Johnson seems to have found a middle ground.  There’s plenty of nudity… but also a number of quick-paced edits to ensure the film snuck through with an MA rating (as opposed to R).

Perhaps I should be blaming the novel but my biggest grip with the film was that I didn’t find the two leading characters all that interesting.  Christian keeps pushing and saying she should give in to his desires.  Ana keeps flip-flopping.  One minute she’s acting life a shocked, naïve, innocent school girl.  The next she’s refuting Christian’s advances and wisely giving him a taste of his own medicine.  The supporting cast, which includes Jennifer Ehle and Marcia Gay Harden, don’t get a chance to do much.

Marketed heavily towards female audiences and released just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’d expect this film to be doing big business at the international box-office over the next few weeks.  Two sequels are planned and so this won’t be the last we’ll hear of Christian and Anastasia.