Friday, February 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey

Well, at least the foreplay was mildly entertaining. The attempt by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel to adapt E.L. James' novel of the same name feels every inch a Hollywood adaptation of a trashy romance novel.

Fifty Shades of Grey, which could just as easily been titled "Porn for Women" or "Wild Orchid 3: The Seduction of Anastasia," offers us the ridiculously named duo of college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Despite their initial attraction through a random plot device involving Anastasia's roommate and an article for a school paper Ana doesn't work for, the pair struggle to get together because of Christian's aloof manner and odd sexual proclivities.

Through a mix of celebrated bad dialogue and nonerotic and unromantic sex scenes shot like music videos we, along with Ana, learn of Christian's sadomasochistic tendencies as he offers her a way into his world. Overwhelmed by the attention of a hunky millionaire, Ana fights back her doubts in order to be with a man she's quickly fallen for.

There's a scene 25 minutes or so into the film where Johnson's character calls Christian on the insane manner in which he's been treating her by both stalking and pushing her away simultaneously. That scene shows a self-deprecation and acknowledgement of how ridiculous the entire plot is and a willingness to laugh along with the audience as it is explored. Sadly, once things turn serious the only laughter found in the film is completely unintentional (including the hilarious final scene which is impossible to take seriously).

I don't know if Dakota Johnson is a good actress or not as the film asks little more of her than to be constantly confused and/or aroused while showing her tits. On those terms she certainly does her job but I had no stake in the choice of Ana choosing to stay or leave Christian after her brief foray into his fetish. It doesn't help that once the sex scenes begin they offer as about as much heat as a Klondike Ice Cream Bar. At best the amount of nudity from both stars is a distraction, hoping to grab your attention but then not having anything else to show.

In much the same way I'm confused about how the director or screenwriter feel about Christian who is emotionally unavailable when the script needs him to be and bizarrely loving at other times just enough to perpetually frustrate the woman he claims to care for. Is he a good man? Does the film want us to root for Christian and Anastasia to get together? Is she supposed to change him? Is he supposed to change her? Too excited to get to the juicy sex stuff, the movie never really attempts to answer any of these questions until it is far too late for the audience to care. Nor do I quite buy Ana's reaction to Christian taking it one-step further in his "play room" which leads to one of the most unintentionally funny closing scenes of bad movies I've seen in quite some time.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a titillating mess that mostly fails to titillate or entertain for the majority of its two-hour running time. Its sense of humor, both intentional and unintentional, makes it watchable, but in the end it's no better or worse than a well-produced episode of Red Shoe Diaries or whatever movie starring Shannon Tweed or Hanna Harper is playing this Friday night on Cinemax. It's also just as forgettable.

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