It’s not often I get to announce that I have read the book before watching the film adaptation. Today is an even rarer occasion as I admit, to my eternal mortification, that I have read Fifty Shades of Grey. It is a terrible book and you would be hard pressed to find the written word used in such an offensive manner unless you read the review I wrote many moons ago.
I had too much dignity to see Fifty Shades of Grey on opening weekend but curiosity did get the better of me. In the naïve hope that the screen would not be filled with hordes of slightly tipsy middle aged women I thought the second week of release was the more sensible option. I was wrong.
PLOT: In Seattle, a city perpetually on the cusp of dusk, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) as a favour for her sick friend. Ana falls in love with the young billionaire and after she is introduced to his playroom the billionaire stalks her into submission. While Ana discovers her sexuality Christian stares intensely at his property. Remember ladies, it’s not considered creepy as fuck if he is a billionaire. END PLOT
I don’t believe that there is a single person on the planet who truly believes that Fifty Shades of Grey is a well written piece of literature. It is cheap trash for the Kindle Generation and I couldn’t wait for the film to be released if only to enjoy the cinematic car crash it deserved to be.
My biggest problem with Fifty Shades of Grey is that Christian Grey scares me more than most horror icons. The closing scene involved Christian running towards a closing lift while exhibiting extreme levels of fury. My complete lack of trust in the character meant that I was legitimately terrified about what he would have done to Ana if he had got to her before the door closed. Jamie Dornan gave such an intense performance he barely blinked during the 1hour 45min running time which gave Christian a real serial killer vibe. This did not encourage me to relax. Dornan even managed to turn what should have been a harmless coffee into a very tense affair, and frankly, if anyone started to peal the paper casing off my muffin then demand that I eat it they would leave the coffee shop without their hands whilst wearing a brand new muffin hat.
He lurks, then unblinking, kills you in your sleep.... and he is a billionaire.... form an orderly queue ladies.
Despite Christian Grey being a self-made billionaire without doing anything more strenuous than drinking wine whilst sitting at a laptop there were attempts to give him a backstory. Grey was adopted into a loving family at four years of age and his first experience of the BDSM world was at the age of fifteen with the phrase “child abuser” being casually thrown around. It was suggested that the only reason Grey partakes in the BDSM lifestyle is because his mother was a crack-head and he had a difficult start to life. The entire backstory implies something very dark about the BDSM world that I do not believe to be true. This aspect of Fifty Shades of Grey has been completely mishandled by someone who clearly has done little or no research into the lifestyle.
The much hyped sex scenes were present but not particularly shocking. At one stage Christian tied Ana to a bed and tickled her with a peacock feather in a moment that tried so hard to be sexual it almost strayed into parody. If Ana had opened her legs any further I would not have been surprised to see a flock of innocent white doves fly out of her, well, you get the idea. Symbolism.
Dakota Johnson fares much better than expected and thankfully gives Ana some much needed backbone. There were moments when it felt like a coming of age drama but they were always spoiled by Dornan’s intense lurking and refusal to blink. The sex scenes must have been uncomfortable to film but Johnson handled them much better than Dornan and can hold her head up highest in this regard.
There were some attempts at humour and the contract negotiations scene was the best exchange between Johnson and Dornan and probably the only time they displayed any real chemistry. Other attempts at humour were not as successful such as the hardware store grooming scene. The dark undertone coupled with Danny Elfman’s ommpy boompy score tinkling away in the background made the entire scene feel very bizarre and although it wasn’t as creepy as it was in the book it wasn’t any less uncomfortable.
The biggest failing of Fifty Shades of Grey is that a potentially interesting story is being told by someone who has absolutely no idea how to tell it. The film is easily better than the book and Sam Taylor-Johnson deserves credit for her honourable attempt at making a decent film. There were a few fleeting moments when she almost pulled it off but unfortunately, sometimes when you polish a turd you don’t get a diamond, you just end up with a shiny pile of shit. Fifty Shades of Grey gets a 2/10 and this is down to Johnson and Taylor-Johnsons' efforts.