Fifty Shades of Grey

2015-02-13 07:27

What it's about:

Based on the mega-selling “literary” sensation by E.L. James, Anastasia Steele is a shy university student who becomes sexually and romantically involved with the coldly controlling Christian Grey, an elusive billionaire bachelor whose many dark and kinky secrets threaten to torpedo their blossoming relationship before it even begins.

What we thought:

Cards on the table time: I have not read the vast, vast majority of the Fifty Shades trilogy, nor do I plan on doing so, but I have read a chapter or two out of morbid curiosity and have heard enough about this huge phenomenon (not least of all through hilarious celebrity readings of the sex scenes by the likes of Gilbert Godfrey and George Takei) that I really shouldn't have been surprised by just how uncomfortably wrong-headed its story turned out to be when laid out on screen. And yet, though I actually think there is a lot to like about the film, I was shocked by just how... uncomfortable I was by the film's central relationship - which is sort of a problem since that's kind of what the whole thing's about in the first place.

To be absolutely clear, this isn't a prudish response to the film's relatively tame but quite, um, effective sex scenes, nor to its attempted exploration of BDSM sexuality, but is a deep unease with how Fifty Shades of Grey uses its apparent misunderstanding of this particular fetish (most people who are actually into this stuff in real life apparently despise the way it has been portrayed in James' novels) to romanticise a relationship that is built on seriously questionable power-play dynamics and sexual politics.

To put it simply, Christian Grey is a Grade-A creep who we're supposed to see as a compelling romantic lead simply because he is a) to quote Zoolander, really, really, incredibly good looking and, more importantly, b) richer than God. He's a manipulative, self-involved control freak that I could easily buy as a villainous figure (let's just say that it's interesting that I followed Fifty Shades with a press screening of Nightcrawler, the upcoming dark, disturbing psycho-thriller that's all about exploring the mind of a sociopath) but just flat out doesn't work as a romantic figure. Worse, by suggesting that because our young heroine is destined to ultimately “fix” this “bad boy”, it's perfectly OK for her to fall for him, the film bases its entire premise on some of the worst, most unflattering stereotypes of women imaginable.    

What's really infuriating though, is that unlike the notoriously trashy (and quite badly written) novels, the film is a production of often extremely high quality. It features a  surprisingly decent script by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr Banks) that jettisons most of the the books' infamously crappy dialogue and narration (oh my!) and is directed with real proficiency by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy). Throw in some impressively evocative cinematography and a score by Denny Elfman and you have all the makings of a seriously great motion picture.

Worst (or is that best) of all though is Dakota Johnson, who is simply terrific as Anastasia Steele. She perfectly captures the role's required balance of sultry sexiness on the one hand and virginal innocence on the other and she brings a real lightness of touch and comedic timing to what could easily have been one giant cliché of a character, while bringing some real emotional heft to the film's otherwise ludicrous dramatic confrontations. Idiot naysayers who, before even seeing the film, deemed her wrong or, haha, “too ugly” for the role: prepare to eat your bitter, bitter words. She's so good, in fact, that I almost feel like its worth sitting through the film's questionable narrative for her alone.

Now, obviously, this review is going to make absolutely no difference one way or another to anyone anywhere. Judging by the pre-release ticket sales (in South Africa alone, it is apparently entirely sold out all the way until Tuesday!), just about everybody and their grandmother will be seeing Fifty Shades of Grey. Apparently all of them this weekend. But those who don't have any intention of seeing it, really, really, really have no intention of seeing it.

What's strange though, is that for the two or three of you left who aren't sure whether to bother with it, my recommendation is not the definitive “hell NO!” that I was expecting. I mean, it's really kind of awful but it's awful in a way that's honestly quite nicely made. And, again, Dakota Johnson. If the cognitive dissonance of a well made piece of crap doesn't do it for you, check it out for Dakota Johnson.  

