Fifty Shades of Grey rolled in at the start of 2015, trying to herald a new brand of romance into theaters, one that involved a level of physical pain in addition to the expected emotional trauma of most romance movies. If you were hoping for something a bit more devilish and twisted, Pornhub.com would be a better alternative, because Shades is the girlfriend who teases you and leaves before the night is over.
Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a student at Vancouver University about to interview the CEO of Grey Enterprises, Chrisitan Grey (Jamie Dornan), stepping in to cover her ill friend Kate (Eloise Mumford). Anastasia bumbles her way through the interview, shy and abashed to the nth degree, but it does little to put of Christian, who seems unusually taken by the undergrad student.
What follows is an awkward courtship at best, starting with the duo’s next encounter at a hardware store where Anastasia works. Christian’s buying what seems like typical household supplies: rope, duck tape, you know the sort. Their worlds collide a bit more afterward when Ana’s friend Jose (Victor Rasuk), also into Ana, photographs Christian for an editorial. Christian conveniently finds a way to weave himself into Ana’s life every now and then, and before long, he puts his best foot forward to lure her into his world, but not before he gets her to sign a contract, a rather unusual move for a burgeoning relationship. Clearly, something’s off about this guy and obviously so when he reveals his true intentions, making Ana his sexual submissive.
Setting aside the awkward chemistry between the two leads and the relatively timid story development, Fifty Shades of Grey, at least during the time of its release, was in some ways an iconic cinematic moment. Very rarely do we get films that explore erotica on the large screen, so when a movie where the source material is quite salacious is set to grace movie theaters, it brings with it plenty of questions about movie transgressions and norms. How far are the Shades’ moviemakers going to push the envelope, if at all?
It’s this strain of suspense from start to finish that’ll have the audience in some form of captive state because it’s hard to recall a mainstream film that showcased any vigorous aspects of sadomasochism, given its polarizing position in modern society. Is it an exploration of sexuality or one of violence? It’s curiosity about the filmmakers’ approach to this representation that should hook the viewer, but ultimately, when the time comes, many would agree that the film is quite tame on most counts.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson emphasizes the more romantic nature of Ana’s and Christian’s relationship while revealing just enough of the more intimate moments to ignite the viewer’s imagination. It definitely was the safer route to take, especially given the R-Rating the film received, and probably the more sensible one since the movie wasn’t meant to be a substitute for pornography.
On to the acting, there is an awkward chemistry between Ana and Christian whether it was intended or not. For one to be the dominant and the other the submissive, it probably was the aim, to begin with, and it does allow some light-hearted moments to emerge every now and then. Playing Ana’s innocence against Christian’s forthright demeanor does generate humor, with one prime example being Ana’s mistaking Christian’s playroom to be where he keeps his X-Box console. Good one, writers.
The laughter also erupts from unintended quarters with some questionable shot choices. A shot of Christian and Ana having sex in bed has the camera roll away from the couple and direct its attention to the ceiling, a ceiling with a mirror on it that prominently replicates the action down below, Jamie Dornan’s butt and all. Haha.
For a movie with a relatively restricted narrative arc, Fifty Shades of Grey depends heavily on the two central leads and a strong kinetic sense of tension between them. There are definitely sparks that fly, but it’s difficult to assess whether it lends itself to the roles of their unique dom/sub relationship or one of a more “vanilla” nature. Either way, you can ride the suspense train of “what is he going to do to her?” until you know the point to get off (figuratively).
- The awkward chemistry between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan makes for interesting watching.
- Suspense is the name of the game until the rather mellow ending.
- Sheltered men and women can learn a thing or two as the movie progresses.
If you like our Fifty Shades Of Grey review, take a look at our other Romance reviews.