Is it possible to find the perfect guy to only find out there were hidden flaws beneath the surface? Can you overlook them long enough to find out what makes him tick or will you have to give up and move on? That’s part of the premise behind the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which was based on the popular book series that glued many to reading every last page. The movie takes similar cues from the first book, but it also seemed to lose some of the charm that was written on the page in the process.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” followed an innocent college student named Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) who was doing a favor for her sick best friend/roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) by driving to Seattle to interview billionaire businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the school newspaper. Unfortunately, Ana was totally unprepared when she met Christian who projected a sense of intensity that excited and freaked her out at the same time. After their brief first meeting, both of them were equally intrigued by each other. Christian decided to make the effort to visit Ana as she was eager to finish finals and for her college graduation. Christian initially pulled away when he thought that he had the chance of breaking Ana’s heart instead of making her happy as he revealed that he had too much baggage for her to handle. While on a night out with Kate, Ana gets too drunk and ended up calling Christian instead of a cab home. He showed that he was interested in Ana as he arrived to stop her friend Jose (Victor Rasuk) from making a pass at her. After that, Christian was smitten with Ana, but he started to reveal his personal and bedroom preferences to her in a way that could’ve sent her running for door. Ana decided to stay and started seeing different sides to Christian as she met his adopted mother Grace (Marcia Gay Harden), his brother Elliot (Luke Grimes) and his sister Mia (Rita Ora) on different occasions. As her relationship was Christian progressed, Ana realized that she was developing feelings for a man that might not truly be hers. She made the decision to visit her mother Carla (Jennifer Ehle) in Georgia to get some perspective, but she didn’t expect for Christian to show up there to visit her. As a product of one tense conversation, Ana was finally able to understand the full level of Christian’s dark side and she wasn’t fully sure what to make of it. Will she stay with someone who was unpredictable or leave before it was too late?
In terms of questions, the movie seemed to take a lot of the similar cues that the book did from start to finish based on its flat ending that indicated the follow-up movie will be coming sooner rather than later. The movie’s tone was similar to the book in a way that it tried to strike a balance between romance and unadulterated big screen porn where a woman willingly gave up control to a man who loved being in charge. Sure, the story’s extreme fantasy tone provided the same level of whimsy that was in the books, but it would’ve been nice that both formats showcased Ana’s resistance of being controlled a little more for the sake of argument. Viewers live in an age where women have the right to choose and do just about anything that they want to. The same should be said in the fictional world. Hopefully, the sequels will manage to showcase Ana’s own evolution rather than giving into the demands of her boyfriend. With that being said, the story itself provided the right amount of escape and fantasy for those looking to overlook the usual routine lives once they leave the theater. There was some romantic playful moments mixed in with the multiple moments of sex scenes that made the books a breezy read for many people. Sure, some of the more colorful scenes had to be left out in order to maintain an R rating, but the movie managed to capture many of the book’s essential moments. It would’ve been nice though for the supporting cast to get a little more screen time than they received, especially with Harden who was only in two brief scenes before being quickly rushed out to speed the story along. The only true sticking point was the movie’s flat ending that lacked a truly satisfactory conclusion to any story, which was a similar disappointment in the book. Luckily, many viewers were aware that the story will continue on. Let’s hope that the wait isn’t too long.
As for breakout performances, Johnson and Dornan led the pack since they were forced to carry the story on their shoulders the entire time. Johnson’s Ana was a young innocent woman who didn’t know that romance existed beyond the pages of her favorite books. She portrayed the incurable romantic as someone completely innocent and looking for Mr. Right before getting to know the man. Johnson was able to convey Ana’s evolution based on her first meeting with Christian as she went from afraid, nervous and somewhat excited by meeting someone totally different from what she was used to. She portrayed Ana with a hint of playful flirting that made her excel in the short-lived TV comedy “Ben and Kate.” Unfortunately, she wasn’t to fully explore this side of Ana for too long since she was also forced to confront the dark side of Ana’s feelings, which she’ll get to explore further in the next movie. Johnson’s best scene came towards the end when Ana was truly able to stand up to Christian and she outright rejected him for once. She showcased Ana’s anger and sadness over the man that she thought she loved when she should’ve steered clear of him. Dornan, on the other hand, had the challenging task of trying to credibly portray the fictional object of desire for many eager female readers and still provide an edge to Christian. He succeeded for the most part by making his version of Christian both playful and dangerous, even though many readers might object a little bit that he didn’t exactly physically fit the part. In the end, the book’s description of Christian was a different kind of fantasy and the movie provided an alternative that viewers could tangibly fantasize about. He made Christian someone who was both damaged and willing to inflict some of his own. His best scene came towards the end when he started to realize that he hurt the one person he wanted to protect. Dornan’s face was washed with sadness and disappointment over his actions, which made it even sadder when he wasn’t able to be forgiven, for now.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is currently in theaters. Check your listings for showtimes in your area.
Verdict: Johnson and Dornan capture some of the main characters’ charm from the book, but the rushed tone and uneven balance between sex and romance made it a little hard to fathom how the on-screen couple could last for two more movies.
Movie Score: 2 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)