Based on the bestselling book, literature student Anastasia's life changes forever when she meets the mysterious Christian Grey, a rather tormented billionaire.
Dakota Johnson - Anastasia Steele
Jamie Dornan - Christian Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey may have started out as a piece of Twilight fan-fiction but now a Hollywood adaptation of the first book in the bestselling trilogy is playing to sold-out screens across the world. The film was always going to attract controversy considering the nature of the books, an erotic romance trilogy that centres on BDSM with a rather questionable standard of writing. However, you should never judge a film until you have seen it, and a film such as Fifty Shades of Grey certainly requires an open mind when you step into the screen. You may watch it and conclude that it 'glorifies abuse' agreeing with the various campaigners, and it is a film that is very much open to interpretation with your standing in life on various issues such as feminism also having an effect on the way you interpret the events on screen. However, if you go in with an open mind and prepared to take it seriously without any pre-judgements you may find yourself enthralled, engaged and enjoying it for it is a very well-made film that is also rather good!
When director Sam Taylor-Johnson took up the job of directing Fifty Shades of Grey she knew that it would be a challenge. The film could have easily gone down a parodic route and been an entire cringe-fest with plenty of talk about 'inner goddesses' and exclamations of 'oh my' coming out of Anastasia's mouth every minute. The only 'oh my' though that will be heard during the film will be coming out of the audience's mouths as the film is unexpectedly good, classy and tasteful. Taylor-Johnson really does deserve an applause taking the right approach with the material she had to work from. Gone are all the cringey references to 'hot fudge brownie sex' and 'inner goddesses', and instead the focus is on the relationship between Christian and Anastasia and the complications of their characters that affects their romance. Taylor-Johnson has turned Fifty Shades of Grey into a traditional Hollywood romance; two unlikely lovers fall into a passionate romance but a complication causes trouble, with the complication here being Christian's unsettling fetish for BDSM. Sure, this Hollywoodised approach may have pissed off writer EL James, who now wants to be in charge of the screenplays of the next films, but it was the right approach.
You can understand why James is angry though, in total there is around fifteen minutes of sex with only three scenes taking place in the Red Room meaning compared to the book the film is rather 'vanilla'. However, at the end of the day the people working on Fifty Shades need to make money, film is part of an industry and business after all, and so of course the sex had to be limited. When there are sex scenes on the screen they are very well done, escalating in intensity but staying within the 'vanilla' boundaries with a stylish approach. At no point, thank god, does the film ever feel cringey, and when there are moments of dialogue that mention the likes of 'anal fisting' it is done with purposeful comedic effect as some light relief to make it entertaining. It also helps that the film takes itself very seriously and so you are not laughing at it but with it. Of course it is based on a book about BDSM and so this aspect is addressed in the film, but claims that it glorifies abuse, in my opinion anyway, are utterly ridiculous. Anastasia is in control as much as Christian with the power to say no at any time. The last punishment scene only happens because she asked for it and is in no way glorifying but in fact unsettling, giving the film an unexpected raw edge that will leave you on a cliffhanger.
The film owes much of its success to Dakota Johnson. Jamie Dornan is great as Christian Grey giving his character the necessary intensity and mystery to draw you in, but this film is Johnson's show. She puts the 'steel' into Anastasia giving her character a compelling spiky resistance that she uses to tease and control Christian, whilst maintaining an air of vulnerability and innocence. There is more of a fight in Anastasia than you would have expected and Johnson really thrives on this. Both Christian and Anastasia are captivating characters and you really invest in their relationship which keeps you engaged throughout. The film does drag at times with much repetition and the dialogue certainly is often clunky, but their love story is gripping and the romantic portrayal of it works wonderfully. The soundtrack focuses on this romantic aspect with beautiful songs such as 'Love Me Like You Do' by Ellie Goulding adding an amorous touch. Style is something Taylor-Johnson is known for and so Fifty Shades looks great on screen with a sleek and classic look, with the talented cinematographer Seamus McGarvey ensuring it looks beautiful and elegant at all points.
Fifty Shades of Grey is not to everyone's taste and will forever be surrounded by controversy, however if you go in with an open mind you may find yourself enjoying it. There are flaws as it can be dull at times, is certainly too long and the dialogue could have been less clunky, but this may be due to the interventions of writer James who is not exactly known for writing dazzling dialogue. However, Johnson has done a brilliant job creating a romantic drama that will compel you with its intriguing central relationship between Johnson's fiery Anastasia and Dornan's enigmatic Christian. It is certainly worth a trip to the cinema being an unexpected surprise! I can't believe I am saying this but bring on the next film!