Movie review: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ |

Movie review: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Dakota Johnson, left, and Jamie Dornan appear in a scene from "Fifty Shades of Grey."
AP | Universal Pictures



Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson

Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Max Martini, Victor Rasuk

Rated R, Drama, 125 minutes

Bondage and sadomasochism provide a backdrop for steamy romance in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The grey in question is Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan), a 27-year-old internet technology billionaire whose company seldom appears to need his input. Where Grey hides his 50 shades is anyone’s guess because he seems to display just one pale tone, while repeatedly referring to himself as dark and complex.

Grey becomes smitten with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who arrives to interview him for her college paper. Quicker than she can say “sweep me off my feet,” Grey and his gifts for her appear.

Whether he’s drawn to the spark and spunk of this virginal lass, or whether his true interest lies in making her the next “submissive” to his “dominant,” is a question that Anastasia attempts to answer in this first film of a presumed trilogy adapted from the best-selling novels by E. L. James.

The movie downplays the explicit sex scenes that apparently fascinated the book’s largely female readership, focusing on whether the love of a good woman is enough to heal a wounded man.

As the story continues Grey reveals several things. First, he is entirely capable of engaging in normal, romantic sex (he even appears to like it). Second, his feelings for Anastasia continue to grow. And third, his preference for nonemotional relationships, relying on bondage and domination, appears to be grossly overstated.

Jamie Dornan portrays Grey as more vulnerable than many romantic heroes. His character craves a close connection to Anastasia, and Dornan attempts to project his character’s intensity by tossing enigmatic stares in her direction.

Dornan creates little chemistry, but, while he lacks emotive capacity, Johnson (the 25-year-old daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) is all about feelings and reactions. She carries the film — no small feat given she must show us the interior dialogue written for Anastasia in the book.

Some critics rush to compare Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia with that of Kristen Stewart as Bella in “Twilight.” However, I found the only similarity is that both actresses portray the love object of seemingly impossible men. Rather than brood and pine, Anastasia’s optimism draws us into the battle of wills waged by her character.

Having read about the book rather than having actually read it, I can report the film focuses more on romance than on an exploration of love and sexuality, specifically, the male-female power struggle central to all couplings. Although the story ends on an unresolved note, it’s clear (at least to female viewers) where the next chapter is headed. Grey doesn’t stand a chance.

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