Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Contributed Photo
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star in the film adaptation of 'Fifty Shades of Grey.' Does it live up to the best selling book though? Our review says no.
Film not quite as sexy as book

By Maddie Wickett
Staff Writer

It was dark in Christian Grey’s bedroom and moonlight streamed in from the windows and skylight above a large bed. Grey was about to do something he’d never done before, take a shy unexperienced girl and transform her into a woman, luring her into a world of bondage, discipline and sex. Music from The Weeknd was setting the mood, Grey took off Ana’s clothes followed by most of his own and right about when the scene is going to get steamy, the camera pans from the bed to Grey’s skylight, leaving the audience to only imagine what had taken place after the fateful camera movement.

The film adaptation of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a rollercoaster ride, beginning with uphill moments of witty banter, captivating music and fantastic Seattle scenery from Grey’s helicopter. But once the clothes come off and the not-so-thrilling sex scenes began, it’s a straight downhill freefall into the abyss of a lacking representation of Twilight fan-fiction. The film, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and produced by Universal Pictures, closely follows James’ book in regard to narrative.

The plot centers around Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a shy literature student, and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a billionaire tycoon, and their evolving dominant/submissive relationship. Steele meets Grey while doing an interview for her school’s newspaper and he is immediately attracted to her. He begins following her around and tries to persuade her to sign a nondisclosure agreement so she will not be able to speak to anyone about the sinister plans he has in store. Dark, steamy and alluring, this movie promised to be heavily erotic, featuring a strongfaced, controlling, domineering Grey. The only sexy thing about this bone-dry film was the soundtrack, spiced up with the sensuous sounds of Beyoncé and The Weeknd.

Despite his emotional shortcomings and questionable psychological well-being, the character of Grey was played as a pouty-faced toddler, but maybe this is due to Dornan's lifeless acting. There was also a lack of chemistry between Steele and Grey on screen. Maybe the lack of chemistry between the two of them and the weak acting from Dornan was because Dornan and Johnson do not seem to get along in real life. In an interview with “The Today Show,” Johnson said the sex scenes were more like a task than a romantic situation. Displeasure can be seen on both Dornan and Johnson’s faces in a scene where they have drinks at a coffee shop across from The Heathman Hotel.

Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia Steel may come as a surprise to people who know that her character is based upon Twilight’s Bella Swan. Instead of the weak “can't live without him” persona Ana is smart and strong-willed. Although the movie followed the first book in the Fifty Shades trilogy somewhat accurately, the sex scenes themselves were not nearly as emphasized in the movie as they were in the book. Despite many protests from activist groups and a movie ban from the Malaysian government, the sex scenes were lacking in comparison with what was described in the novel. In the scene where Christian takes Ana’s virginity, the camera pans away from the couple and shows Christian’s skylight instead. The scenes in Christian’s “Red Room” are also very short and filled with music and shots of faces for the most part, leaving the audience to revert back to what they had read in the book. Instead of an R rating, the movie should have followed the book more accurately and carried an NC-17 rating instead. The movie made up for its shortcomings in sex and chemistry by adding some comic relief. A favorite scene was when Ana says “I’m makin’ pancakes!” in a giggly voice to Christian after her first overnight adventure in Grey’s lavish Seattle suite. This scene was not present in the book and was probably added to break up the intensity of the film.

The other good scenes are the ones in which Christian and Ana are emailing or texting each other because they’re full of flirty and witty banter, which also adds to what little humor there was in the film. The scenes with Christian’s helicopter flying over the Seattle skyline and Christian and Ana flying gliders in Georgia were good action-like scenes that helped to break up the awkward acting that took place throughout the movie. Fifty Shades had its ups and downs; the action and comic relief scenes broke up the awkward mundaneness of the underused sex scenes and dry conversation. The movie ends at a very pivotal cliffhanger, which left the audience dying to know what happens, whether they enjoyed the film or not. While some movie goers were possibly hot and bothered after seeing the film, you’ll have no reason to take a shower upon returning home.

Maddie Wickett is a staff writer for The Spectator.