A lot of people have been talking about Fifty Shades of Grey these past few weeks. Specifically, they’re talking about the problematic sexual politics of the film (and the book series on which it’s based). I’m not interested in those issues. I’m only interested in discussing Fifty Shades in purely cinematic terms. Judged on a purely cinematic basis, Fifty Shades of Grey is a bad movie. A bad, bad, very bad, awful, inexcusably stupid movie.
The film stars Dakota Johnson (The Social Network, 21 Jump Street) as Anastasia Steele, an English lit student who never studies yet somehow has plenty of time, money and an enormous apartment. She meets and falls for sociopath Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan - Once Upon a Time, The Fall) who, despite being only in his mid-twenties and living in Seattle, is inexplicably wealthier and more powerful than Donald Trump. Grey practices some implausible form of BDSM that even he can’t seem to make heads or tails of.
In this supposed “erotic romance,” the actors lack any form of chemistry. Not just sexual chemistry, all chemistry. Have you ever been watching a movie and laughed at the way a character’s job is depicted, because the filmmakers clearly have never had a real job? Fifty Shades feels like a movie by filmmakers who have never had sex, or a conversation, or any kind of human interaction.
The acting and dialogue aren’t the only problems. Danny Elfman (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride) should be criminally charged for the score. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy, Love You More) takes the blandest approach possible. The sex is never sexy, the racy bits are never dangerous, the attempts at humour colourless and dead.
But Fifty Shades’s biggest sin isn’t that it’s not sexy. It’s that it’s not entertaining. It’s boring, and it’s stupider than a block of wood. Every single moment of this film was an insult to my intelligence. It’s utterly deplorable in every way. Cinematically speaking, of course.
Published in Volume 69, Number 22 of The Uniter (February 25, 2015)