Study Break: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ review

fifty shades.jpg
Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

People may think many things when it comes to S&M, but the word “dull” probably isn’t one of them. Somehow, the erotic film “Fifty Shades of Grey,” directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, manages to combine the two almost flawlessly.

Girl meets boy. Boy wants to physically hurt girl to get his rocks off. Girl ends up bent over a table and whipped with a leather strap. Sounds at least somewhat interesting, right?


Let’s start from the bland beginning. Virginal graduate student, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), is forced to take her sick roommate’s place in interviewing Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a young handsome billionaire bachelor.

She falls—literally, falls—into his office and begins one very clumsy interview, but the second she bites her lip he has to have her chained in his “red room of pain.” Apparently, that’s the only action needed in order to snag a rich sadist boyfriend.

From there, Christian basically becomes a stalker and most of the time is centered around him intent on getting her to sign a contract saying she will be the submissive sex slave to his demanding dominant and hand over most of her free will. He follows Anastasia to work, the bar, her home and to Georgia while she’s visiting her mom—which was the most pointless scene in the entire film and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Typically, stalking would lead to the back of a police car and not in the pants of a clueless virgin, but that’s exactly what happens.

For a film adaptation known for its sex scenes even before release, there isn’t nearly enough emphasis on them. While they’re actually tasteful, they lack deep passion and, frankly, length. Each scene is barely a snippet into the BDSM lifestyle, which is undoubtedly the draw of the story.

Roughly twenty minutes total is not enough time to demonstrate how truly “fifty shades of fucked up” Christian claims to be. There should have been more—maybe in place of that ridiculous Georgia scene.

Disappointing sex aside, both Johnson and Dornan seem uncomfortable in their roles.

Johnson pulls off Anastasia’s vulnerability, but she shows no range of emotion except for when she’s naked. However, it’s hard to tell if her apprehension to being nude is just acting the part or Johnson’s personal insecurities.

Dornan’s take on Christian is just sad. He has the intense creepy I’m-going-to-lock-you-in-a-cage look down, but struggles with exuding the dark and tortured side his character calls for, especially in the red room. Dornan probably never even heard of a flogger until doing this movie and surely doesn’t know how to use one.

Also, his delivery of Christian’s infamous send off, “Laters, baby,” is cringe-inducing. Never have two words been uttered so awkwardly. Though, that may not be Dornan’s fault. The line itself is weird.

With the exception of the soundtrack and an amusing scene where Anastasia calls a formal meeting with Christian to discuss his sex contract, seriously asking the question, “What’s a butt plug?”, the film fails to rise up to the hype and comes off as just simply limp.

[star_rating themes=”flat”]

Amanda Rhine can be reached at [email protected] or @am_rhine on Twitter.