Fifty Shades of Grey

Film Review by Chris Fyvie | 13 Feb 2015
  • Fifty Shades
Film title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden
Release date: 13 Feb
Certificate: 18

There are a number of reasons why EL James’ phenomenally successful Fifty Shades of Grey is perfect for a cinematic conversion. Quite aside from the obvious financial practicality of adapting a text with a following similar in numbers to that of the population of mainland Europe, Fifty Shades of Grey the book has legitimate claim to be the worst collection of words ever written that weren't written in crayon. Also, aside from excruciatingly dopey internal discussions between the heroine, her prudish subconscious and her saucy Inner Goddess, page upon page of hopelessly banal flirty emails, and pots and pots of shagging, nothing really happens in it. At all.

It’s kind of a blank canvas to do something interesting with the characters of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, whom to call cyphers would be generous. To produce something interesting, blisteringly carnal and provocative. Or, at the very least, something camp, trashy and fun. But director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have, rather unforgivably, done none of those things.

Instead, there is this cynical, perfunctorily directed, guileless, sexless and artless re-tread of the novel – the worst kind of fan, and potential franchise, service. Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia is the sole major deviation. One of the most egregious things about James’ wholly egregious original is just how insipid, naïve and infantile her protagonist is – completely unbelievably so. Here Johnson, often recalling her mother, Melanie Griffith, with a nod of the head here and a wispily delivered line there, gives Anastasia some chutzpah as she uhms-and-ahs over whether or not to sign a contract to enter into a BDSM relationship with billionaire weirdo Christian, played by Jamie Dornan.

Dornan fares less well than his co-star, and is less well-served by his director and script, exuding levels of sexual charisma previously only associated with things like Formica, smallpox and Keith Chegwin. “You can’t fall in love with me,” Christian scolds Anastasia towards the end. Of course she can’t, mate – you barely even exist.

There are moments when Fifty Shades skirts with self-awareness; Danny Elfman’s tinkly score hinting at the inherent absurdity of an encounter in a hardware store, and the quite nicely played discussion of the finer points of Grey’s sexually prescriptive treaty. But those are two very brief flickers in a two-hour movie, the rest of which sees two really boring people have really boring conversations as a precursor or successor to really boring sex shot really boringly to really boring pop songs. It has all the erotic tension and longing of your average episode of The One Show. Anastasia and Christian will come again – there are two more of these literary monstrosities to slop onto the screen – and hopefully with a touch more vigour than this simpering catastrophe.

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