Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden
Screenplay: Kelly Marcel
125 mins. Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you my review of the highest grossing adaptation of a rip-off of a bad book series…of all time perhaps, Fifty Shades of Grey. No contracts to sign for this one, folks, so let’s jump in.
Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson, 21 Jump Street, Cymbeline) has been tasked with interviewing the mysterious entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, TV’s The Fall, Marie Antoinette) for her friend’s school newspaper. When Grey starts to follow Ana and takes an extreme interest in her personal life, she begins to see that he has wants for more than she may be able to give. As Christian’s sexual fantasies take flight with Ana as a passenger, she questions what or who she really wants in the film from director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy).
Let’s discuss our leads here. Dakota Johnson acts to the character well enough, but the character isn’t any good. She doesn’t give her character a path or any catharsis to lead to. Then there’s Jamie Dornan, who is absolutely dreadful as the billionaire playboy. Not only is the character completely unlikable, but Dornan plays him as a whiny baby. His character is a selfish prick, he doesn’t give anything to Ana in terms of her relationship needs. It is all take-take-take. Who would find him an enjoyable character to follow?
The only thing worse than the leads here is the chemistry between them. It is a shame to have some of my favorite character actors given so little screen time to bolster this film as they are squandered in the background. I’m referring specifically about Marcia Gay Harden (TV’s The Newsroom, Into the Wild), Andrew Airlie, and one of absolute favorite people Callum Keith Rennie. Our leads are incapable of driving this story forward, and it really doesn’t end.
So how good is the rest of the film? It isn’t particularly well shot, especially the poorly-shot initial love scene. It is almost as if the director didn’t watch the dailies, because the scene breaks even the simplest of guidelines around how to shoot a scene (I can hear my filmmaker friends telling me that there are no guidelines to shooting a scene, but I even they would agree with me). The film has a tonally broken look to it, similar to the book itself.
Then there is the sound and music editing. There are scenes with Anastasia typing on her new computer and she finishes typing before the sound stops. It is blaringly noticeable. Not to mention Danny Elfman trying his best to not be Danny Elfman, and he fails. The best decision made in this film is not using his score for the sex scenes and opting for some more sensual tracks from major artists. Can you imagine the Beetlejuice soundtrack during the lovin’?
Another great decision by the filmmakers is to avoid using the phrase “inner goddess” which E.L. James’ novel put into the triple digits. They still get away with the wretched “laters, babe” which made my breakfast churn in my stomach.
Eventually, Fifty Shades of Grey makes its way into classic romantic cliché and shtick with a side order of complete boredom. The film is somewhat slightly better than the original tome it is based on, but that doesn’t make it any good. Perhaps the adaptation that Bret Easton Ellis wanted to write would have been better. As too with less input by the dreck that is E.L. James. It takes a special kind of bad for me to wish for Twilight over this fan-fiction slop.
-Kyle A. Goethe
So have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey? What did you think? Was it so “Crazy Right Now” or did it reach your hard limits? Let me know!