Wednesday 18 October 2017

Fifty Shades of Grey - Aoife Kelly's verdict

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
Dakota Johnson
Fifty Shades of Grey
Jamie Dornan

Not since Sex and the City 2 has such hype and hysteria amongst a (predominantly) female audience surrounded a movie’s release.

'Fifty Shades of Grey', Sam Taylor Johnson’s big screen adaptation of EL James best-selling erotic romance novel, is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

With 100 million copies of the trilogy sold worldwide, and 55,000 plus advance cinema ticket sales in Ireland, it’s a film that will break the box office no matter what the critics say.

Whether or not it deserves to is another matter. 

Taken on its own merit, the film is a reasonably successful romantic drama with an engaging performance from Dakota Johnson although it's hampered by a clunky, cheesy script, and an actor who looks like he'd rather be doing anything than the sex acts he's supposed to be enjoying on screen.

For the uninitiated, the plot revolves around naive 21-year-old English Literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who falls for 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) only to find a traditional romantic relationship is not on the agenda.

Grey is into BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism) and wants to be the dominant to her submissive. The drama centres around whether or not she’s prepared to sign a contract (literally) and if she does, to what extent she’s willing to submit to his desires.

Despite the BDSM angle, it’s a pretty straight forward romance, one born out of Twilight fan fiction, and it treads a similar path to Stephanie Meyers’ series - naive yet feisty female desires inaccessible male (vampire/BDSM aficionado) and vice versa.

Fans of the novel will be glad to know that the film adheres faithfully to the book. 

However, the myriad issues that shackle the novels - the awful prose and the protagonist’s infuriating internal dialogue ("My inner goddess is beside herself, hopping from foot to foot”)  to name but two – are mercifully avoided, for the most part, on the big screen.

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey
Jamie Dornan in 50 Shades of Grey

Unfortunately, it seems the dialogue is plucked straight from the novel, and it's laughable at times.

Much has been made of the BDSM angle and whilst EL James’ novel is coy in depicting the sex acts, Taylor Johnson doesn't shy away from depicting nudity. There's everything but a full frontal.

However, it's tastefully done. The sex scenes, apart from one, are certainly more vanilla than you might expect from an erotic romance hinged on BDSM - more warm breath on a cold window than blow the lid off steamy.

That’s not to say they’re not erotic. Dornan and Johnson have the requisite sexual chemistry and crackle on screen together.

Melanie's daughter Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey.
Melanie's daughter Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey.

Dornan's character is complex and he handles him adequately - until he's required to be a little violent, at which point he looks uncomfortable.

Johnson, meanwhile, manages to make an irritating character on paper multi-dimensional on screen. Her arc sees Ana evolve from naive and coy to feisty and self-assured and she makes this journey convincing, and engaging. 

Once you get past her incessant intakes of breath on even setting eyes on Christian, that is.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' is a faithful adaptation of a bad novel, and although it's not perfect, it rises above the novel's shortcomings.

Perhaps the peripheral characters will get more breathing room in the next installment.  Here they're no more than paper cut outs.

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