Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle
When asked to interview wealthy and secretive businessman Christian Grey (Dornan), shy literature student Anastacia Steele (Johnson) shares an instant connection with him. As the two get closer her life changes forever, but she also discovers that there is a much darker side to him.
First I think it is vital I point out that I am very much aware of the provisos involved with reviewing this, err, thing; pretty much everything about the backstory and subsequent ridiculous success that could be said about the book has already been said, I am of course not part of the film’s target demographic and this is of course a film that is very easy to hate before even seeing it for very obvious reasons.
Of course as perhaps one of the very last people to review this hideous cinematic creation there is very little I can say as those that wanted to see it would have done (several times I expect) and those that don’t want to do not need any further confirmation why they shouldn’t waste two hours of their life watching this snooze-fest.
Well, I figured that I should watch it as then I can truly slag it off (though I of course watched it with an open mind), and my message to those very few of you out there that are perhaps considering seeing this, just don’t! Another fact of being one of the last to review Fifty Shades of Gray is that all the potential puns have been done to death, well I don’t know if anyone else has used this one yet, but this film is Fifty Shades of Bland (get in!).
It is if course a commonly known fact that the source material is awful, and I will not waste my time questioning why the book was so outrageously successful (but many copies can of course now be found in every charity shop on the high street of every town in the UK) as that is a path that can only lead to madness. Though Kelly Marcel’s script may get rid of Anastacia Steele’s voiceover, it is still a constant bombardment of horrendously lazy and flat dialogue combined with narrative clichés and lazy dichotomies that is so cringe inducing that it borders on funny. In fact, so many lines can be predicted before they are said, which is surely not a good thing for any film! I know cinema should be about escapism, but the portrayal of the characters is so sickeningly cliched and their arcs illogical that it really does question what sort of world the writers live in.
There are indeed some very pertinent, powerful and interesting themes that this film could tackle (no pun intended!) such as the raw power of desire, obsession and indeed the human condition. It of course doesn’t and to be fair to it, the film never intends to, but the whole plot is afraid to take any risks and is basically a lazy mainstream rom-com with very mild whipping.
Then of there is the aforementioned whipping; well, so it grasps very firmly to the middle ground Fifty Shades of Grey is the very much the softest of softcore porn. Though it portrays the supposed pain and dominance nonsense with the utmost stoicism in that we have slow-motion shots, dramatic music and dialogue delivery to portray it is a really shocking big deal, the film seems to make such a big deal out of absolutely nothing that it only serves to add to the unintentional comedy of this drivel.
With the equally abysmal dialogue and character arcs the actors have to work with, it almost feels like there is very little point on commenting on the performances; but Dakota Johnson, in what is of course a potentially career destroying role, does the best she can with what is such a one dimensional and clichéd character. Jamie Doornan however does not fare so well, lacking any genuine screen presence or intensity, making his one-tone and completely po-faced delivery of the dialogue unintentionally funny. This is a shame as he has showed in previous work that he can bring genuine intensity to a role.
Aesthetically Fifty Shades of Grey is made with utmost competence, director Sam Taylor-Johnson directs very well with slick camerawork which is only complemented by Seamus McGarvey’s obvious but effective metallic cinematography and Danny Elfman’s (!) generic but equally effective score. However, no matter how good the film is made, the famous phrase about polished turds still being a piece of shit comes to mind!
Maybe of course everyone involved (including E.L James) are actually genius manipulators; as when watching a film so horrendously awful but yet completely stoic in its delivery and presentation as Fifty Shades of Grey it is almost incomprehensible that this isn’t actually a parody! Maybe everyone involved knows this and are even more cynical than I first thought! Well either way they are considerably wealthier for being involved in this cinematic detritus.
To avoid getting too angry at the fact Fifty Shades of Grey is so bad, it is necessary to surrender to the obvious and depressing fact that it never ever had to be any good. The film’s existence was always depressingly inevitable, and it is therefore then best to cling to the hope that all the creative talents involved in this deeply cynical money-maker will spend some of their substantial earnings on being involved in really good arthouse projects. That may be a naive thought, but it is the sole positive to take away from a film filled to the brim of negatives, and what is worse; there are still two more two come!
Boring; lazy, cynical and bland filmmaking of the highest degree; Fifty Shades of Grey is a hideously diligent walk along the middle of the road, and would be a potential contender for unintentional comedy of the year if it were not so incredibly boring.