Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Exeposé Screen online (17 March 2015)

The mere thought of E.L James’ fan-fiction erotica coming to the big screen has been getting readers hot under the collar for months now. Yet with its Valentine’s Day release, it seemed suspiciously like the film was selling itself as the perfect couples’ viewing. Somewhere between cutesy date night and hard-core heat, Fifty Shades has been having an identity crisis. And which side did it fall? Well… neither, actually.

It’s easy to feel sorry for actors Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson: they were fighting a losing battle. The line “I don’t make love. I fuck. Hard” doesn’t make it into many Valentine’s Day releases. And you can set your slow-motion flogging to as many sensual melodies as you like. It’s still flogging. To dodge the countless moral question marks hovering about this story was going to take some serious finesse – so it’s not surprising the pair fell flat on their faces. Probably got tangled in amongst the rope and cable ties.

So this wasn’t a romance. Big deal. We were only watching it for the sex, right? Now, I’m not sure what constitutes decent pornography – but somewhere between the surprise flashes of pubic hair and Christian seductively whispering “bend over” into Anastasia’s ear, the magic was lost on me. And Johnson’s descent into a writhing mess every time Dornan so much as breathed on her soon felt laughable. Behold Mr Grey. His secret power: orgasm-breath. Give me a break, woman.

Lovemaking aside, the film’s visuals are exhilarating – and gazing down on stunning Seattle cityscapes from a glider, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement. But for all of the hype surrounding this bizarre love affair, things felt a bit flat. This was a film about BDSM, for goodness’ sake. How did it manage to be so boring?

Director Sam Taylor Johnson was obviously striving for realism in the sex scenes, and to an extent, he got it – but not in a good way. Cringing through awkward sex-face no.1625384 and watching Christian’s hand edge towards Anastasia’s knickers, things got downright uncomfortable. There’s a reason these scenes tend to steer clear of the authentic experience – real sex just doesn’t look sexy.

Still, it’s hard to imagine the Fifty Shades cast and crew are regretting anything. The film’s already made more than $400 million worldwide. I’d read the scathing reviews, and knew I was going to go and see it anyway – and I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. Probably don’t take your mum, though.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

>>View original Exeposé Screen review>>

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