Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Movie Review #221: "Fifty Shades of Grey" (2015)

Movie"Fifty Shades of Grey"
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
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A young college student named Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), as a favor to her sick roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford), is set to interview young billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), for their university paper. During the interview, Christian becomes infatuated with the young Anastasia and quickly wants her all to himself. She is mesmerized by the powerful billionaire, while he pursues her and hopes to introduce her to his very unique form of erotic desire and the sexual pleasures of BDSM. 

Let us preface by saying that yes, I, Lolo, of Lolo & BigJ fame, have read the book "Fifty Shades of Grey." In fact, I read all 3 books, for research purposes, mostly. Did I like it and think it was sexy? No, no I did not. I am not like the other 4928375298167 millions of bored, lonely housewives and "literary porn" fanatics who liked the book. It is nothing more than a pedestrian "Harlequin romance novel" that got lucky. I thought it was atrociously written to the point that it made me, someone who values grammar, thought, decent writing and prose, want to gag. But, that's beside the point, however snotty it may sound. Unlike most reviews we write, we are going to have to critique this one with the book in mind since 97% of the dialogue and scenarios were in the book. So, let's get started, shall we?

Does the synopsis we have written above sound like the plot of an after midnight Cinemax softcore porn? If you agree that it is, you're not far off, believe us. "Fifty Shades of Grey" is the latest piece of sexploitation cinema released by Hollywood in an effort to capitalize on the film version of the book with the same name by letting middle-aged women everywhere dive straight into their erotic desires by watching...a crappy movie?? For a book that is based on "Twilight" fan-fiction, just more erotic, we have to say, we thought this movie would be worse. And please, spare us your lectures about how this book/movie aren't like "Twilight," it's the same damn story of an insecure female protagonist who has a distant mother on her 4th husband with a penchant for blinking and lip biting who falls for her unattainable male counterpart, a man who is possessive, controlling and super duper hot, but has this deep, dark secret about him and it all happens to take place in Seattle. Don't get us wrong, "Fifty Shades" is still just as horrendously bad and even laughable in movie form, but we were expecting 1/10 status of badness, especially considering the source material is all but absolutely atrocious. Yes, it was bad, but like we said, it's not even worst of the worst level. That being said, the good review pretty much ends with "it's not "The Boy Next Door" bad," although the actress who plays Ana, Dakota Johnson, who is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith (WHAT?!?!?!?!!) is the best part of the movie, though she is still only a little bit serviceable.

The biggest point of contention in this film adaptation is not only the rest of the acting, but the chemistry between characters as well. Let's start with Jamie Dornan (#NotMyChristian, as John Oliver would say), since he is 85% of the problem. Not that I was ever looking forward to this movie, but since we were huge "Sons of Anarchy" fans, Charlie Hunnam would have made a much better Christian Grey because he is a better actor, and apart from him as the original casting choice, I, like millions of other women who read the book (god, I can't believe I am admitting this right now...), definitely saw Matt Bomer as Christian Grey based on his description alone. Hell, there was even an online petition with 93,000+ signatures to try and make him the next Christian! Jamie Dornan might as well be called Jamie Doorknob because the guy is stiff as hell. Actually, that's being impolite to stiffies everywhere. At this point, anyone who doesn't live under a rock knows Christian Grey is a control freak (more on this later), but just because he's controlling doesn't means he has to be stoic to a fault and so non-emotive that he might be able to pass as a cyborg or a robot. Good lord, it's as if a piece of wood came to life right before our very eyes, as a piece of wood with no human traits or features, and in fact, the piece of wood would still somehow have more expressions and emotions than Jamie Dornan. He was bad, and from what I have read online in the days since this movie came out, it's just his acting style, which makes us afraid to watch his critically acclaimed show "The Fall." In the movie, Christian and Anastasia obviously have the hots for each other. She is a virgin, an English Literature major in school and a hopeless romantic who wants to be wooed and courted with dates and such, and Christian, well, he "doesn't make love," he "fucks, hard." Those are literally his words. Okay, so, maybe it sounds like it could be kind of hot on screen, right? I mean, "9 1/2 Weeks" was a steamy movie for its time and it still pretty sexy even today. WRONG. This comparison offends even Mickey Rourke's third face. Like we said, Dornan is wood coming to life, but the wood still has more emotions. He delivers his lines as if he were reading them straight from the page. And Johnson? In between being fully nude on screen (which was relatively tame compared to some of the stuff in the book that was either left on the cutting room floor or not even considered), she giggles, bites her lip and gives stiff, air-headed blank expressions throughout the entire movie. Sure, Anastasia as a character is written to be like this, but it was a bazillion times more annoying on screen than we ever thought possible. At least she wasn't "holy cow!"ing, or "gasp"ing, or "wow"ing,  or "inner goddess"ing every 2 lines as I had anticipated. Together, there are maybe two scenes right in the beginning of the movie where there is even a little bit of sexual chemistry or "heat" between the two, if you can call it "heat" at all. Me? I'd say it's more like a bowl of soup that was left on the counter too long, but still might have one or two warm potatoes left if you're lucky.

