By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: #FiftyShadesOfGrey is a disappointment. With clear flaws in acting and direction, the film never matches the hype nor the book’s transfixing eroticism.
The Gist: Fifty Shades Of Grey is the relationship between a young, ingenue virgin who meets complex, sadist multi-millionaire who wants her in his life, but what he wants to do to her sexually is the crux of the story.
What Works: Dakota Johnson single-handedly salvaged the movie. Her brimming sexual innocence, in company of that biting lip, was convincing as hell, but her true praise lies in her seemingly benign wry humor, which was in fact, searing, cutting straight to the bone. Her acerbic facial expressions are the hit of the film. It was a joy to behold.
The soundtrack was also one of the better ones I’ve heard since John Carney’s Begin Again (not to be compared though). I kept thinking Maxwell and D’Angelo should have had vocal appearances carved into the fibers of the album. No such luck. The film also possesses a fantasy glow about it which subliminally transports us into the imagination of E.L James‘s source writing. You’ll have to work a little harder though to fully suspend disbelief to partake in it. Even then, many situational scenarios just seemed implausible and hard to believe.
What Doesn’t Work: Jamie Dornan is the direct antithesis of Dakota Johnson. The Irish actor from BBC’s The Fall, was utterly miscast. His delivery of lines will be mocked for decades to come. The script from Kelly Marcel didn’t help either, but a more skilled actor would’ve made it work. Dornan looks too young, too boyish to sell any real seductiveness. Women targeted to see the film are as young as Dakota and as mature as Sharon Stone. Dornan wouldn’t know what to do with Stone. He has no charisma or personality worth gravitating to. Henry Cavill or Michael Fassbender could’ve worked better in the role. Getting back to the script, though, the dialogue had its moments, but overall this was embarrassing. Not just myself, but the crowd in attendance were cackling ferociously at some of the more “dramatic” points. When Dornan utters “I’m 50 shades of fucked up” or when he jumps erratically into a random conversation of his childhood demons, no one could stop laughing. It was bad.
Fifty Shades Of Grey is a sex movie. No “butts”, er, buts about it. But it missed an opportunity to become the landmark sex film of our generation the way Bernardo Bertolucci‘s Last Tango in Paris was for the 70’s, Randal Kleiser‘s remake of The Blue Lagoon with its shocking youthful sexual awareness in the 80’s, Louis Malle‘s viscerally lascivious Damage in the 90’s or Alfonso Cuarón‘s Y Tu Mamá También in the aughts. Who can deny the intense blissful passion that emanated from Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche in their now famous “door” scene in Damage? Legendary critic Pauline Kael once said that Tango was, “the most powerfully erotic movie ever made”. Artistic craftsmanship for sexuality in films has died and even Bertolucci himself couldn’t replicate the same sexual energy in 2004’s The Dreamers. I had hoped director Sam Taylor-Johnson of Fifty Shades would rescue us from the doldrums of sexual apathy on celluloid, but alas, she hammered home the credence that discerning sex on film is a thing of the past.
Pay or Nay? Go see it for the curiosity, but know that the experience will be excruciatingly disappointing, never matching the heights of its hype. The films ends abruptly setting up a sequel that will hopefully provide more eroticism than laughs.
Rated: R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.
Release Date: February 13, 2015
Screenplay: Kelly Marcel (screenplay), E.L. James (novel)
Director(s): Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Film Genre: Romance, Drama