People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
The literary opus that is Fifty Shades of Grey was Twilight fan-fic that some “skilled” author was able to rearrange into a campy bit of mom-porn that brought BDSM cat-o-nine swinging into the American popular conscience. The film, perhaps as it should, looks like a softcore porn I would have recorded off of HBO before the internet existed.
At some point in the unending cycle of softcore BDSM, stilted dialogue, and the smug, unmoving face of Jamie Dornan I realized that sitting through Fifty Shades of Grey was equivalent to a night spent getting fleeced in a seedy, edge-of-town casino where there are no windows or clocks and all you can do is watch a paunchy dealer throw down cards and take your money. In the first thirty minutes of this film, as Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are meeting-cute and falling into some sort of contractually obligated “butt plug” situation, you think, this story has the potential of, if not being good, at least having a story that one could presumably follow along with. Narrative complications are introduced (Anastasia is a virgin! Christian doesn’t like romance!), characters are developed (Anastasia works at a hardware store!), and the idea of this being a movie with the traditional ideas of beginning, middle and end seems almost possible. Yet at perhaps the 20 minute mark after Christian asks Anastasia to sign a contract letting him keep her as his willing sex slave, Christian “rectifies the problem” of her lack of sexual experience and then the rest of the film is a bloated, overlong ode to the most boring relationship ever in existence. Nothing happens in this movie. It’s like a fictionalized version of The Bachelor, except instead of many women trying and failing to fuck a rich dude, it’s one woman and one man, and they pretty much like each other and aside from the dude’s interest in bondage, they have a pretty normal (i.e. slightly fucked-up relationship). You could describe this film as a series of vignettes where a woman gets more comfortable with the idea of being tied up and diddled, but every vignette follows the exact same cues – woman is excited to be in the company of rich man, rich man wants to tie woman up, woman doesn’t want to get tied up, man says relationship is a no go, woman seems sad, they have sex. Over and over and over again. It almost feels experimental, like a Sartre play where you’re stuck in this hellish cable television version of wealth and BDSM and just when you think something is going to happen, you get Groundhog’s Dayed and you’re right back at the grand piano trying not to let some guy tie you up. I could go on and on and on and on about the aspects of this film that fail (nearly everything – especially the awkward approach to representing BDSM in a more mainstream light) but I’ll end on a high note – Dakota Johnson. I don’t know if she’s ever been in anything else, but with the garbage dialogue and shit source material she’s given, she is still charming, sexy, and downright likable. Which makes it almost impossible to believe that she would fall for the wooden board with a face painted on it that is Jamie Dornan. The experience of watching Fifty Shades of Grey is equivalent to what I dream is Hell is like.
I don’t even know. Egregious nudity alone cannot save a movie.