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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015; Rated Rated R)

Fifty Shades of Grey
D-
 

MOVIE INFORMATION

Fifty Shades of Grey

(2015; R)

In theaters:
Friday, 13 February 2015

Genre:
Drama, Romance

Director:
Sam Taylor-Johnson

Cast:
Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle

 More like three shades of “Meh.”

The long-awaited, highly anticipated, much-discussed film adaptation of the first segment of E L James’ inexplicably popular “Fifty Shades” trilogy is a tedious exercise in dramatic wheel-spinning that doesn’t have the courage to explore the darkest elements of the characters and doesn’t have the originality to stand on its own merits.

Basically, they made a lousy, mid-2000s-era Katherine Heigl romance with a handful of explicit sex scenes spliced throughout the familiar clichés.

This is the kind of movie where the lead character sits on the edge of the bed, never once looking at his lover as he finally reveals the deepest secret that explains who he is — and guess what, when he finally turns around, she’s been asleep all along.

Fidget and sigh.

Out of a sense of pop culture obligation, I read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was not particularly well written but at least had a certain pulpy, randy, page-turning quality. In the hands of director Sam Taylor-Johnson, the movie is tepid, slow-moving and maddeningly repetitive. How many times does Anastasia have to ask Christian why he won’t sleep in the same bed with her when he’s been telling her again and again AND AGAIN he doesn’t do romance?

For those who don’t know the story: Late-blooming college senior Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews the mysterious 20-something billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the school newspaper. Sparks are ignited and fireworks ensue — but Christian doesn’t believe in traditional romance. Instead, he wants Anastasia to sign a contract in which she will agree to be the “Submissive” and he will be the “Dominant.” From that point, it’s a constant tug of war, with Anastasia trying to reach Christian’s heart, and Christian trying to get Anastasia to sign the contract, with many an interlude in Christian’s “play room,” which is filled with bondage devices, whips and chains.

So it’s “Pretty Woman” with harnesses and spanking instead of a trip to Rodeo Drive.

The problems begin with the casting. Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) actually has a spark of talent, and she owns a couple of terrific moments, e.g., when Anastasia drunk-dials the hot-and-cold Christian and imitates his inconsistent treatment of her. Johnson is a pretty girl, though not a conventional movie-star beauty, which fits the character of Anastasia, an attractive but socially awkward and confidence-lacking bookworm who remains a virgin through her senior year in college.

Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey is an unmitigated disaster. His opening move in nearly every scene is to pose as if he just stepped out of the display window of a high-end men’s fashion store, and his line readings cover the gamut from balsa to oak to pine to mahogany. Whether Christian is saying, “Anastasia, you have a beautiful body,” “I don’t do romance,” or the instantly legendary, “I’m fifty shades of f—– up!,” it’s a shallow, one-note performance.

I know: Christian Grey is SUPPOSED to be a closed-off, robotic character who can find pleasure only when dominating young, impressionable women. But that seems only a few steps away from “American Psycho,” and yet I never believed this guy as the head of a multi-billion-dollar corporation and I certainly didn’t believe him in the scenes when he’s supposed to be getting his kicks by physically and emotionally humiliating Anastasia. He’s a boor and a bore.

There are a few moments that are pretty shocking for a mainstream American film, as when Anastasia matter-of-factly reads through the Dominant-Submissive contract out loud and makes Christian cross off a number of the more hardcore activities. And there’s certainly a lot of nudity.

But even as Christian keeps telling Ana he doesn’t do romance, “Fifty Shades of Grey” constantly references the Romantic Movie Playbook.

Let me count just some of the ways:

• Post-coital morning scene in which she wears his shirt and cooks him breakfast? Check.

• Comedic relief dinner scene where he takes her to meet his family? Check.

• Wisecracking, concerned roommate for her, and ne’er do well brother for him? Check.

• Helicopter ride? Check. (We also get a glider sequence as well. They’re taking flight, literally and metaphorically! Again!)

• He sends her thoughtful gifts with handwritten notes? Check.

• She gets up in the middle of the night and of course he’s awake, and they have a meaningful conversation? Check.

How is any of this edgy? How is any of this different from a hundred other movie romances?

On a few rare occasions, “Fifty Shades” reminds us we’re watching the story of a deeply disturbed man who will put his girlfriend over his knee and spank her like a child when she rolls her eyes at him — and a young woman who is smart, sweet, curious about the world, and well-loved by her family, and yet willingly enters into this man’s twisted world.

Then it’s time to get back to the conventional stuff. If only once Christian Grey had demonstrated even the slightest sense of personality. How can you have your own personal helicopter and not say to your date at some point, “GET TO THE CHOPPER!”

 
COMMENTS (5)
 
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Ginger Firessaid on Tuesday, March 03, 2015 11:09:18 PM
I didn't read the book. Went with a female friend to see what all the fuss was about.
I was actually shouting out lines right before they were said and nailed all of them. My friend one upped me by predicting the birth mother was a "crack whore", and within seconds Grey confirmed it. Maybe the book gets into it, but how is a four year old scarred for life by his crack mother? He states he's "been through a lot" by four and remembers all this? This leads him to whips? Nothing in the movie asserts him as "the dominate". It was like watching two kids play dress up having no clue what they were doing.

