No grey area: ‘Fifty Shades’ falls flat with unconvincing, passionless performances

Face it, everyone, you all saw “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Don’t try to lie about it, we all know it’s true. As one of the most-hyped movies in recent years, it’s no surprise that so many people chose to face the box office. Yes, I was one of those people. I’m a romantic.

I went into the movie theater with below-zero expectations. This movie was going to be bad, no doubt about it. This assumption was proven within the first five minutes when we see a montage of Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (relative newcomer Dakota Johnson) getting ready. We get it, Sam Taylor-Johnson, they are completely different. Of course, the momentous meeting of Christian and Ana is met with a tumble on Ana’s part. Everyone in the theater laughed; I cringed.

From there, the movie did not get better. From the obvious pencil-to-Ana’s-lips imagery to Christian Grey’s grey, grey life, nothing about this movie was subtle. The script was fairly basic and probably would have made for some cutesy dialogue with any other actors, but the leads of “Fifty Shades” just did not have chemistry. Dakota Johnson tried her hardest to come off as charming, but working alongside Jamie Dornan failed to really make the relationship work. It doesn’t help that Dornan thought playing mysterious actually meant emotionless, empty and creepy. Multiple times throughout the movie I really thought Christian was just going to kill Ana and bury her in the woods because he definitely came off as a serial killer. It’s true that Dornan plays a serial killer in the BBC drama “The Fall,” but c’mon, Dornan, you have to be a better actor than this. I really think screenwriter Kelly Marcel was in on the joke since she literally had a scene with Dornan purchasing rope, tape and cable ties at Ana’s work. Ana literally says, “You’re the complete serial killer.”

The trip from print to screen was fairly kind to the story. Thankfully, we lose the internal monologue that is oft-mocked from the novel. Filmgoers do not have to meet Ana’s inner goddess.

Aside from the script, the movie was simply and beautifully shot. Taylor-Johnson didn’t go with any obscure or complex camera angles, but instead chose to keep her cinematography uncomplicated. By keeping things straightforward in the film, Taylor-Johnson was setting herself up to make a far better movie than book deserves. It’s no classic, but I can venture to say it’s better than the books (which I have not read, FYI).

Given the hype regarding the film, it’s fairly tame. The sex scenes are tastefully shot. Johnson spent a good percentage of the movie naked, basically showing every part of her body a rated R movie could, and we even get a smidge of penis on Dornan’s part (but not nearly enough in comparison to Johnson’s nudity). The movie gave its audience what they wanted, even if it was a watered-down version of the novels lasciviousness.

Taylor-Johnson and author E.L. James notoriously fought about everything during the production of the movie. Taylor-Johnson had a more feminist approact to the film, trying to imbue meek Ana with more personality and backbone than the novel’s version. She succeeds in some senses, showing multiple scenes were Ana very clearly says no to Christian’s pleas as well as her enthusiasm when they do have sex. Considering the movie’s ending, Ana clearly knows what she can and cannot handle.

What it comes down to it, though, this movie was ultimately boring. There’s no plot whatsoever. Christian Grey famously states that he doesn’t do romance, but he spends the entire movie romancing Ana that we fail to see any real conflict within the characters. Christian wants to have sex with Ana. Ana says no. Christian romances Ana. Ana starts to like Christian. They have sex. They (miraculously) fall in love. That’s basically the entire film in a nutshell. What’s worse is that said romance isn’t really that romantic. Christian is far too creepy to ever be considered attractive, interesting or romantic. Putting this film out on Valentine’s day was a bold move because this film is the least romantic thing I can think of, but maybe I have a different idea of romance than the millions of people who chose to attend this film on V-Day.

If you haven’t seen “Fifty Shades of Grey,” you haven’t missed anything. While visually appealing, the film fell short of even my low expectations. Honestly, we are all better off watching “Twilight.”

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