When literature student Anastasia Steele (one of the most obvious porno names ever) goes to interview the wealthy Christian Grey (his name is Christian and it's ironic because he's into sadomasochism and they don't fit together), as a favor to her best friend and roommate Kate Kavanagh, she encounters a beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating man (actually a pretentious, unlikable schmuck). The innocent and naïve Ana starts to realize she wants him, despite his enigmatic reserve and advice, she finds herself desperate to get close to him (because she's weak and stupid).
Over a year ago, I actually managed to read the entirety of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, and it’s one of the worst pieces of literature ever written. I never read the two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, and I refuse to read them. In February, when this came out in theaters, some friends and I went to see [Kingsman: The Secret Service](movie:713143), a fantastic film and currently my favorite film of the year. After that, they dragged me to watch this atrocious, steaming pile of regurgitated elephant manure. Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most depressing, abhorrent, horrendous, and downright reprehensible films I've ever seen, period.
50 Shades of Grey, admittedly, is a well-shot, well-lit film. Seamus McGarvey is one of the best cinematographers working today, having impressed me with his work on films such as Charlotte's Web, Marvel's The Avengers, [Godzilla](movie:45291), Anna Karenina, and Atonement. McGarvey does a fine job here, but it really is a shame to see his talents wasted lensing such garbage. The great Danny Elfman's musical score is also good, but it belongs in a completely different, much better film. Elfman's music plays out like this is the most romantic thing ever, when in actuality, this is the most non-romantic thing ever. And yes, there’s quite a bit of nudity in the film. I enjoy T&A as much as the next guy does, but to be perfectly honest, it wasn't enough to save this movie.
Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson and granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, does the absolute best she can as Anastasia Steele despite the truly awful script she's working off of. I wasn't a fan of her in Need for Speed, but she does a fine job here. She does have talent. However, the script clearly does not appreciate her talent.
Jamie Dornan is terrible as Christian Grey. Dornan is literally as compelling as a giant hunk of wood. Actually, I take that back. A giant hunk of wood has more personality and charisma than this guy. It also doesn't help that Grey is an incredibly unlikeable, pretentious, abusive jerk. Dornan and Johnson also have no chemistry at all. Also, regarding Anastasia Steele, her character is unbelievably weak and stupid. This is a character who constantly needs this rich, strong man to make her life happy. If E.L. James truly believes that real-life women are this stupid and weak, she needs to be lobotomized.
Even actors I really like, including Jennifer Ehle, Max Martini, Marcia Gay Harden, and Eloise Mumford, are so boring and bland. I don't blame them, however. I blame Sam Taylor-Johnson's lifeless, poor direction and the dismal screenplay. But do you want know what makes this worse? Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marvel actually wanted to make some changes from the source, which resulted in Taylor-Johnson and E.L. James clashing on set, James demanding that the story be exactly like the book. Once again, E.L. James needs to be lobotomized.
As I’ve said times before, the script is absolutely horrendous. The story is uninteresting and boring as sin, and the dialogue is amazingly, laughably bad.
"I'm fifty shades of f***ed up!"
I cannot believe that someone was paid to write this.
As a matter of fact, it actually does start off enjoyably bad (in a so-bad-it's-good sense), but as the film went on, that veneer quickly, and sadly, faded away to reveal a truly grotesque, depressing, unbelievably morbid core.
Now, Ana enjoys conventional, romantic sex. But when we get to the BDSM, that's when all hell broke loose for me. This movie is a story about how erotic and romantic domestic abuse is. This truly is, without exaggeration or hyperbole, a depiction of domestic abuse, patented, packaged, and sold to audiences around the world as erotica.
When we get to the BDSM, Ana clearly doesn't enjoy it. She hates the BDSM, very noticeably I may add. Not to mention, this film is a completely inaccurate portrayal of BDSM. Both parties need to be invested in order for sex to work. BDSM is about communication, consent, and pleasure for both parties involved. If I'm not invested in these two characters' personalities, then why in the world should I be invested in them getting it on in Christian's playroom?
