“You’re here because I’m incapable of leaving you alone.”
Fifty shades of one man’s psyche may exist, but they all revolve around one desire in Fifty Shades of Grey: Submission. Soon-to-be a graduate of Washington State University, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is thrust into conducting an interview one day when her roommate Kate is unable to do so. This isn’t just an interview with some mom & pop shop owner. This interview is with 27 year-old Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a powerful billionaire magnate residing in Seattle.
In 10 short minutes, Ana realizes that there is much more to this man than a handsome face. Despite her uneasy feelings, she is clearly attracted to his cool & controlled personality, and as fate would have it, Christian is drawn to her innocent and gentle persona. Naturally, the two spend more time together, which is almost always prefaced by Grey stating that romance isn’t something he’s interested in. He is a f**ker, not a lover. While Ana wants something more traditional, Christian’s tastes are more singular, darker, and fueled by a need to never lose dominance.
Akin to its lead male character’s upbringing, Fifty Shades of Gray has come from humble beginnings to get to the silver screen. The origins are simply the result of a fan known under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon” writing stories and creating a fan fiction that spawned off of the insanely popular Twilight series. Of course, Snowqueen Icedragon is none other than author E.L. James, and the rudimentary fan fiction eventually became a full-blown trilogy capturing much of the world’s attention starting in 2011. And this attention was captured whether people read the novels or not due to the BDSM content, so naturally a movie had to be made, controversy be dammed. But does the movie adaptation assert its dominance?
Yours truly has never read the books, and have little interest to do so. Like most adaptations from print to movie, I am sure that there are a few things left out. But the critical consensus of the 50 Shades series seems to be that the adult, risque content serves as a concealer, or even protection (if you will) for a lack of a truly interesting and well-written story. To be fair with the film, the early portions are fairly interesting, and overall there is some nice looking cinematography especially in the way of lighting to encompass the mood. The early moments carry enough momentum to care enough as to where things go, even if it is abundantly clear to readers and non-readers as to where the ride ends.
As this continues though, there is little drama to remain semi-hooked, and the sex scenes do little to nothing to reinvigorate interest. In a way, it feels like Taylor-Johnson and the producers expected the BDSM moments to carry all of the intrigue, but after the first, what is really there aside from whips and chains and penetration? The drama is supposed to come from whether Ana will or won’t sign the consent contract, and this is basically the rest of the movie. It is actually rendered pretty useless in honesty however, because it isn’t like the two stop all contact or sexual explorations, in fact they continue on with progressively more intensity and sado-masochistic elements. At one point, Christian even makes a point about the contract being redundant. If this was a self-referential jab at itself, nice. Didn’t come off that way though.
There’s a feeling when watching this that the producers and director want to have their cake and eat it too. The highly mature and dark nature of the content gives the tone one expects, but just as quickly, the movie appears to try hard to be this not-exactly-bubbly but undeniably romantic flick. Even the score, which is solid in some scenes but incongruent with others, reflects this. Again, maybe it comes together more seamlessly in the novel, but it is odd to see something that resembles a teen romance in places.
Two people matter in this and everyone knows who they are. Dakota Johnson’s work here is probably the best aspect of Fifty Shades. It is easy to think that what she is asked to do isn’t a ton, but having to be so open and willing to bare oneself to a national audience requires a lot of confidence. But her nudity isn’t all her role comprises. Her performance feels very natural as it pertains to her character, curious yet fearful, “strong-ish” but weak. There is no debate to be had that she isn’t fully invested in the role.
The same can’t really be said for Jamie Dornan. Playing an American, his natural Irish accents drifts in more than it should, to the point that less attention is focused upon what he is saying and more upon how he is saying it. On the aspect of chemistry between the pair, it is mediocre at best and nonexistent at worst, but yours truly feels like the problem lies more with Dornan. I can’t shake the belief that he could have done more, gone a little further. To talk about anyone else here is wasting space, not because they are terrible, but because they really don’t matter.
To bring up the question again, does Fifty Shades of Grey assert its dominance as a compelling and sexy film? Not at all, but it isn’t a completely painful viewing. Just exercise caution if submitting to the 125 minute runtime.
Photo credits go to Variety.com, beautyworldnews.com, and etonline.com
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