According to 2005’s Idiocracy, in the year 2505 a movie called Ass, featuring ninety minutes of a naked rear making rude noises, was the number one movie in America. In 2015 one of the most anticipated films of the year is based on erotic Twilight fanfiction. I’m starting to think that 500 years was too generous of a number.
As a film critic, I think it’s important to always try to find the positive in films, as well as the negative. With so much mediocrity out there though, sometimes that’s a bit tiresome. There are plenty of so-so films that don’t deserve to be thrown under the bus, but don’t have much going for them either. It’s kind of nice when a film comes along that fully deserves whatever wrath gets heaped upon it. It’s a good way to let off a little steam now and again.
Fifty Shades of Grey is an adaptation of the wildly popular “novel” written by E. L. James. It imagines a world where instead of a vampire, Twlight‘s Edward is actually a high-powered business man with an insatiable thirst for rough, kinky, sex. Bella seems to be pretty much the same person, except she is in college rather than high school, presumably so that all the dirty sex is legal. Enter Christian Grey (Jaimie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), the stand ins for the aforementioned copyright-entangled characters.
There is no plot here. Christian seduces young Anna into his world of high powered BDSM – something he was introduced to by the woman who abused him as a child. Anna falls for him hard, going from virgin to virtual sex slave in a matter of days. She’s not quite sure, though, if she’s ready to commit to his submissive demands in this mucked up relationship.
Where do I start in how terrible this movie is? Do I delve into the deeper horrors of the glorification of abusive relationships and lustful sex taking the place of love? Of how terrible the characters and what they do are? Or do I simply harp on how atrocious the acting, writing, and cinematography are? Either direction should be more than enough to warn you away from subjecting yourself to this utter garbage.
It is obvious that this story is James’ own fantasy played out on screen. She likes the idea of a powerful man taking control and introducing her to new things both pleasurable and terrifying. The psychological aspects are highly disturbing as Christian’s idea of a relationship is completely based on his desire to own a woman and make her do whatever he wants. Anna’s not much better as she falls for him, and allows him to take control almost immediately for no apparent reason other than the author wants to see what happens. It’s like when a teen boy makes his sister’s barbie dolls do inappropriate things to each other because he likes imagining it.
The script, apparently taken mostly word for word from the book, is awful. Lines that are supposed to carry some sort of heavy importance or emotional reaction elicited either audible eye-rolls or near-rollicking laughter from the audience. As things progress from just incredibly awkward to just bad, to incredibly disturbing, the tittering laughter grew more and more nervous and awkward itself – the only reaction possible to the horror-comedy on screen.
The acting about on par with what you would expect a mainstream porn flick to be. Dornan has two expressions ever on his supposedly ridiculously hot face – that of a lion eyeing a gazelle as he gazes at his woman as only a predator would, and pure boredom as he tries and fails to be convincingly interested in the devious activities of his character. It is painfully obvious that he wishes he could be doing anything but starring in this flick. Johnson tries so hard to be homely that it hurts as she bites her lip more often than Kristen Stewart in Twi… Oh, I see what you did there. She also apparently has the ability to rocket from zero to orgasm at the mere thought of a creepy dude touching her despite the fact that she has other guys who are both better looking and actually decent interested in her. Seriously, she doesn’t seem to care about his wealth and fame, doesn’t seem to think he looks attractive, yet Christian is the only guy she wants. For no. Reason. At. All.
The film is rife with subtle-not so subtle innuendos as well as a “secret” subtext that paints Anna as actually being the dominate one here. So clever. Nothing about this film is anything above awkwardly funny. Stuck with a limp script, the director seems desperate to do something, anything, with these characters to the point of injecting them with campy humor, but all that does is up the uncomfortable factor.
Okay, so what did we expect from erotic Twilight fan fiction – quality story and acting? Of course not. But of course the sex is steamy and pushes the boundaries into titillating territory, right? And that’s what the people really want, no?
Ah, but even the main selling point here fails to deliver. Yes, this is a hard R with plenty of boobs and butts – well actually the same boobs and butts multiple times – but that’s about it. There is nothing here to push things to any sort of new levels of scandal. It’s all rather boring and/or awkward. It’s like watching a softcore film of a woman being raped, and enjoying it more than her bored rapist. Does that sound appealing to you?
But what about all the kinky BDSM etc. that we were promised? It never goes beyond what someone’s soft and fluffy fantasy of what that world entails might paint in their mind. Her hands are bound with a silk tie and he puts an ice cube in her belly button. Oh my. Even when Christian does what is proclaimed to be his very worst, I’m confident that there are plenty of people who endured far more at the hands of a disciplinarian parent – and I don’t mean the kind who could be locked up for child abuse. Not that causing pain should be what someone wants in a romantic relationship, but that’s beside the point. The point is that this is hardly a scandalous movie despite what it thinks, nor is it even very sexually provacative. I have seen covers of Sports Illustrated more interesting than this film when it comes to that.
Bottom line, this film has nothing to deliver, no redeeming qualities, and no reasons to even make it worth being a guilty pleasure to watch alone at midnight. The acting is terrible. The writing is weak. The story is garbage. It’s unhealthy, it’s not sexy, it’s just pretty much awful all around. It is shameful that it was ever made and should be left alone, even by the curious, lest the sequel get greenlit.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“Why the #$*% do people like this?!”
My rating: One out of five hats
50 Shades of Grey kinks up 3,645 theaters, including IMAX, February 13