“Fifty Shades of Grey” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux


“Fifty Shades of Grey,” based on the controversial best-seller by E.L. James, plays like an S&M version of “Twilight” for part of the film and a frustrating portrait of the correlation between love and mental illness for the other half. To say it is uneven would be an understatement, but half of a good movie is better than a bad one, which this certainly is not. It’s an updated, challenging version of the classic romance that has wowed viewers for more than a century.

The story begins with journalism student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and her attempt to interview the benefactor of her school, billionaire playboy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Anytime the benefactor of a university would happen to be regarded as the world’s most eligible bachelor, the viewer should probably expect that this won’t be an easy assignment for the nervous Anastasia. Between his unflinching stare and unbridled sex appeal, Christian is an intimidating man. When the consultation goes magnetically awkward, our heroine thinks that she has seen the last of Mr. Grey. Not so much, since he shows up the next day at the hardware store where she works. Talk about a stalker! It’s okay though, since he is purchasing some items to use around the house 😉

After a photo shoot for the school newspaper here, and a cup of coffee there, it becomes terribly apparent that the attraction between these two is deafening. That makes it all the more surprising when Christian warns Anastasia to stay away from him after he rescues her from being run down by a cyclist. We get it, hero complex, but it was only a bicycle! When Anastasia decides to drink her would-be suitor off of her mind that evening, she calls him at her most inebriated moment – to which Mr. Grey mounts his proverbial white horse and saves her again at the club, this time from being attacked by her photographer buddy, José. The following morning Anastasia wakes up next to Christian, still a gentleman and the two decide to give the old “relationship” game a go. Well, not traditionally.

It’s clear that Anastasia loves Christian. And Mr. Grey undoubtedly has a great deal of affection for Anastasia, but the only affection that he really knows or understands is sex. In fact, sex is so intricately important to him; all partakers must first sign a non-disclosure agreement. And that’s even before Anastasia sees his room full of BDSM toys and gadgets. The Marquis De Sade had nothing on this guy, let me tell you. There are contract negotiations as to what is allowed within their sexual relationship. What follows is a will-she or won’t-she parable of erotically epic proportions which I will not spoil. What lies beneath the surface of Christian’s playground and ultimate psyche, however, is a man that cannot express his love like the rest of us. Why does he need to act out his relationship with the woman that he obviously loves in the form of whips and ropes, or in punishments and rewards?

There is a backstory to be gotten, but lest we forget, this is only the first film that is based upon the first book of a literary trilogy. And judging from the way Hollywood has been stretching book-to-film properties out as of late, the last book in the series “Fifty Shades Freed,” will probably be split into two films a la “Breaking Dawn” and “Mockingjay.” That’s just the way the cookie crumbles in Tinseltown nowadays, but if each entry manages to entertain with minimal filler, then who am I to object? As it is, there are some very nice scenes in this film, such as when they are on an actual “date,” an act which Christian vehemently objects to initially, but winds up enjoying their time spent flying in gliding airplanes. There’s also a joyously beautiful scene of the two dancing to Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” in his Seattle apartment.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” was directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the mostly-unknown auteur who reportedly beat out such directorial heavyweights as Steven Soderbergh and Angelina Jolie to helm this feature. She did happen to direct a very good independent film by the name of “Nowhere Boy” back in 2009 about John Lennon, before he became a Beatle. Overall, I think the direction was quite adequate and the sensitive subject matter was handled as tasteful as could be while still respecting the author’s steamy vision. I for one will be looking forward to the next installment in this franchise, if only to see the wonderful Dakota Johnson reprise the role that she has truly made hers – Anastasia Steele.

**1/2 (two and a half out of four stars)






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