Fifty Shades of Grey Review

It is not the fifty shades of grey audiences must worry about, but the fifty-year-olds screaming and shouting for the Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan-featured caricatures at the heart of it. But to actively participate in the adaptation of E.L. James’ uncontrollably poor understanding of sex, romance and power are to stare deep into the abyss. To enter into Fifty Shades of Grey is to accept the loyalty of nightmares and to push on regardless. Having read the book, those horrors come ever clearer. The adaptation of such shoddy text, such banal conversation and asinine reflections of what James knows her audiences want is the straw that breaks their backs. Audiences don’t know what they want until they are given it, even if it takes years to understand why they want it. For Fifty Shades of Grey, it is exactly what those that read the book wanted, and that is the problem.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s efforts in the directing chair would be far better had they focused on something that wasn’t the leading performers. No such luck, unfortunately. With the sparks not quite flying between Johnson and Dornan, Fifty Shades of Grey has a weak trajectory. It has two protagonists stunned by each other. If that were not clear enough in the shot-reverse-shot format then best of luck figuring it out any other way. Johnson provides an anxiety-ridden lead character and Dornan is far colder than Grey is in the book. But comparisons to the text don’t matter in the slightest. These are projections of ideas and themes rather than real people. Credit where it is due, at least James had a notion for making these characters likeable. Flawed and miserable, but likeable.

No such look for Johnson’s adaptation. She gets nowhere close to the on-the-nose, tell-all secrets style of slop James can offer, instead of hammering through every ounce of the book with no clue on how to showcase it. Moody lighting, red lights in the dull distance while these two characters sign up their sex contracts, broken up by light flickers of weak humour. Fifty Shades of Grey did not have the shortcomings of visual representation in the written form. That at least meant readers could avoid the sleek grey designs and the awful modernism displayed in the adaptation. Cutting and drastic this is not, there is no depravity, just squeaky clean degeneracy.

Those seeking a film so bad it’ll bore them to tears will be impressed by Fifty Shades of Grey, a feature that will haunt Johnson and Dornan for the remainder of their careers. Respectable works may have followed, but their reputation will always drag around the morally ambiguous adaptation of a sex-crazed book with unhealthy dynamics and a knack for capitalising on the dreams of not quite elderly audiences. Agony reduced to nonsense. Stockholm syndrome in its bleakest and dullest form, with no stake in the real world, ironic considering how closely Johnson wishes to present the dynamic of a rich man and the power he holds over an unknowing partner. It’s dull, it’s repugnant and, much like the book, just plain indifferent to the ethical constraints it crashes through.

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