HP 2015/02/13 8:13 AM
I told you wont be a awesome movie. 2 stars they rate..Avengers 2 here we come
Magomarele Gomi Thobejane 2015/02/13 8:21 AM
Something for the ladies!
DC 2015/02/13 8:28 AM
sex , thats what the story is about!
50SOG 2015/02/13 8:30 AM
Ilan Preskovsky, you haven't read the books, so you shouldn't be reviewing the movie to all those who have read the books and are looking forward to the move. The movie was fantastic!!
Sam 2015/02/13 8:34 AM
WOW for someone who hasn't even bothered reading the books, not too sure you should be writing such a badly written & long review about your own opinion about the movie. Maybe they should have given your preview ticket to someone that doesn't give a bias view?
Hendrik 2015/02/13 8:40 AM
I think that you are lazy, how can you give a review on this movie if you didn't read the books, you will completely miss the plot,do you homework then you can talk
makemineamogadon 2015/02/13 8:45 AM
I don't see why this review is supposedly "badly written"? The books never received much acclaim apart from being risque. Go and see hoe other critics rated the movie - all seem to think it's pretty bad. I personally will maybe take out the DVD at some point in the future when there is nothing better to do.
Marktheman 2015/02/13 8:49 AM
You should certainly not have had to read the books to give a movie review. The movie should be able to stand on its own merits.
Janita 2015/02/13 8:52 AM
I have not read the books, and was not to sure as to whether or not I would like to go and watch this movie. and as well, I am rather conservative when it comes to these types of things. However I would like to say that I really enjoyed the movie, the characters were fantastic and the actors that were cast for the roles were stunning. I was not sure about Mr. Grey as everyone said that they had chosen the wrong guys and that he is not what they expected, however I thing he was perfect, those eyes that look right through you and that smile that shows you he is actually human! The sex scenes were done very well as well, it could easily come across as another cheap porn situation, but I thing they really did it tastefully! I would suggest this to any lady, but maybe leave your mom at home and see it with your girl-friends!
Karin 2015/02/13 8:58 AM
Glorified peep-show.
marie 2015/02/13 9:01 AM
Loved the books and I will love the movie its not te sex its just the way you see the world and what really is out there ek kan julle belowe DAT daar seker regtag mense is wat so is
Jahinata Jacobs 2015/02/13 9:05 AM
I havent seen the movie, and will most likely shame-watch it at home on DVD like many others who are too embarrased to go watch it at the cinemas ;) I would have preferred that a woman review this film - and not a uptight feminist either - a normal everyday woman. Thats who the books were written for after all. No fan cares if the movie will win an Oscar for direction or screenplay or such nonsense. Did they convey the story, the feelings, the passion, the lust etc? Thats all that matters in the end.
dfgdg.ytrdfgbfdg 2015/02/13 9:13 AM
They have romanticised BDSM , and there have been quite a few cases in Europe where housewives wanted a bit of this and were quite shocked how painful it is reality and charged the man with assault.. hahahaha
Bianca 2015/02/13 9:19 AM
I went into the movie house with an open mind. Although the books are extremely badly written I felt that I needed to give the movie a try and I was not disappointed. Choosing relatively unknown actors was a great move, giving us the chance to see the characters for who they are. Although most people were not happy with the choice for Christian, I found that Jamie Dornan quite brilliantly depicted what we imagined Christian to be like.From the twitchy palm to the permanent scowl he is also very intense which is exactly what comes to mind when reading FSOG. I love how expressive he is, all emotions visible when he realises that this is not quite the DOM/SUB relationship he was anticipating. Dakota Johnson did a fantastic job of Anastasia, with her angelic innocence she perfectly portrayed the emotions that one could only imagine goes through someone who is new to BDSM, yet falling hopelessly in love with her dom. She shows us how fearful, yet curious one is when first faced with this kind of thing. Anyone who has issues with BDSM shouldn't bother watching. This is truly only for the open minded.It doesn't mean that we're into this kind of thing, but If the sex is good and you feel safe and loved doing it,then why the hell not? Tastefully done.
AJ 2015/02/13 9:23 AM
@IIan and I quote " I have not read the vast, vast majority of the Fifty Shades trilogy, nor do I plan on doing so" and "And yet, though I actually think there is a lot to like about the film, I was shocked by just how... uncomfortable I was by the film's central relationship" clearly you are not comfortable with the subject nor do you have an interest in the book/movie. So by assumption one can only assume that your review is bias and not based on actual facts and credentials but purely on personal preferences and therefor not a true reflection of the merit of the movie.
zaba 2015/02/13 9:28 AM
This is a sad reality of society and how sex sells anything...people dont bother to look at the message this sends across, especially women who wanna fight for equality and feminism but looovvveeee Christian Grey and the sexual tension he delivers by being a first class jerk of a man. Marketers created a hype...society blindly follow.....shame
L 2015/02/13 9:41 AM
I have read all the books and watched the movie last night....i enjoyed it but hated it all in the same breath. I think I will need to watch it again, I do not think that it was that bad,they tried to fit in as much of the book as possible, but the movie just felt a bit disjointed. I enjoyed Dakota's portrayal of Ana, and the funny moments in the movie were done very well. Its a love-hate relationship with the movie but I believe that the second and third books movie adaptions will be amazing.
COLA 2015/02/13 9:53 AM
The book was so pathetic, not an ounce of intellect in it. Stopped at "Harry the Helicopter"... waste of paper.
Phakiso 2015/02/13 9:57 AM
I think the movie for a change it introduces one very interesting thing that I am going to try as well. Drafting an agreement before I get involved with anyone thus the terms and conditions are clearly explained and the lady know exactly what she is getting herself into.
Blah 2015/02/13 10:09 AM
50 shades of vomit
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