Beyond this lack of chemistry and stiff acting, the film is poorly paced, but then again, it could have been worse considering the book is 514 pages of basically the same words, phrases and scenarios written over and over again. Luckily, this film had some screenwriters that were a little more competent in their writing than E.L. James. They were at least able to work over the story with a carving knife and cut away a lot of the cheese and tame down some of the sex from the book. Since E.L. James was a producer on the movie, though, we're willing to wager she had a hand in what stayed and what went. Rumor has it James and the film's director Sam Taylor-Johnson had vicious feuds over the film and its flaws, which we don't doubt at all. The writers were also able to tone down Christian's abuse a bit to make it and him more palatable and appealing for a wider audience. This is where we get really heated.

Like we said, this is a bad movie, but it's not really the fault of filmmakers. It's a bad movie because it's based on a bad book. When push comes to shove, this movie is not based on a book that has a love story, it is based on book with an abusive, controlling relationship between two incompatible lovers. Within the first 20 minutes of the film, we see just how incompatible they are, and as we mentioned above, Ana was looking for romance, something that Christian didn't want because of his more "unusual" tastes. When we say abusive, we aren't talking about the part of the movie and the book that deals with BDSM and the whipping in the bedroom. No no, we are talking the mental abuse outside of the bedroom in their everyday life. Christian is an abusive control freak who obviously gets off on punishing her. Women, please listen to us when we say that this is not love. Anastasia is willing to take this abuse not just because she is written to be a mousy, abandoned and insecure little flower who needs to be nurtured because she doesn't know any better, but because Christian is the ultimate package: a hot, fit, secretive billionaire, something that is apparently every woman's fantasy, and if she disagrees, he will leave her. This is not feminist literature or feminist film making, in fact, it is far from it. It's still offensive on several levels because this is what is being peddled to women as "erotica," a guy who will control what doctor you see and what birth control you take, a man that gives you a list of what foods you're allowed can snack on and demand that you exercise X amount of days a week, someone who will buy the company you work for and the art you are featured in so no one else could ever have the possibility of knowing how talented you are and so that no one else could even dream of having you encapsulated for all of time in a photograph. The one thing I will say for Ana is that she knows what she likes and doesn't like inside the bedroom, so apparently that makes her the next Betty Friedan????

When it comes down to it, this movie is still bad, and though not as bad as we thought, it makes it even more insulting to women that's it's shoved down our throats under the guise that it will send our inner goddesses roaring to be treated like playthings for the male gaze. Too much? Get over it. None of this means BigJ feels the need to rush out and become a dominant like it's his duty as a man to control me, and the same goes for me, too, and I know I'm far from mousy. We fear that this will (and maybe already has) set a dangerous precedent for relationships, but only time will tell. It might seem like this is an overreaction, but this movie treats BDSM like it is something to be desired and never fully goes into the psychology of it all. If you want our honest opinion, do yourself a favor and watch people get blown up in a spectacular fashion in "Kingsman: The Secret Service," or at least go into "Fifty Shades" with a clear head...or just stay at home and watch porn.

My Rating: 3/10
BigJ's Rating: 3/10
IMDB's Rating: 4.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!


  1. Your bowl of soup analogy!!!!! Hahahahaa!!!

    Love this review. So many great points!

    1. Glad you liked it! We had fun writing it! :)

  2. I love your opinion and the way you express it! Agreed!:) A single erotic sentence from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is probably better than all 50sh' books altogether.