Clearly I know I am indeed not the target demographic for this movie, which happens every once in a while. So I want to preface with this… I know some people will love this movie. I know that there is an audience that this is intended for. But as a film, put next to other films in wide release, can a movie like this succeed? Or was it destined to fail from the beginning?
Dakota Johnson stars as Anastasia Steele (that name is already an indicator what kind of movie this is), a college student who goes to interview billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for a school project. Long story short, Grey becomes infatuated with her and introduces her to his world of bondage and domination, which is the only way he can be with someone. The whole plot of the movie is basically him trying to convince her to do weird stuff and her eventually going “okay, fine” and going along with it. Spoiler alert?
From the beginning Johnson is the real star of the movie. I’ve never seen her in anything, but she’s really likeable and (regardless how this movie is received) I think this’ll open up a whole world of opportunities for her. And then we have Jamie Dornan, who isn’t as likeable but manages to convey some complexity and does the best with what he’s given.
The first question you’re probably curious about is the sex. The book (from what I’ve heard) is ridiculous and it would’ve been impossible to bring this to life on the big screen. This definitely pushes the R rating though, with some pretty extensive and intense scenes. They’re tame compared to the book, but I don’t think I’ve seen a (mainstream wide release) movie that’s pushed it this far. It’s more like a late night Cinemax movie than something you’d expect to be showing at your local cinema. So, yes, it’s pretty intense but not nearly as scandalous as the book.
What doesn’t work?
As a film, this is pretty ridiculous, with some of the worst writing I may have ever seen. Every single line of dialogue is trash. I was laughing so hard at moments that were meant to be serious. As a book, it’s meant to be this strange erotic story but on screen, it just doesn’t translate well. Seeing people actually say and do these things is like… too much. It wasn’t meant to be as funny as I thought it was.
In terms of story, there’s also zero plot. It’s literally just this guy trying to convince this girl to do weird sex stuff. We get a couple scenes of Anastasia’s best friend Jose that are completely unnecessary. If you didn’t know… This book actually began as fan fiction for Twilight and some of that is still here, including the friend/love triangle and the “I’m too dangerous for you” vibes. Once you know this, it affects the whole way you see this movie.
And the chemistry between these two people was nonexistent. I have a problem with a lot of movies involving brooding leading men because there’s usually zero reason for the girl to like him. In this story, Christian Grey is depressing and moody and violent and this stupid girl keeps going “Fine, tie me up and beat me” without any sort of chemistry. It’s really unbelievable (but again, the book probably wasn’t meant to be believable).
I wanted to hate every single thing about this movie but it did have a few redeeming factors. Jamie Dornan was generally uninteresting but Dakota Johnson managed to carry the movie, as she’s likeable and funny. Okay that’s basically it. The plot is just a poor excuse to string together some shocking sex scenes and the dialogue should’ve been tweaked a bit before hitting the screen, as the ridiculous lines from the book just don’t work in a movie. There will be some folks that enjoy this movie, as it’s over the top and dramatic, but as a film it fails on almost every level. In terms of sex, there is quite a bit and it pushes the limits past what most R-rated mainstream movies have done, but it’s still tame compared to the antics in the novel. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to anyone, but you know if you fall in that category that might like this movie.