Fifty Shades of Grey **

For All The Hype, It's Barely A Titillating Tease

Is it worth $10? No           

How could a movie about crazy kinky sexy be so insufferably dull?

Fans of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” novel, who are legion, and even those who haven’t read the book but know of its infamy, are expecting something one step below soft core porn in exchange for their overpriced movie ticket. What they’ll get is barely an erotic moment, barely anything sexy at all.

Forget the relative unattractiveness of female lead Dakota Johnson, or the handsomely plain Jamie Dornan as her sex master. The real issue is the sensuality of the story, which far outweighs its sexuality. What non-readers of the book like myself expect to be a kinky S &M parlor game of sexual deviancy ends up being about two lonely souls who think they know what they want but don’t allow themselves to get there. The fact that there’s no ending makes it all the worse, though this isn’t a surprise given that it’s based on a trilogy (I’m willing to wager the third book gets split into two movies, which is sadly all too common these days).

Christian carries Ana after an extended session
The plot is simple enough: Soon-to-be college graduate Anastasia Steele (Johnson) goes to the office of 27 year-old billionaire businessman Christian Grey (Dornan) to interview him for her school newspaper. He has “various physical pursuits,” he tells her in one of many double entendre lines throughout the film. She’s naturally smitten with his rich handsomeness.

On their first date he picks her up in his helicopter and takes her back to his place, where he quickly shows her the “play room.” Oh my sex dungeon. Whips, handcuffs, swings, floggers, you name it, Christian likes to play with it. He insists he “doesn’t do the girlfriend thing” and only wants Ana to be the “submissive” to his “dominant” sexual persona. This is virgin territory (literally) for her, so she relents in signing the contract that specifies what he can/cannot do to her. The thing is, she actually likes him. And he may like her too, even if he doesn’t know how to show it. 

There are reports that Johnson and Dornan hate one another, and that director Sam Taylor-Johnson and E.L. James didn’t get along on the set. The chemistry between Johnson and Dornan doesn’t exactly sizzle, but it’s not awful to watch them together when they’re fully clothed. What is awful – and more so, disappointing – are the sex scenes, which seem oddly restrained, as if a studio censor was in the cutting room dictating what could and could not be shown. Quite a bit is implied, not all that much is shown, and what we do get is languid instead of lustful. 

The problem with expectation is specific anticipation, meaning if what you think is going to happen doesn’t happen it dampens your reaction, even if what does happen isn’t so bad. If “Fifty Shades of Grey” works as promised to its target female demographic there will be a run of new babies born this November. But it doesn’t work. It’s just a lame love drama with sex toys.

Did you know?
The first draft of the script by Kelly Marcel featured more explicit sex, but Universal Pictures executives required it be toned down in order to receive an “R” rating, which it did. If the film earned an NC-17 rating as Marcel’s script would have dictated, some theaters would refuse to show it and its box office prospects would be notably lessened. 

Fifty Shades of Grey

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