Mr. Grey had his peccadilloes to be sure but, if you were unaware of the kinky side of his love life, then either you’ve been living under a rock, or missed that day in health class.
Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. On screens around New England.
By Paul Dervis
When I say that Fifty Shades of Grey is unbelievable, I mean that in the truest sense of the word.
It is the ultimate tease. Never having read the book, I went into the theater expecting to see eroticism like never before displayed in a major motion picture. What a joke!
Let’s get the sex out of the way. The first half of the film didn’t have any. Sure, it flirted with the idea, but didn’t back it up with anything tangible. And when the ‘dirty’ scenes did finally come (pardon the expression), they were hardly fast and furious. It was no 9 1/2 Weeks, not to mention dozens of films with genuinely hotsy totsy scenes.
The sex interludes were intended to be shocking, or at least provocative, but the film failed to deliver on both counts. Mr. Grey had his peccadilloes to be sure, but if you were unaware of the kinky side of his love life, then either you’ve been living under a rock, or missed that day in health class.
This is S&M for beginners. There is a riveting french film about the subject matter made in 1975 called Maitresse, starring real actors like Gerard Depardieu and Bulle Ogier. Oh, and not only is that piece erotic, but, hey, it also has a storyline!
Fifty Shades of Grey is not saddled with either.
I’ll try here, however, to extract some sort of narrative from the film. Christian Grey (a name I am sure author E.L. James thinks is dripping with irony), is a boy billionaire with a tragic past. Think Richie Rich, the poor little rich boy, but with nowhere near the animation of that cartoon character. He has fifty expensive ties and fifty Armani suits but nary a girlfriend. You see, he can not unlock his sensitive side. Damned, oh yes, by that tragic past.
Enter Little Lulu, I mean Anastasia Steele. Is that a romance novel name, or what? She is an earnest English Lit major and a sweet virgin, to boot. And boy, does Christian want to do nasty little things to her. But wait, she wants more. She wants the one thing our angst-ridden hunk can’t give. What will become of this ‘troubled’ relationship?
James Dornan, as Grey, comes across more as Metrosexual than Macho. I guess this is a bit of a twist on the typical Harlequin Romance/bodice-ripper/macho image projected by the likes of Fabio. His performance is as wooden (again, pardon the expression) as one will see in a petrified forest. It actually reminded me of John Phillip Law’s granite turn in the title role of the Jacqueline Susanne-inspired fiasco of the sixties, The Love Machine. Only even more vapid.
Dakota Johnson (her real last name, I’m not even trying for a double entandre here) plays Anastasia as if she were twelve years old. It gave the movie a bit of a creepy feel. She wanted to covey the character’s innocence, but she goes too far.
Marcia Gay Harden is in this garbage as Christian’s mother and for all the world I couldn’t understand why she would lend her considerable talents to this project. They must have paid her well.
Sam Taylor-Johnson, whoever the heck she is, directed this. I can truthfully say she kept the camera steady and you could hear all the dialogue. Enough said
The novel Fifty Shades of Grey is a mega-international bestseller. How this piece of escapism separated itself from the countless other pieces of pulp fiction, however, is a mystery to me.
After all I’d heard about this film, I thought I’d need a cigarette after I saw it. Instead, I simply wanted to roll over and go to sleep.
Paul Dervis has been teaching drama in Canada at Algonquin College as well as the theatre conservatory Ottawa School of Speech & Drama for the past 15 years. Previously he ran theatre companies in Boston, New York, and Montreal. He has directed over 150 stage productions, receiving two dozen awards for his work. Paul has also directed six films, the most recent being 2011’s The Righteous Tithe.