At The Movies: 50 Shades of Grey

I’ve often wondered about Hollywood’s interest in bondage. It turns up a lot in movies and TV shows. For years I wrote it off as just entertainment industry out-of-touch weirdness.

Until “50 Shades of Grey.”  A woman writing “Twilight” fan-fiction repurposes it into an S&M romance novel that goes on to become a trilogy of books that sell more than 70 million copies worldwide. Now who’s out of touch?

One assumes, probably correctly, that most of the people reading these books are women. Who are these women? All the women I know are into Jane Austen and Luke Bryan and “New Kids On The Block” reunion tours and Jimmy Fallon’s viral videos and pinterest and their pets and their children and coupons and knowing what celebrity is cheating on their spouse with another celebrity. If they’re into whips and chains, they’re keeping it a secret.

But alas, one of the burdens of this gig is having to keep up on that which is popular so when the movie version screened earlier this week I figured I’d better be there. I sat through those “Twilight” movies, I can sit through this.

fifty_shades_of_grey_australian_posterBased on the novel by E. L. James and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, “Fifty Shades of Grey” stars Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele, a college student majoring in English literature. As the film opens she’s been sent to interview young business tycoon Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) because her journalism major roommate is sick.

Wait. You can do that? It never occurred to me when I was in journalism school to have my roommate go out on interviews for me. All that potential party time wasted.

But I digress. After a very awkward interview, Ana goes back to her boring life, only to find Christian showering her with expensive gifts and basically stalking her. It turns out he’s interested in a relationship — but not your typical one. He’s a sadomasochist who wants Ana to be his submissive while he does anything and everything he wants to do — no questions asked.

I wondered why Ana would ever consider such a relationship, especially after seeing Christian’s “play room,” then it occurred to me: He’s rich and she just graduated with a degree in English literature. What future does she have?

Sorry if I’m not taking this seriously, but it’s hard to take anything about “Fifty Shades of Grey” seriously. This is a bad movie. Seriously bad. The dialogue is laughable. Jamie Dornan is the least convincing dominant you could possibly cast. Dakota Johnson goes from frumpy virgin to hotty vixen so fast it makes your head spin.

Neither character does anything to make you the least bit sympathetic to them. Each one is manipulating the other in their own way. They pretty much belong together because they’re so pathetic.

I suppose the set design was decent and the cinematography was good at times. The bondage sequences, when they finally get around to them, were not all that erotic. I have to wonder if all those women out there who enjoyed the fantasy of reading this book and letting their imaginations run wild will enjoy the stark reality of watching a woman stripped naked and being whipped and teased.

And if that isn’t enough to turn you off, the movie abruptly stops just as the couple have a crucial face-off in their relationship. I realize this is part of a trilogy but you still shouldn’t leave the audience without some feeling of closure when the first film ends.


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