This is a tricky one to review. While Fifty Shades of Grey has been a phenomenal success, as well as boosted the sales of Kindles, it has been criticised for its bad writing, suggested themes of domestic abuse and an inaccurate viewpoint on the taboo world of BDSM.
Given that a film adaptation was a certainty, the hype around the production is immense – negative or positive, it is probably one of the most talked-about films in years. So, Nowhere Boy director Sam Taylor-Johnson had her work cut out to not only make a film that would be faithful to the book but also improve on the criticised source material.
Fifty Shades of Grey is about young graduate Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele (Dakota Johnson), who meets mysterious entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for an interview for the student newspaper. The two begin a BDSM relationship, but emotions soon threaten the couple as they struggle to ‘fulfil’ the needs of the other.
I have to confess that I have read all three books. There – I’ve said it.
But it was not for the kinkiness of the relationship, the corniness of the writing nor the whole idea of a man being in charge.
In my own opinion, I think the appeal of attracting someone impossibly attainable is one of the reasons behind the series’ success – it is just a shame that the whole affair between billionaire Christian Grey and bookish Anastasia Steele has been overshadowed by lots of sex and bondage.
Don’t forget, the film is based on a book. Book-film adaptations are always tricky and if people think the book is bad, the actors, director or screenwriter cannot be blamed if the film fails to exceed expectations.
So, what is the film like?
What doesn’t help this film is the choice lines retained from E.L James’ book. While the amateurish first-person narrative is thankfully missing, certain bits are kept in that are ultimately laughable and not at all sexy.
And as for the sex scenes themselves – quite simply, they feel rushed and not as raw (nor as kinky) as depicted in the book.
Having said that, screenwriter Kelly Marcel has managed to make the most of the source material to avoid the cinematic catastrophe that people are anticipating. There is a level of humour in the film, bringing a little unexpected light relief and the chemistry between Dornan and Johnson ranges from the teasing to the tense, which is, most importantly, believable.
With her expressive performance, Dakota Johnson manages to portray a strong-minded character in Ana, who is not immediately swayed by Christian’s smouldering good looks or sexual prowess. Throughout the film, she is the one that holds the cards as she keeps him guessing on whether she’ll consensually become his submissive and is able to show that when the tough gets going, she can walk away.
Though looking occasionally uncomfortable, Jamie Dornan effectively instills the mystery behind the emotionally closed-off Grey. He succeeds in conveying the conflicted feelings of his character and unlike the book, he doesn’t resort to guilt-tripping Ana into continuing the relationship. So when the film reaches its abrupt and downbeat ending, it leaves the door open for what will become of his character in the 2016 sequel.
Given that this is her second film, Taylor-Johnson directs the film with taste and care by focusing on the interactions between Ana and Christian rather than the sexual side of the story and the film looks stunning.
At the end of the day, it probably won’t sway people’s opinions of the books but if you can get past to occasionally silly dialogue, Fifty Shades of Grey is not that bad.
Should you wish to watch something a bit kinkier, I recommend watching Secretary, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and David Spader.
Thanks for reading.