50 Shades of Grey – Film Review
I don’t know about you, but I usually prefer to watch my porn in private.
So it’s a good thing this is a poor excuse for porn, otherwise it would have been a very awkward cinema atmosphere.
A bit of side-muff doesn’t really count as porn.
TL;DR Not particularly sexy, and totally unconvincing as a love story, 50 Shades of Grey is an insult to horny housewives everywhere. The film itself is technically competent, but the story is an unsalvageable bore without any chemistry. The music was nice. 2 out of 5 stars.
That Beyoncé song saved it. And I revile Beyoncé, so touché.
I should also preface this by conceding I haven’t read the book.
So the story is what you’ve heard from every woman in your life already telling you: Anastasia Steele, a naive college literature student, meets and falls in love with the handsome, aloof billionaire, Christian Grey. Christian doesn’t waste any time in telling Anastasia he’s only interested in having her as a submissive for his S&M proclivities. Then he proceeds to spend the rest of the film doing anything but making that happen, because he’s a wimpy little sook. Anastasia cautiously goes along with his demands, but constantly pulls away at every opportunity. Thus, an extremely dissatisfying S&M pairing is born. There is nothing sexy about a weak dominant and an uncommitted submissive. The love story shambles along as best it can until the actually interesting aspect of Christian Grey, his tortured past, peeks its head out. Then the movie abruptly ends when Anastasia chucks a shitfit over the only properly painful thing done to her and walks out. Resolutions are had by nobody.
What is this, Twilight? Oh.
As an Edward and Bella fanfiction, this makes sense.
As the supposedly raunchy novel this is adapted from, this makes sense.
But as a love story, this is as unfulfilling and shallow as it gets.
We don’t watch porn only for the story.
Why I hate this movie:
It just isn’t sexy. I’m no great connoisseur of the S&M arts, but from what I’ve encountered, it’s extremely hot when there’s total commitment from both parties. The dominant should be dominating, and the submissive should be submitting, right? Well, Anastasia and Christian evidently didn’t get that advice. The only stuff they do is pleasurable for both of them. Light peackock-feathering followed by cunnilingus isn’t brutal. Some mild, discreetly shot ramming isn’t brutal.
Then the only time Christian does break out the pain, Anastasia completely loses her shit over it, and the movie suddenly ends as she tells him to get fucked. Where is the surrender? Where is the fantasy?
Christian Grey himself is an enormous part of the problem. Not once did I feel he was physically or psychologically intimidating. I, and Anastasia, too, clearly, didn’t feel dominated by him for a second. Yeah, he had a pretty face and abs for days, but he wasn’t imposing enough to be the career dom he was supposed to be. No wonder he went through fifteen previous submissives before the age of twenty-seven. They all probably laughed in his face after the first time and left.
Anastasia isn’t as disappointing as Christian, but she’s no peach, either. She wasn’t the whimpering, pathetic little girl I’d expected her to be. But she was far from rational. There were buckets of red flags before she even found out about the playroom. The bar scene was 100% a dealbreaker. But no, on she went.
Then, like any good female character, she started having the idea that she could change Christian: that she could fix him. I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise in a story aimed at women. Who doesn’t love a sexy, broken man that you can fix?
The ending was the real bum note of the entire ordeal, though. We finally get some actual story happening with Christian’s troubled past he won’t talk about. Then Anastasia baulks at the belting she gets, and just leaves without seeing it through. Was this movie just foreplay for the sequel?
Anastasia is a fucking dipshit about that stuff, too. Christian says his past is too horrible to talk about, so she asks him to show her, instead. Which is when he belts her and she flees. Or, you know, you could have just talked about it?
I laughed out loud when they said Christian Grey was twenty-seven. Pfft, yeah, five years ago. Likewise, Dakota Johnson does not sell as a twenty-one year-old.
For someone who claims to not do romantic dating or sleep in the same bed as his submissives, Christian goes on a lot of dates and climbs into Anastasia’s bed every five seconds.
Rita Ora shows up to get about one line’s worth of dialogue. What a waste of a stunt casting. Rita Ora truly is the poor, white man’s Rihanna.
Oh, and Marcia Gay Harden is wasted in a nothing role as Christian’s mum.
But it’s not all bad:
The supporting cast isn’t the worst it could have been. Marcia Gay Harden is pretty great; Frank from the first season of Revenge is Christian’s driver; Callum Keith Rennie (he’s done a lot, but Battlestar Galactica and Harper’s Island are my fondest memories) gets one scene as Anastasia’s surrogate dad; and Eloise Mumford was in 2012’s underappreciated TV misstep The River. I appreciate the effort.
Dakota Johnson is the best thing about the cast. All I’d seen her in prior was the half-hearted Date and Switch, and I didn’t care much for her or the movie. But she comes across as likeable enough this time. And I’ll give her points for showing off her body (well, as much as you can push in an MA15+ movie).
Anastasia herself, despite missing the several hundred red flags thrown her way, comes across as surprisingly self-assured and confident. It doesn’t work at all as far as the sex fantasy goes, but she isn’t a one-dimensional sex toy. She says no, and Christian listens. Often.
The business meeting scene is the highlight of the movie. And if the audience I saw this with was any indication, the comedic aspects were far more appreciated than the bland, overhyped sex scenes.
The one sex scene that hit the home run was the one set to Crazy In Love. The pounding bass helped a lot in making Anastasia’s anticipation feel sincere. It was also a montage, and what’s not to enjoy about a sex montage?
There’s a lot of T&A. No dick (you get a tiny bit of shaft), and any full-frontal vaginas were just obscured enough to keep the rating out of R18+ territory, though.
Apart from Crazy In Love, the music choices are also fine. And the score by Danny Elfman is charming.
Oh, and the best line of the movie is Christian’s unfortunately hilarious admission of his troubled nature with this legendary stinker of a half title drop: “I’m 50 shades of fucked up.” For EL James’ sake, I hope that wasn’t in the book.
It’s not the misogynistic, domestic violence-promoting scourge that the prudes would have you believe. But it is obnoxiously unbelievable as a love story, and a blue ball-inducing failure as a sex fantasy. And the O faces on the Nymphomaniac poster were sexier than the limp half-inhales Dakota churns out. 2 out of 5 stars.