Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) has her world turned upside down when she meets the mysterious yet charming Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). As the two become closer, Christian reveals he has some ‘singular tastes’, and Ana – cautious but curious – decides to allow him to show her what he means.
Well it has finally arrived, perhaps the most anticipated film of 2015 – at least so far – hits Irish cinemas tomorrow, but the question remains, will it live up to the hype?
Dakota Johnson does fine as Ana Steele; she captures the naiveté of a young, sexually inexperienced woman, then allows the character to grow in confidence until she finally plays the game as well as her partner. Jamie Dornan does less well as Christian Grey; it could well be that the character is deliberately written to be cold and stiff, but there is very little charm in Christian Grey. Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden, Luke Grimes and Rita Ora – in a blink and you’ll miss it cameo – are all fine in their roles, but are never really allow to be anything but… well… Grey.
The story, as most people know by now, is based on E.L. James’ novel, which began life as Twilight fan fiction before being published in its own right. The plot very much follows that of Twilight, with the central two characters being more than a little reminiscent of Edward and Bella. The screenplay, written for the screen by Kelly Marcel, feels like an adolescent fantasy at first, it starts off clunky and awkward with the first 40 minutes being actually rather painful to watch. As the film goes on, however, the script becomes more comfortable, and the obvious expository dialogue is dialled back. That said, however, the film is filled with contradictions – Christian in particular contradicts himself many times – and plot holes. Heavy focus is given to the notions of consent, control and power, hammering home the fact that Ana consents to everything and that Christian is not a monster. This is well and good for the reputation of folks in the BDSM scene, but the most disturbing aspect of the film is not the ‘violence’, but the fact that Ana constantly returns to an emotionally unavailable and controlling man.
As director, Sam Taylor-Johnson keeps the tone of the film along the lines of flipping through a glossy magazine in the doctor’s waiting room; slight but pretty. There is no real chemistry between the two leads, meaning the sex scenes fizzle, but at least they are dealt with tastefully, and beautifully shot by Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. The soundtrack and score are great, but this does not help the overall contrived feel of the film.
In all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a beautifully shot, but rather dull, adaptation of a book that is less than well written. Johnson does fine in her role, Dornan struggles to make Christian a fully rounded character, but the soundtrack and cinematography are great. The outcry against beating women is misplaced with this film, however, as there is a lot of focus given to consent and safety. That said, the notion that a woman consistently returns to an emotionally closed off, and potentially emotionally abusive man, is more than a little disturbing.