Christian explicitly guilt-trips Ana into sex multiple times (on one occasion, he literally breaks into her apartment, I kid you not, to guilt-trip her into sex) and he even says the first time he takes Ana into his playroom that it has nothing to do with her enjoyment. It's all about his enjoyment. At the end of the movie, he says he wants to hurt her. He doesn't want to hurt her for pleasure. He wants to hurt her because he enjoys hurting her. I'm not making this up. He says this in the movie. E.L. James, did you do any research whatsoever? This is not BDSM in the slightest. If your pretentious, money-grubbing self is too lazy to look it up, then just watch Secretary (a film that's actually good).
To depict this as BDSM is irresponsible, disgraceful, and morally reprehensible on the parts of the filmmakers and on the part of E.L. James. By the way, going back to Ana not enjoying the BDSM, whenever we cut to her in the playroom doing that, she has a look of fear on her face. Not passion. Not even anticipation or even in a playful, teasing manner. It's fear. True, genuine fear. She's not enjoying the BDSM, but Christian doesn't care. He does it anyway.
Combine those two things: abuse for the sake of abuse with the only one getting pleasure out of it is the one actually causing the abuse and you have a depressing depiction of domestic abuse. The only reason Ana goes through with the, and I quote, "BDSM" is because she loves Christian. She loves this guy who tracks her through her phone, breaks into her apartment, gets angry when she says she's leaving town for a day even though he's going out for dinner with his ex-Dom (his old friend) at the same time as well as saying to her, "You can walk out of this at any time." But he refuses to let her walk.
Christian Grey is a truly terrible character. He's a contemptible human being and this is a very unhealthy relationship (quite the understatement) that the movie so sickeningly and repulsively wants the audience to find hopelessly romantic. Let's not forget the scene where Ana tearfully calls her mom on the phone. Scrap everything concerning sex and that scene was basically the "He didn't mean it, he’s not bad all the time" moment of denial that comes from someone in a dangerous relationship.
I'm not trying to belittle actual domestic abuse. It's a terrible thing, it really is. But the way that scene is filmed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and Seamus McGarvey, and the way Dakota Johnson plays it, makes it so painfully obvious that she's not the least bit happy and that she's not enjoying the BDSM that the movie wants to titillate audiences with. This film is basically trying to say, "Ana isn't enjoying this. But don't worry, audience members! Take your date to this movie on Valentine's Day and you'll get lucky!"
It wants to have its cake and eat it. It wants to portray its own warped, inaccurate, harmful version of BDSM and how traumatized it makes Ana, while simultaneously wanting to be titillating. I hate to break it to you, filmmakers, but you cannot have it both ways. There is only one scene where she's in control and that's the business meeting. But in the wider context of the film, it has zero bearing after the fact and is never referenced again, making it seem superfluous. This film isn't empowering to women. To say so is not only flat-out inaccurate but also morally irresponsible.
[Fifty Shades of Grey](movie:391697) is bar none the worst film of 2015 (my God, we're not even halfway through the year) and one of the worst films I've ever seen, period. It's one of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever had watching a movie. I wanted this to be so bad it's good. But it's not even that. It's just so bad. Fifty Shades of Grey is legitimate, traumatizing, and disturbing domestic abuse masquerading as romance and that's not even including its dangerous, inaccurate interpretation of BDSM, which is all about pain for the submissive.
Even if it didn't have those elements, the movie would be incredibly boring to sit through. The leads have no chemistry, the plot is dull, and Sam Taylor-Johnson directs with zero enthusiasm. And the fact that the two sequels to the book are being adapted for the screen since this horrible first installment made a lot of money at the box office makes me weep for humanity. Also, E.L. James wants to have more creative control over the sequels and wants to be the screenwriter for the sequels.
I want E.L. James' head on my kitchen table tomorrow morning.