Fifty Shades of Grey

50sogI was intrigued by the idea of Fifty Shades of Grey as a movie. Not because I thought it would be good, and it definitely isn’t good. No, I was interested because it was, as far as I can tell, an original thing: a big-budget, tent-pole, major studio adaptation of mommy porn. That’s a weird thing, and I was very interested to see how they managed to thread that needle.

There’s nothing very edgy about mainstream Hollywood films. They save that stuff for “indy” cinema. Fifty Shades is such a publishing phenomenon, and a crossover from erotica to boot, so I guess the studio people thought they couldn’t allow it to be a small picture with a real edge.

For the two people who don’t know the story, Anastasia Steele is a college student who has a meet-cute with a billionaire, Christian Grey. He has a fetish for domination. Ana is not interested in that, but she is interested in his abs, so for a couple of weeks she toys with the idea of becoming his submissive.

I haven’t read the book. I will admit to reading a few chapters, but I didn’t even get to any of the sex. It was really quite boring. And, in this way, the film is a very accurate adaptation. I mean, really. Is there a more absolutely boring film of the year? This is a movie about BDSM, and it’s a snoozefest. There’s a hint early on that Ana’s friends might introduce some complications. That’s true for about fifteen seconds. There’s another hint halfway through that Christian’s family may introduce complications. That amounts to about a minute and a half of screen time. They managed to stuff thirty minutes of plot into a two hour movie.

The rest of the film is, no joke, these two characters. Sometimes they have sex (which is at best mildly titilating). Sometimes they talk about having sex. Sometimes they talk about how screwed up Christian is. The rest of it is that standard I’m-rich-so-I’ll-romance-you-with-helicopters kind of stupidity. At least Thomas Crown stole paintings. Christian doesn’t seem to do anything.

Dakota Johnson does a pretty good job with the somewhat underwritten Ana, particularly when she’s sparring with Christian. She shows an interesting combination of jittery fear and backbone. Jamie Dornan provides nothing like a performance for Christian. He’s just a pretty face. His lack of charm really does a dissersive to the Ana character, because the only way to interpret this is that she is so enamoured of his body that she’ll consider his dom-sub contract.

BTW, the negotiation scene over that contract? Best scene in the movie. It’s both funny and sexy.

Here comes a spoiler…

As for the ending, it’s clear, from the editing and the music and the performances, that I’m supposed to be sad when Ana breaks off her relationship with Christian. Which is insane. As far as I’m concerned, this is a happy ending. She escapes this charmless freak with at least some of her dignity left. I’ll just pretend there are no sequel books or (sigh) movies.


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