Release Date: 13 February 2015
Running Time: 125 min
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Max Martini, Eloise Mumford
When a book sells over one hundred million copies and is translated into over fifty languages, a film adaptation is inevitable; even when said book consists mainly of graphic descriptions of extreme sex acts and a rambling, slightly dippy narration. Yes, that’s right, it’s the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, out in time for Valentine’s Day, because nothing says ‘I love you’ quite like the sight of an emotionally damaged billionaire beating the shit out of a naked young woman.
When shy college student Ana interviews hunky telecommunications billionaire Christian Grey for her school paper, she’s immediately smitten. Suave, powerful and handsome, Christian is a man who gets what he wants, claiming that he has to exert total control in all aspects of his life to remain comfortable. Beginning a relationship almost immediately, Christian reveals that this need for control includes his sex life; he’s a dominant in a submissive/dominant relationship. Ana, being a virgin and all, isn’t sure if she’s that keen on having such an unconventional relationship with her first sexual partner and so their romance becomes a negotiation of power and control.
In terms of plot, Fifty Shades of Grey is as empty and cold as one of Christian’s massive marble tiled rooms. For two long hours Ana hums and haws about how much power she’s willing to cede to Christian while he flounces about being miserable and wealthy. He buys her a bunch of stuff, she bites her lip, they chat about sex, then they have sex without chatting. It’s often said that drama is conflict, which perhaps explains why this ponderous ode to indecision and BDSM is completely lacking in anything remotely dramatic. The stakes are so incredibly low that Christian’s heroic gesture is pulling Ana out of the path of an oncoming bicycle. Worse still the pace is glacial, and the tone so sombre and self-serious that any fun is sucked out of the utterly ludicrous dialogue.
As for the sex, it’s oddly mechanical and not particularly erotic. The shooting style during such scenes – a camera that pans and glides across the action – is a billowing curtain away from being a late night Channel Five film. Plus, for all their chat about buttplugs, genital clamps and fisting, there’s nothing particularly transgressive onscreen. There’s a bit of tying up and some light spanking, but apart from a particularly brutal session late on in the film, the filmmakers seem quite coy about BDSM. Christian’s sex-life is presented as something weird and self-destructive, an addiction he must overcome rather than anything healthy and consensual.
It’s tough to find anything to recommend Fifty Shades of Grey. Lacking in drama, insight and eroticism, it’s a tough and unrewarding watch which is filled with po-faced people saying utterly farcical things. The first of two sequels is currently scheduled for next year. I’ll be using my safe word for that one.