Based on the E.L. James’ popular book series that is based on Twilight fanfiction, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the bestselling sexy lit, detailing the intimate BDSM relationship between wealthy business mogul Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and the timid college senior, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). After Ana interviews him for a friend, he pursues her for an actual relationship – one where she must sign a contract and consent to being his “submissive” sex partner. The two become intertwined in a creepy, intense affair and fall in love.
The film has received national criticism for glorifying domestic abuse and sexual violence, so although I haven’t read the books, I paid close attention to the behavior in the movie. Christian Grey absolutely exemplifies emotionally abusive behavior. He stalks Ana to figure out where she lives, gets overprotective of her male friends, tells her how “palm-twitchingly” mad he would be when she ignores him, and follows her to Georgia when she asks for some personal space to visit her mother. However, when it comes to sexual violence, the film is clear of it. Everything they do together, Ana fully agrees to. Christian tells her that he will stop any time and asks her what she is and isn’t comfortable with. They negotiate the terms of their “contract,” he explains to her what certain things are, and reminds her of her safe words. Even in the last scene, which is notoriously the most violent, Ana specifically asks Christian to show her the worst of the worst and Christian tells her what he is going to do before he does it. This supposedly varies widely from the books, which are absolutely not “how-to” BDSM tutorials. However, the fact that he doesn’t sexually abuse her doesn’t make him boyfriend of the year. He’s still problematic and controlling over Ana.
“Fifty Shades” is not a good movie. At all. With sex being the main focus, the characters are underdeveloped and shallow. Christian is dark and mysterious, but his past is only slightly grazed. Ana is irritatingly boring and one dimensional. The film makes it hard to care for the characters, what is happening to them, or if they are going to wind up together. The plot revolves around whether or not Ana is going to sign the sex contract and not much else. The intimate moments are drawn out and as graphic as you can get with an R rating. Because the sex is the main attraction for most moviegoers, everything else falls short and it’s painfully obvious. The regular scenes are drawn out and snooze-inducing.
The actors seem to do the best they can with the bland characters written for them. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson manage to create a powerful intimacy with each other and make the story kind of believable. The dialogue is hokey in some parts, but the actors handle it well.
The film is rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior, graphic nudity and language.