Fifty Shades of Grey ✮✮

A Ticklish Affair

by Glenn Lovell

Our expectations for “50 Shades of Grey” were so low ‒ OK, damn near nonexistent ‒ that the screen adaptation of the first book in E.L. James’s S&M trilogy couldn’t help but exceed most preconceived notions. grey

Sure, the thing is full of howlingly idiotic exchanges and the kind of plotting that would strike even Jackie Collins as contrived, and the performances hover somewhere between senior-class play and community theater level; but on the plus side this soft-core de Sade tutorial looks and sounds almost classy. We have veteran editor Anne V. Coates (“Lawrence of Arabia”), cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (“Atonement,” “High Fidelity”) and composer Danny Elfman (“Edward Scissorhands,” “American Hustle”) to thank for this. Plus, the soundtrack includes songs by Annie Lennox, Sia, the Rolling Stones, and, for a spot of old-fashioned cheek-to-cheeking, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself warbling “Witchcraft.” Beyoncé’s appropriately sultry end-credits theme is already garnering airplay.

So even if bondage isn’t your thing, you might want to submit to a few MP3 downloads.

Otherwise, what we’ve got here is an old-fashioned, surprisingly timid bodice-ripper about a virginal college student who meets a GQ-dashing billionaire who, thanks to his very own Mrs. Robinson, comes with a few kinks. But let’s not be coy: the guy’s into whips, chains and handcuffs. “I don’t do romance,” he warns his latest submissive. “My tastes are very singular.”

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and telecommunications titan Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, the serial killer in BBC’s “The Fall”) meet in a sequence straight out of “Valley of the Dolls”: the studiously frumpy Anastasia, subbing for a friend, interviews the Seattle power-broker for her school newspaper. Before peppering him with the most inane questions ‒ which fetch the expected double entendres ‒ she literally falls on her face. Of course, because this is a naughty Cinderella fable, it’s still lust at first sight. Grey wants Anastasia to become his new sex slave, aka submissive. And just to prove he means business, he gives her a tour of his “Red Room of Pain” and then has her peruse the fine print in his standard master-slave agreement.

Christian allows that he may be a wee bit controlling; Anastasia, drawing on her Brit-lit background, calls him “high-handed.” The truth? He’s a closet romantic posing as penthouse sadist. He just needs a strong woman to whip him into shape.

Had director Sam Taylor-Johnson (see New York Times interview) played the contract-signing sequence for wry humor ‒ a la Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” ‒ she might have been onto something. Certainly the boardroom negotiations cry out for tongue to be placed firmly in cheek. Light flogging and fur-lined handcuffs? OK. Anal and vaginal fisting? Uh-uh. Strike that. Genital clamps? Definitely not. Suspension harness? Sounds harmless enough. (Anastasia obviously hasn’t seen “Behind the Green Door.”)

A number of other scenes are equally funny but played straight-faced, more by Johnson, who spends most of the film gnawing her lower lip, than by Dornan, whose “dominant” couldn’t be any more self-conscious or malleable; he seems to be forever apologizing for his fetish. In Dornan’s defense, who could sell such lines as “I am mad — palm-twitchingly mad”? Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden was somehow corralled into playing Christian’s mother. Eloise Mumford appears as Anastasia’s roomie. Like much else here, her character doesn’t make sense: She comes on like a party girl even as she lectures Anastasia to proceed with caution.

Sociologists should have more fun with “Fifty Shades” than film critics. As silly and, yes, sanctimonious as this adaptation is, it deserves mention as one of the first major studio releases in ages to promote sex over vigilante violence or superherodom. Indeed, you’d have to go back to Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999) and, before that, to “9 1/2 Weeks” (1986) to find its near equivalent. And that, in a peculiar way, makes this film a refreshing departure.

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ✮✮ With Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Marcia Gay Harden, Eloise Mumford. Directed by Sam-Taylor Johnson; scripted by Kelly Marcel from the E.L. James novel. 125 min. Rated R (for profanity; typically sexist, mostly female nudity; mild bondage scenes)

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14 Responses to “Fifty Shades of Grey ✮✮”

  1. Tish Says:

    Hollywood is always promoting sex in everything. It may not be the main theme of a film, like it is with Grey, but, violence isn’t either, really. Even in commercials about food you can get away from innuendos! So, great review, but that sentence just struck me as oblivious. Not to mention “Grey” focuses on S&M, which is sex + violence!

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    • Miss Misanthropist Says:

      S&M isn’t sex and violence. Please don’t talk about things you know nothing about. That movie has as much do do with BDSM as the bible has to do with scientific facts. I’m a dominatrix I know what BDSM is. If you aren’t going to bother looking into things for 30 seconds don’t comment on them. S&M Stands for sado/masochism or sadism and masochism. CONSENSUAL. Sorry your sex life is so boring you have to crap on other people but you’re wrong.

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  2. rowan77 Says:

    Is the bar that low that you immediately support any film that isn’t about a superhero? What about storyline, characters, dialogue – all of which, in this film, is trite, poorly written and eyeroll-inducing.

    Also Sam Taylor-Johnson is not a first-time director.

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  3. Miss Misanthropist Says:

    LoL HURR DURR this movie isn’t about superheroes but it is about sexual coercion and abuse guess that’s better than violence lemme give it a good review. Good thing your name is cinamadope cause you really are stupid.

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  4. Mary Sheffield Says:

    Why aren’t you guys blaming the script writers for such a lousy movie instead of the actor? They only included 1/3rd of the book in the movie! Get new scriptwriters please and stop blaming the actors!

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  5. The 21 Meanest Things Critics Said About Jamie Dornan's Fifty Shades Performance | PeepView Says:

    […] Cinema Dope: […]

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  6. Henrika Frost Says:

    Many are commenting on Jamie Dornan’s acting, and I wonder how aware are these critics of Christian Grey’s character in the first book of the trilogy? The die-hard fans of the books will be happy to point out that Christian Grey – though insanely wealthy and handsome – was extremely closed off, almost controlled until constipation, and Jamie Dornan got that across beautifully. I’m waiting for the second film to see his character develop – which will give Jamie a chance to prove for all the doubters, that he indeed is the perfect choice to play Christian Grey, never-mind his accent coming through at times.

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  7. Unacceptable Opinions on Fifty Shades of Grey | a little bit of everything Says:

    […] Cinema Dope: […]

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  8. Paige Says:

    Good grief. NO, this movie is NOT about sexual coercion! And it is NOT about abuse! Unless you’re talking about the abuse of Christian Grey; both under his biological mother, and also by Anastasia Steele when she asks him specifically to whip her, and then immediately she treats him like some kind of serial rapist for doing it. He gives her 6 slaps with a belt and you’d think he ripped her apart from the inside. The last 10 minutes, of an otherwise sweet love story, were just nuts. I don’t know how many “experts” here actually saw this movie, but it’s clear from the review Glenn Lovell wrote, that he actually DID see it, and he got the point. Grey apologizes a lot; practically for breathing. He’s a dom, just like a lot of men are. He’s a sweet daddy dom. Nothing to apologize for.

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  9. 10 Mean Reviews on Fifty Shades Performance of Jamie Dornan - Showbiz, Lifestyle, News, Promos and more! Says:

    […] Cinema Dope: […]

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