Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Language: English
Rating: R
Running Time: 125 minutes

Once upon a time, there was a controversial book that appeared in bookstores and libraries nationwide...and later internationally. It was a book that awakened lonely housewives' libidos and brought spice to vanilla couples' bedrooms. This book caused great confusion among the masses. Some called it stimulating and exciting, while others with common sense believed it was poorly written and misrepresented the BDSM community. Granted this book was based off a Twilight fanfiction, there's really no surprise that the contents would be mediocre at best. If you have no idea what I'm talking about...and you clearly didn't see the title of this review, I'm talking about E.L. James' claim to fame, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Anastasia Steele is a literature student who volunteers to help her journalist roommate interview a wealthy businessman by the name of Christian Grey. After their interview, Christian gives Ana an opportunity to attend a photoshoot and she soon finds the man intriguing and quite good looking. In turn, Christian grows interest in the innocent, naive graduate and proposes a personal get together with her to discuss an "unusual" contract. Ana, being thoroughly interested in him, meets up with him and learns that Christian is interested in one particular thing.

So...I've never read any of the books and I don't plan on it either. The most I've read is a couple paragraphs and then hearing excerpts of it read by Gilbert Gottfried and George Takei, which is hilarious. In short, don't expect any book comparisons to this movie in the near or distant future. Since the book series was a huge phenomenon (for some reason), it wasn't too surprising that it would receive a movie. I mentally debated whether I should give this movie adaptation the time of day or not as the series' success bothered me a lot, but I definitely wasn't going to be spending any money on it to see it in the theater. As it appeared in the catalogue, I placed a hold for it and once I received it, I questioned myself on whether I was going to go through with it. I brought it home, glanced at the case from time to time, and continued to contemplate, "do I really want to see this dumb movie?". Beforehand, I did read a review stating that they went into the theater expecting to laugh through it, but instead felt uncomfortable. Once I pushed the disc into my PS2 and let it play, I hoped that the review was wrong or missed the humor and I could get some laughs out of this silly adaptation.

Sadly, I'll have to report that there is no humor in this movie whatsoever. For those who dislike what Fifty Shades of Grey has brought to bookstores, libraries, and cinema, you're not going to find any pleasure or laughter in this film. Although, I wasn't quite uncomfortable with the content of the movie, I just couldn't muster up the strength to be infuriated by it either. Sure, I totally understand why people were upset about the contents of the movie (and book). It does misrepresent and misinforms the public about BDSM and how that relationship works for certain people. I understand that what Christian does is unacceptable and that he's a selfish, manipulative person and what he offers to his relationship with Ana is not love at all. Their relationship is clearly a very unhealthy, one-sided affection. This could potentially be damaging to older people who don't understand dominant and submissive relationships and BDSM or even younger people who are in unhealthy or abusive relationships. Fifty Shades of Grey is definitely problematic, but the popularity of it makes me more upset than the movie does. So, why doesn't the movie stir up these frustrated or annoyed emotions inside me?

Well...the answer is very simple. The movie is very boring. The story is basic, but could easily be something interesting. I mean love stories with plain Jane women and rich men have happened for decades. What hurts the story are the dialogue, characters, and pacing...which are very important elements for a good story. Really, with the addition of the story being based off a Twilight fanfic, there really was no chance that it was going to be anything good. Characterwise, the most interesting one was Ana's roommate Kate which what we see of her story is a little generic, but her personality somehow is more interesting than Ana. I know Ana's character is supposed to be innocent and naive, but she takes this to an extreme level which causes me to roll my eyes or ignore her during her awkward moments and everything is just dull. Christian lacks charm and charisma to make the viewer believe that he is someone to be attracted to. His character is also quite bland, even more so he's a paint by numbers businessman that we barely know anything about. What does he do? Why does he have this estranged relationship with his parents, especially his mother? He also contradicts himself throughout the movie with his relationship with Ana. He says he doesn't do relationships or perform those gestures that couples do, but he leads Ana on or baits her by giving her those things that she craves: sleeping in the same bed, holding hands, gentle kisses, etc. Then suddenly, he's this wooden character that just wants it his way or no way. This switch in character should portray this conflict within him, but the way it's acted displays a deceptive gesture of romance (not doing stuff from the heart). It's all a show; a big, giant, expensive bribe to get Ana to sign the contract. For all I know from watching Christian, I believe what's going in his mind is "I need to go through the motions of a relationship to obtain Ana as a submissive" and that's not going to make me like you or understand your supposed charm. Also, the bland and sometimes unnatural dialogue doesn't help the characters either. I read that the script underwent some rewrites, massive sexual edits, and scrapping, but if the movie was going to feel some sort of rush project where the cast supposedly learned their lines in 5 days, obviously E.L. James doesn't care that much about her series. Then's better written in the movie than her books, which really isn't hard to achieve. Lastly, the pacing was problematic. This movie is a little over 2 hours long, which is ridiculous anyway. After the one and a half of sex scenes, I ended up fast forwarding through them because 1) it really wasn't all that interesting, nonetheless stimulating if you're looking for fap material and 2) it just drags on and on. By the time you do get to the more interesting and "controversial" stuff in their relationship physically, you don't really care anymore because the characters are a bore and slightly unlikable.

After reading all the trivia about this movie on IMDb, I'm happy that Angelina Jolie turned this project down, that so many people rejected the main casting roles, that there were problems between E.L. James and the director, and even more that it has a poor score on the site. If it isn't obvious, this movie is an absolute snoozefest. The characters are bland, unlikable, and lack development, the pacing is really slow in places where it should pick up, and the writing is just very poor, but a step above the novels. Although, it's unfortunate that they will be filming a sequel and possibly a third film to coincide with the novels. The only positives I have about this movie is that it is shot well and I'm happy that Ana did acknowledge what she's comfortable with as far as their contract goes. I kinda wished more people recognized she did have a backbone for just a moment in the movie. In short, pass on this movie! There's no laughs or amusement found anywhere in the 2 hour running time. Despite it being (possibly) more entertaining and better written than the book, it's still an unentertaining yawner.

Rating: 1.5/5

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