The long-awaited ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie hit the big screen on Friday 13th February as its avid spectators, the majority of which admittedly seemed to be female, flocked in their thousands to witness the phenomenon springing to life throughout cinemas across the UK.
Based on the notorious E.L James novel that initially sent the world flying into sexually charged chaos back in 2011 when it sold over 100 million copies, director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s screen adaptation is arguably overly ambitious in its attempt to visually portray the famous erotic fantasy and furthermore exceed global expectation in doing so. Since it was officially announced that the film was going to be produced the ‘Fifty Shades’ commodity has reignited, fuelling non-stop speculation and circulating rumours regarding both the lead actors and of course the explicitness of the sexual content. In conjunction with the fact that I originally reviewed the first novel back in 2012 (please click here to open my review in a separate tab), there were many more reasons that I felt compelled me to go and see the film for myself and ultimately share my views on it. Feeling extremely curious with my anxious boyfriend in tow, I headed to Manchester on Friday evening to watch one of 25 showings at the Odeon that day alone (which gives a slight indication as to how crazy the world has actually gone for this movie).
First things first, the narrative concept is neither fresh nor imaginative as it merely emulates that of the book. Focusing around timid English Literature student Anastasia Steele, who becomes deeply enthralled in an intense relationship with an extremely rich and successful entrepreneur named Christian Grey, the pair become instantly attracted to each other and immediately develop an intense infatuation. In trying to convince Ana to become his ‘submissive’ (sex slave in simpler terms), ‘dominant’ Christian introduces Ana to a sexual relationship involving BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism). Assuming that, like myself, you are aware of the storyline and therefore what to expect from the film in that department, I will review it in relation to firstly its likeness to the E.L James’ novel that inspired it and secondly its quality as a form of entertainment in its own right.
My first perception of the film was that the acting is extremely tacky. From the second that Ana falls spectacularly through the door of Christian’s office, the theatricality begins. The film continues this way in a very show-like manner, jam-packed with cheesy one-liners, exaggerated body language and eye contact between the central characters as well as overtly dramatized yet somehow not so explicit sex scenes. That said, both of the lead actors do a great job of portraying their consecutive roles. Firstly, Jamie Dornan presents Christian Grey fantastically well. He’s ostentatious, intense, intriguing and naturally inhabits the most important factor of all – total sex appeal. I personally didn’t appreciate Dornan’s physical image as an individual all that much before he starred as Christian Grey, but his demeanour throughout the film is undeniably attractive and demonstrates just how well he adopts the persona of a universal female fantasy and more significantly makes it real. Dakota Johnson does an equally good job of portraying the innocent, plain-Jane character Ana whose otherwise seemingly eventless life is brutally penetrated by Christian Grey in more ways than one (there had to be a pun somewhere!). Johnson represents the majority of female viewers in her passivity; falling helplessly in love with Christian Grey, as well as under both his spell and his control.
Mr Grey, who at his own declaration doesn’t make love (but does the other… hard) introduces both Ana and the audience to his luxurious lifestyle in which restriction is not a concern at all, not only in terms of his money but in terms of his sexual pleasure too (or more specifically the range of whips, chains, gags, shackles, ties, clamps and a non-exhaustive list of other dubiously titled ‘toys’ from within his ‘playroom’). The film, which is both insightful and entertaining, certainly satisfied my personal curiosity of what the story would look like if it were to be explored onscreen.
As stated previously, there are tacky elements inclusive of the show-like acting, cringe-worthy one-liners and the blunt and uncreative ending. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that the film is likely to disappoint you in general if you have read the book, as you will already have your own personal perception of the story as well as of Ana but most obviously of Christian. Evidently what you want to see is not necessarily what you will see, not to mention the fact that your curiosity regarding the sex scenes will also outweigh the actual amount within the film. However, the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ movie does have good things to offer. In all its tacky glory, the acting is on point. The cinematography is good and the soundtrack is excellent with the particularly brilliant Ellie Goulding single ‘Love Me Like You Do’. To summarise – the film was never going to be amazing, as it had far too much expectation to live up to. However, it is not awful which it very easily could have been. In terms of its likeness to the book, it’s a pretty damn good adaptation. The bad grammar, the cheesy dialogue and the intense relationship between Ana and Christian are all mirrored onscreen just as they are in the book. Some things however obviously can’t be. The most significant difference is certainly that whilst the novel is essentially collated as an episode of a sexual affair solidified by its simplistic narrative, the film is far more plot-focused, driven by character development. Sex scenes are integrated scarcely, merely functioning as a support mechanism for the focal partnership. The relationship is the in-depth focus here, not sex, which is bound to disappoint many viewers. That said, there is still enough action to keep you happy at home (or pretty uncomfortable in a cinema!) and the overall story does manage to be a more than enjoyable method of entertainment in its own right. To conclude, if you have any opinion or expectation regarding the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ film then I’d say it’s worth your attention!