Maybe the book makes sense of all this.

Omg, even the biting of her lip was predictable.

Some women in the audience were crying!

This was like low mentality porn - for women.

It was as if a lonely, miserable, married house wife wrote a fantasy about the neighbor boy who mows the law, and has now been turned into a billionaire with a crack whore mom. It's like crack whore mom is a turn on - part of the fetish to make the neighbor boy a sympathetic bad boy.

I could maybe believe the scenario of an older, twisted, outwardly refined business man who has sex issues take a bumbling working class virgin under his perverted wing. She submits because she lacks self-esteem and eventually her grounded nature rises above the nonsense.

But a 20 yr old boy knows zero about sex. He doesn't know enough. The power of money is never quite understood to the young. The power of sex is never quite understood to the young.

I think back to a 90's movie called The Lover, also based on a book, where a young 16 year old French girl is seduced by an older business man who has his way with her. That movie is light years ahead of this designer dud mess.

Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks, mentally controlled by a dirty Mickey Rouke and a victim to the hot and depraved sexual underbelly of New York City is practically the Smithsonian compared to 50 Shades of "Eh".

But maybe I'm miscalculating my audience.

I think 50 Shades was intended for housewives who don't understand where the G spot is, or that AOL email addresses are no longer fashionable.

Busty Beautysaid on Sunday, March 01, 2015 5:40:02 PM
Dear Mr. Roeper,
Thank you for your succinctly well written review. I repeatedly find myself turning to your reviews for guidance on movie selections and you always impress and don't disappoint. Your wit and humour cut to the chase and spot on. I shook my head when trying to identify all that I didn't like about the film and ended up turning my friends to the direction of your review. We are still laughing aloud about your "Katharine Heigl" romance reference and about the romance list that follows which shows how formulaic this film really is. I agree that the film did not venture into a deeper, darker story line or character portrayal and development. To do so would have required courage and daring insight. This film is a let-down that is only as deep as the width of the material that made up the leading man's impeccable attire. It certainly lacked any real social commentary such as the second Twilight (groan) film that so bravely showed the economic plight of Jacob and his native buddies running around the woods half dressed. To think that those poor native boys had to do so because they didn't have enough money to buy shirts brings a tear to the eye. And speaking of romance, something that I find is never, ever addressed is this: as is with most wretched certain popular romance novels - why does the man always have to be a millionaire? And now being a millionaire is not enough - as with Christian Grey - he has to be a twenty -something billionaire! Seriously, how are wonderful regular men supposed to compete? The novels are bad enough, but this film is such an over-portrayal of style over substance that I am certain many will not bother to see the films of the next two books. I am eagerly awaiting not the next two films but your excellent reviews on them. Thank you once again, keep up the very enjoyable reviews. Becca

Michael La Rosasaid on Sunday, March 01, 2015 3:42:09 PM
I didn't read the boo, my wife did. She saw it with friends. I had no intention whatsoever of seeing it. But she wanted to see it again and wanted to bring me. So OK I go.

To be honest the movie was better than I thought it would be. Of course it's not Oscar material but I've many more worse movies that received good reviews than this. An open mind and with no big expectations the movie is not a bad movie. Everyone has to remember this is only a third of the story. As my wife noted they just covered the first book. I would say go and see it if you haven't. At least its a little night out and its a movie that's a little different.

Ron Alfanosaid on Saturday, February 21, 2015 11:21:15 AM
I loved this review. It made me laugh. I wanted to see/read if Roeper did a review of this. Didn't see one in the Sun-Time Movies section.
I've felt, since late January, that there might be something Off about this film. I was hoping for standard preview-run scenes, by the big three Networks. They obviously passed on it. All I ever saw was thru cable's OnDemand. Before I got to Roeper's site here, I went to the IMDB site. I wrote a long post/"review" of this movie.
I have done a bit of Sporadic reading of the book's chapters, due to all three are still available at a local Wal-Mart. I recently even read some of Chapter 11 in it, which is where the Dominant/Submissive contract comes in, according to how Ms. James wrote the book.
Fifty Shades is rather for a niche crowd, at best. And yet I know at this writing, it earned some $87.1 Mil at its opening weekend. Really? I do plan on seeing this movie, when it arrives on disk, and from a library --as Check-Out material.
I'm glad to have read Rich Roeper's review. Is this movie that good? Apparently not. And yet... I've recently read from an independent papars' film critic, the other two Fifty Shades books are being looked at, for the screen as well. Oh joy. So, there's be more of, as Roeper put it, "Fifty Shades of Meh." A D- from Roeper. Cool. Anything higher is being Extremely kind to this material.

Ruby said on Thursday, February 19, 2015 12:34:08 PM
I gotta hand it to you, the book was way better than the movie, but my all pending boyfriend had to point out all the out of focus shots, and the editing was too fast paced, one moment she is in her apartment the next thing I know they are in bed. And I'm like dude seriously, humans don't have intimacy so fast paced, so why should the editing. Now as far as the transitions go in the red room of fucking pain, let just say horrible. I honestly think Jamie Dornan was doing the Kristen Stewart, which is leaving his mouth open after every conversation, so that definitely ticked me off. But even though it made a little over 307 million dollars it shows how desperate audiences are for something new.

 
 

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