The problem with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it’s not the intolerable laugh-riot we were led to believe it would be. It also wasn’t the sexist war crime we were told to expect. This writer hasn’t read the book, because it’s Twilight fan fiction written by a 48-year-old woman; but if this is the guts of the story, then what exactly is all the fuss about?”
Imagine you took an extremely insecure but infinitely privileged person and forced him to manifest the whirlwind neuroses going on in his mind as something tangible – something for the world to see. Like a binding sexual contract. Or an expressed need for enforced dominance. Out of context, of course it’s going to come across strange, awkward and pretentious. But in context, there’s a very real, raw and authentic emotion being tapped into here. And while this movie falters at times, dipping into clunky dialogue and juvenile romantic tropes, it mostly does a fairly good job telling its story.
So a damaged, socially inept but nonetheless supremely successful and commanding billionaire, Jamie Dornan’s Christian Grey, meets and falls in love with a quiet, mousey but fiercely intelligent and defiant young lady. Yeah, we’ll buy that. Dakota Johnson does a good job infusing Anastasia Steele with wit, charm and determination. There are reasons to fall in love with her, and she comes across as someone with spine and a personality. Dornan is less immediately likeable as , but grows on you – if you can get past the stalking and creepy obsessive behaviour that dominates the first half of the movie. Honestly, his adolescent pursuit of her is probably this movie’s weakest part – but when you’re an unrelenting billionaire whose “tastes are very… singular” I guess there’s no impetus to behave like a mature adult.
The two leads have a good rapport and a decent amount of chemistry. There’s plenty of sharp banter and coy humour keeping the dialogue droll, and the sexual discourse is handled with enough levity, particularly by Johnson, to keep it grounded. Most of the time it feels like the audience are the ones being teased, with the movie giving knowing winks to all us perverts who know what we came here to see. Our mostly prudish outlook compels us to giggle and sneer (and plenty of people did in the press screening) at the relatively silly (at least, compared to the mainstream) sexual concepts the story deals with, but if you can buy into that part of the narrative, there’s a reasonably decent story (about some very indecent things) being told here.
Ana’s decision to try and submit to Grey makes sense, at least initially, given her lust for him and the life on offer. Yet, his distance and awkwardness make sense, given that these off-putting tastes he has seem to stem, ironically, from a powerful fear of rejection. There are real people here, albeit crudely drawn at times, and a genuine attempt to examine one of the more unusual sexual routes available to consenting adults.But for anyone imagining a true primer to the BDSM lifestyle, this might not do the trick. Though the movie has a judicious amount of nudity and the stars don’t skimp on sexual chemistry, the actual fetish quotient is threadbare. This is very much about the push-pull dynamic between a moderately kinky businessman and his nubile new girlfriend. Clearly, being a handsome billionaire with a pilot’s license seems to make these things a lot easier.