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Fifty Shades of Grey

Universal // R // February 13, 2015
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted February 12, 2015 | E-mail the Author

We all know that Twilight is a huge deal for the target audience of teenage girls, but who knew that its fan-fiction would also prove to be massively popular? Well, writer E.L. James received a lot of criticism after writing her "Twilight for adults" book series. Nevertheless, the discussion of the novels' extreme sexual content spread like wildfire. Before we knew it, readers practically became a part in the film's development when it came to deciding who to cast in the two main roles. Having not read the books, I can only judge based upon what was shown on the silver screen.

Literature student Anastasia Steele's (Dakota Johnson) life changes forever when she meets Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). However, this incredibly attractive billionaire proves to have a difficult past that continues to haunt him as an adult. The lines between love and lust become blurred for the innocent Anastasia, as she struggles to find a way to break down the wall that Christian has reinforced over the years.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a very different type of love story than we're used to seeing from Hollywood. While it would have been even further from the usual romantic drama if the studio went for the NC-17 rating, at least it pursues a slightly different world than we're used to seeing on the big screen. Putting aside all of the details for a moment, the story of an innocent young woman getting involved in the BDSM world is actually an intriguing concept. Unfortunately, the book was written by E.L. James, who seems to have churned out some ridiculously over-the-top material. The dialogue found in writer Kelly Marcel's screenplay is insanely awkward and ridiculous, but it's so self-aware that it makes for some good laughs. This is definitely one that you'll want to see with an audience in order to get the full effect of it all. It's incredibly difficult to take any of it seriously. However, the majority of the issues come into play during the romantic sequences, as each and every one of these scenes is written in a way that feels so stilted.

Much like the book-to-screen adaptation that this is fan-fiction of, there's a lot of drama. Most of it has to do with the struggles of Anastasia dating a man who "doesn't do romance." A large majority of it becomes repetitive, as Christian continues to show off his wealth, and Anastasia repeatedly gets upset about her relationship status with him. This is primarily what takes up most of the two hour running time. A lot more could have been done in order to engage the audience in an intriguing love story. There's a solid one hidden somewhere deep underneath all of the clutter, but it only occasionally makes itself known. A couple of the feature's most successful elements are Anastasia's internal struggle to gain confidence and the humor that's incorporated throughout. Anastasia's character experiences a significant amount of change throughout the picture, which leads us to the fact that characters may actually continue to evolve. However, the film isn't always serious, as it includes a fair amount of rather well-placed humor. The amendments being made to a certain contract make for some much needed humorous content. It's just a shame that there aren't more of these two things.

One can't discuss Fifty Shades of Grey without talking about the sex. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson's film adaptation certainly earns its R rating, but it still feels like it's holding back. The BDSM content is certainly tame compared to what was expected, but that doesn't stop the fact that this is a steamy film. Pretty much everything else acts like the strings that lead us from one sex scene to the next. It's all about seduction, and the filmmakers have certainly succeeded in delivering that. For those that read the book, your imagination is sure to deliver a lot more than what you're going to see here, but audiences who are looking to see some skin are sure to get what they paid for. However, it's a disappointment that Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't do much to explore the BDSM lifestyle, as the screenplay resorts to identifying the most obvious elements of it, leading the audience to the conclusion that no research was done before writing the screenplay. Christian pressuring Anastasia to embrace this lifestyle is a critical element in the film, so the filmmakers should have a firm understanding of what they're making. This was an opportunity to really dive into a world that most audiences aren't well-informed of, but unfortunately, that chance has come and gone.

When it comes to translating a book to the silver screen, it's impossible to please everybody with casting decisions. Everybody has a different idea of how certain roles should look, and is all the filmmakers can do is be inspired by the source material. Dakota Johnson is quite capable as Anastasia Steele. While she isn't working with complex material, she makes the character much more interesting than expected. Johnson delivers the internal struggle that isn't quite as present in the screenplay extremely well. She evokes a sense of innocence that feels natural. Jamie Dornan received the most amount of controversy for receiving the role of Christian Grey. Even so, he manages to deliver a sense of dangerous attraction that feels integral to the part. He's ridiculously handsome, charming, yet a bit creepy. The sequels are sure to explore the character further, but Dornan handles the content rather well. However, the chemistry between the two of them feels unnatural and stiff. The romantic moments simply don't work. While a large portion of the blame can be placed on the screenplay and the source material, the actors do very little to convince us of the fact that they're actually invested in one another, whether it's in a sexual or romantic nature.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson delivers upon an atmosphere that feels sensual, but cold at the same time. The blue hues that are utilized through the majority of the feature deliver the latter, while the warm reds and oranges used through the sex scenes draw us in. While these sequences aren't quite as explicit as some will be expecting, Taylor-Johnson does a wonderful job making them look as alluring as possible. There are a lot of close-ups, but they're shot rather well. The music also aids in setting a certain tone. Danny Elfman's score and the selection of songs are exactly what one would expect. While it might have been more powerful to feature sex scenes without music, most audiences will likely be pulled in by it. Don't be surprised to see this on the top charts for the next few weeks to come.

Needless to say, this isn't something that you should be seeing with your family, but the idea to release it the day before Valentine's Day is absolutely brilliant. Both fans of the books and couples looking for a date movie are sure to hit the cinema this weekend. Audiences know what they're getting into by seeing this, so there shouldn't be any surprises. The dialogue is ridiculous and the characters are certainly over-the-top, but it remains to be "fifty shades of provocative." Plot points become extremely repetitive, awkward, and forced, although one would be lying by saying that they weren't even slightly seduced by it all. Fifty Shades of Grey is irresistibly sexy in the most ridiculous way possible. Rent it.



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