Virgin student Anastasia Steel crosses paths with the mysterious, handsome but troubled young billionaire Christian Grey. Soon her life changes as she begins to fall for him and is pulled into his twisted darker side…
I never read the books, but my wife did and I once had to endure a cringe inducing yet hilarious evening of my mother reading selected paragraphs aloud. I learnt several things from glancing over the pages; firstly that the writing is terrible and secondly that the trilogy of novels notoriety for its erotic passages far outweighs any merit it might have, particularly as a work of supposed literature. The first book was released in 2011 and here we are in 2015 with the obligatory screen adaption that would follow any huge book success. Laughably I noticed the trailers advertising this as the ‘movie event of the year’, which considering there is a new Avengers, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Terminator out this summer, is a bit of a bold statement to make.
I was cautious when approaching the review of this film, given the subject matter in the books and was interested to see how they would tackle the raunchier scenes. Questions were raised as to how ‘full on’ or explicit they would handle the filming or how it would pass the BBFC rating without any cuts, which very surprisingly there were none. Entering the cinema it dawned on me that the next 125 minutes could go two ways, either the most dramatized porn film ever seen or a severe test of my patience, however I tried to keep an open mind whilst sitting amidst the pissed up middle aged fan girls.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan take the leads and play them with some worth, though the chemistry between them doesn’t seem to quite ignite as much as it should in a film primarily about unbridled passion. There’s plenty more on offer to the eye than the extended frames of both of them topless, lots of boob and bum and the carefully lined shots to avoid anything more than a hint of muff.
If the sex scenes weren’t enough then there is plenty of wealth porn displayed as we are chauffeured around in private jets, helicopters, gliders and fancy cars. Christian Grey exerts control over Anastasia not only mentally but monetarily, swinging his manhood and wallet around in full dominance mode. Clearly there is a twisted story as to why he is the way he is which will be explored further in the next two films (presumably) but if anyone truly acted this way, they’d be called an outright cunt and rightly told to do one. This poses as the main point of controversy, why is it that women seem to swoon so easily at the thought of this twat who abuses and torments Anastasia when in reality they should be running for the hills. It’s Twilight all over again (which the novel was originally a fan fiction spin of) with the moody love interest and helpless heroine caught up in it all.
However, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t enjoyable, albeit laughable at times. The dialogue is terrible having been mostly unaltered from the source (at the demand of the author E. L. James) with lines such as “I don’t make love, I fuck… hard” delivered with a straight face. There are some surprisingly comic moments and beautiful shots of Seattle and Vancouver. Director Sam Taylor Johnson has done well to bring the material to an audience without making it too seedy or too slushy instead treading a fine line with it’s own style using an array of blue and grey hues to the colour grading to suit it.
Most enjoyable (and memorable) is the soundtrack with some dark and haunting songs that fit the moody pace and sexy undertones and far removed from any cheesy porno funk. Whilst I’m all for the sex, it’s important to draw a line at rape and abuse, which sadly underlies much of the relationship between Christian and Anastasia. All in all it could have been a lot worse, but a lot better in places, yet I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed 50 Shades and disappointed somewhat that it felt constrained. While there are some shocking sex scenes, given the hype and controversy of the books I expected a hell of a lot worse. I’m not in any rush to read the novels but will be intrigued to see how the next film fairs.
Like the titular colour palette, 50 Shades sits comfortably between the black and white, neither as great or as bad as everyone expected it to be. Come for the hype, stay for the moody soundtrack and boob.
Words by Andrew ‘Mash’ Marshall