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|Fifty Shades of Grey|
dir Sam Taylor-Johnson
scr Kelly Marcel
prd Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, EL James
with Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Rita Ora, Andrew Airlie, Dylan Neal
release US/UK 13.Feb.15
15/US Focus 2h05
Tie me up: Johnson and Dornan
BERLIN FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
The notorious EL James novel is mercifully given a sense of humour by screenwriter Marcel and director Taylor-Johnson, plus two lead actors who let the camera see behind their eyes. So even if the story and characters are ultimately rather simplistic, and the sex is oddly tame for a film about sadomasochism, it's rather entertaining.
English lit student Anastasia (Johnson) fills in for roommate Kate (Mumford) to interview Seattle's most eligible bachelor, billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan). And she instantly gets under his skin. He woos her with lavish gifts and promises of a life of pleasure as the submissive to his dominant. But she needs to sign a contract, and she's not so sure about this. As he becomes increasingly impatient, he begins to break his own rules, letting her into his private life. Naturally, he wants to punish her for this, in the most pleasurable way possible of course.
For a female protagonist, Ana is unusually steely, increasingly reluctant to play these control games. By standing up to Christian, she only increases his confusion. It's very cool that Ana so clearly has the upper hand despite Christian's insistence that he's calling the shots. On the other hand, the sex itself is so airbrushed that it never gets the blood flowing, as it were. And without any edge, the entire premise feels rather tepid.
Johnson is terrific as a young woman discovering surprising things about herself without losing her sense of what she wants. She also brings humour to every scene, as does Dornan, which helps them create some steamy chemistry in their innuendo-strewn dialog and smirking glances. Dornan has a trickier role with the undefined Christian. The script never offers a hint about what makes him tick, despite dropping clues about his nasty childhood and high-achieving adoptive family.
This refusal to explore why Christian wants to dominate Ana, or what he wants to achieve from this, leaves a gaping hole in the film, leaving it rather sudsy and simplistic. This also makes the "red room of pain" scenes oddly pointless, more like fantasy sequences from Red Shoe Diaries than romantic interplay. As things build to a head, the film also reveals that it has no intention of sorting out these nagging issues, ending on an open note designed to get pulses racing for films based on the following two novels. So while there's plenty to chew on, it feels undercooked.
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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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