Tuesday 20 February 2018

Bored to be wild: Fifty Shades of Grey is just brain-dead

Paul Whitington

How the thousands of writers who had that bondage romance novel sitting in the drawer gathering dust must have kicked (or possibly spanked?) themselves when they heard about 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.

Fifty Shades of Grey (18, 125mins) **

Originally self-published as an e-book by British author EL James in 2011, it sold more than 100 million copies worldwide after Vintage Books got their hands on it, and has made its author an absolute fortune. Now comes this hastily assembled film version, starring Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don, and Melanie Griffith) and Belfast actor Jamie Dornan.

Mr Dornan, who's surely in danger of being typecast as a maniac, follows his psychotic exploits in 'The Fall' by portraying Christian Grey, a super-rich Seattle entrepreneur whose need to be in control is, shall we say, worrying.

Fey student Anastasia Steele (Ms Johnson) first meets Grey when she goes to interview him for the college magazine. He's impeccably turned out, she's a bit of a mess, but Grey seems intrigued by the guileless young woman, and begins courting her.

If you can call it that, because from the very start Mr Grey makes it clear he's not your average Romeo. After patiently explaining that he does not "do love" or intimacy, Christian tells Anastasia that his tastes run to rarefied forms of S&M, and that he expects her to be his 'submissive'.

Ever the businessman, he even writes up a detailed contract and asks Anastasia to mull it over at her leisure. And instead of running for the hills while she has the chance, she starts arguing over the fine details, and ends up falling in love.

Actress Dakota Johnson, left, and actor Jamie Dornan pose for photographers on the red carpet for the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey at the 2015 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Actress Dakota Johnson, left, and actor Jamie Dornan pose for photographers on the red carpet for the world premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey at the 2015 Berlinale Film Festival in Berlin, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan star in Fifty Shades Of Grey
Melanie's daughter Dakota Johnson in 50 Shades of Grey.
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey

Meanwhile, Christian shows her around what he coyly refers to as his "play room", a tastefully decorated S&M paradise containing whips, chains, ropes and pulleys by the lorry load. Again, Anastasia is given every opportunity to get her coat and make her excuses, but instead asks her host to "enlighten" her. And by God he does.

'Fifty Shades of Grey' is the kind of adult cultural phenomenon that only comes along every decade or so. As you'll have heard, cinemas here, in the UK and in America are booked solid for the opening week, and groups of women will turn up in droves at their local multiplex expecting a harmless dose of communal titillation.

And that's pretty much what they'll get, but I hope they're less bored than I was.

Given the quality of its source, I'm not entirely sure a decent 'Fifty Shades' film was ever going to be possible, but maybe someone could have fashioned something a little less brain-dead than this.

Directed with zero imagination by Sam Taylor-Johnson, the film imports verbatim large chunks of the novel's dreadful dialogue, and the character of Christian Grey is so wooden and implausible he might as well have been played by a mannequin.

At times Mr Dornan makes it seem like he was, and it turns out the only interesting thing about Ms Johnson is her lineage. Her dithering drip of a character drove me crazy, and the bad news is she'll probably be back for a sequel.

Irish Independent

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