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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
125 min - Drama | Romance

13 February 2015 (USA)
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Writers: Kelly Marcel (screenplay), E.L. James (novel)
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle
Literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.

Most readers are familiar with E. L. James' tale of torrid romance. Fifty Shades of Grey, for better or for worse, popularized BDSM in the telling of the love story between Ana and Christian. On the eve of her college graduation, fresh-faced Anastasia Steele is about to pursue post-graduate education of an entirely different kind. As fate would have it, Miss. Steele crosses paths with the formidable Christian Grey, a young, attractive multi-billionaire entrepreneur with very, "singular tastes." Captivated by her modern innocence, Grey finds himself magnetically drawn to Anastasia and despite his best efforts to thwart the mutual attraction, he draws her into his world of opulence and sexual discovery. Steele is a blank canvas for Grey. She is without sexual experience of any kind and struggles throughout the story to reconcile her traditional feelings of love for the enigmatic Grey and his sexual predilection towards BDSM.

You know what they say about familiarity ... and contempt abounds. Despite their hasty (almost sloppy) dissemination, the books were devoured by the reading public.The stories have been parodied, debated, and ridiculed. It has become a text many have come to love to hate. The sensational fanfare that accompanied the three-book series quickly spilled over to talks of a film. And finally, this Valentine's Day, the film hit theatres.

In spite of myself and my English Lit background, I enjoyed the books for their entertainment value, I'm not going to lie. Seeing the film was an exercise in curiosity and also an indulgence in my tendency to be a completionist. I needed to see this through, and I was entering this viewing experience with remarkably low expectations. And, guess what? I didn't hate it.

The film's strongest component was its spot-on casting of Dakota Johnson in the role of Anastasia. She's a fresh looking natural beauty who is instantly likeable. Johnson does innocence very well and effectively combines it with nuanced strength. Her emotions are raw and convincing and she can bite a mean lip. This movie, for the most part, looks good. The luxury afforded by the Grey Enterprises empire is sleek and sexy. The "greyness" of the text is appropriately visually realized in the dull Seattle cityscape.

Unfortunately, the film's greatest weakness also lies in its casting. Jamie Dornan is an unimpressive Grey. He's simply not intimidating enough. Perhaps it's his size. Perhaps he's too smiley. It might be his thinly veiled accent, his boyish good looks, or foppish hairstyle that make him unbelievable. I earnestly tired to like him in the role, but I couldn't. Though, there was one scene where he almost had me. He was dressed in black and he looks all steely determination, but alas, this was fleeting.

This brings me to all the sex, the whole reason anyone cared about these two in the first place. The sex was tasteful and sensually pretty and it did the trick. Was it sanitized? Totally. But what did anyone expect? If people want more than what was represented in the film, I'd like to humbly recommend pornography. I hear it's quite readily available these days.

In the end, the film did its best building upon a base of a substandard text. The best thing about a film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey was that there was no nauseating inner goddess to contend with, because she was the worst. I didn't love it, but I was entertained and when the second filmic instalment is released, I'll see it. I'd like to call for a Grey recast. Maybe a different Grey for each film? I was in the Ian Somerhalder camp, just for the record.

Three sheep

Bianca Greenwood


  1. OUTSTANDING and very fair and balanced review! I am glad to see SOMEONE that didn't make the whole movie evil.

  2. Fantastic review! Honest, positive and critical. As someone who read the books to find out, and be sorely disappointed, what all the hype was about, I was hoping the movie would be better. But, considering the source material, it was as good as could be expected.

    I was in the Ian or Matt camp, but I think casting Dakota Johnson as Ana, was smart, because it made the characters appear closer in age onscreen.