"Fifty Shades of Grey" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
El James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" is definitely one of the most controversial novels in recent years, focusing on its heavy sexual content that borders on abuse. Therefore, of course a movie is going to be created to bank off the controversial success the book has received. Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in the leading roles of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, respectively, this motion-picture adaptations is more of a guilty pleasure than a great drama, serving more as an entertaining rom-com than the sexual drama it desperately tries to be at times.
Christian Grey is a famous billionaire, making his massive fortune by starting and running his own company called Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. He tends to not let anyone into his life or affect him, until Anastasia Grey walks into his office. Filling in for her roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford), who came down with the flu when she is supposed to have this interview, she leaves Ana to ask him questions since he will be the speaker at their graduation. When he first sees her, Christian becomes enamored with her, hellbent on making her his.
However, he has a dark secret - he is more interested in a BDSM relationship instead of a romantic one. He wants to serve as Ana's dominant, forcing her to bend at his every request. This proves troublesome for Ana, as she must now wrestle her inner thoughts to find out what she truly wants in life - a romantic, vanilla relationship or this wild ride she will take with Christian.
This is a rewatch as I write this review, having read every single one of these novels before actually watching the motion pictures. You're probably thinking, "why would I subject myself to this torture", as many people have descried these as painful to read. I, on the other hand, found them just small, fun reads that I didn't have to think much about and they progressed rather quickly. That's sort of how I felt with this movie. I honestly have fun with this film. It's very simple and doesn't have the best story known to man, but I just think it's easy to breeze through for a weekend rewatch of the series.
However, I think the film is trying to avoid that. There are times where this movie is undeniably trying to be the next Jane Austin or reinvent the wheel in terms of romance films, but that isn't what it is. It shouldn't have tried so hard to be that. I think this was more at the behest of the author of the novels, rather than the actors and filmmakers. However, they knew what this was, and there are moments where you can tell they're just having fun with what they're doing.
I think I can sort of compare these movies to the Twilight Saga. They're not the best by any means, but they're fun to watch and can easily kill time for a couple of hours. Each of these contain its flaws and ridiculously cheesy moments when they're trying to be serious, but that's honestly a part of its charm. I think I am happy it went with a more serious route than a comedic one because it lets the viewer make fun of it more and have more fun with it as a guilty pleasure, even if that's horrible to say.
Dornan is honestly a great choice as Christian Grey. From the way he delivers his lines to his dark and cold demeanor, he's exactly what I pictured when reading the novels. Dornan is undeniably a fantastic actor, as shown in his many other performances, and he really does try here. Same can be said for Johnson, who is just magnetic and fun as Ana. Ana is a quirky and comedic character throughout the novels, and it is transcribed greatly here. She's such a fun character, and Johnson fits her perfectly.
Now, let's move to the more fun parts of this review - the sex scenes and the infamous "red room". Surprisingly, there are only a few true sex scenes present here, and they take place towards the latter half of the movie. I think they're well shot, in terms of trying not to leave anything to the imagination, but also not showing borderline porn on screen. However, the book is so heavily focused on the sex and BDSM aspects, which I think this movie lacks. It seems like Taylor-Johnson wanted to convey the story more, even though it had such a weak plot to start with. Even then, I think the story is rushed at many important points, but lingers too long on some moments that don't need to be focused that much.
Is this a great movie? Absolutely not. But, what it is instead is a guilty pleasure, popcorn flick that doesn't convey the emotions it wants. It wants to be taken seriously and try to move mountains, but it simply is just a fun, little film that can kill a few hours. Every time I have rewatched this movie throughout the years, I have found myself having a good time with the characters and some of the plot details, and I think this is a film that you have to do just that. Don't take it too seriously, grab a few friends and some drinks, and just enjoy what this film so desperately wants to be.