Fifty Shades of Grey - Movie Review by Monte Yazzie

50 ShadesFifty Shades of Grey  

Dir: Sam Taylor-Johnson

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Luke Grimes, and Victor Rasuk


Fairy tale? Sexual awakening? Wish fulfillment? Whatever it may be E.L. James’ bestselling novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” has a devoted following filled with people who love and loathe the sexual charged relationship story. Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed the adoring John Lennon focused film “Nowhere Boy”, adapts James’ book mostly exact except for a decrease in the extensiveness of sex varieties explained in the novel. However, the film still has near twenty minutes of R-rated sexual content.  Though the film starts with promising potential, accommodated by a great performance from Dakota Johnson, “Fifty Shades of Grey” gets lost in the physical sensations and forgets about keeping the character and story compelling and dynamic.


Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), an English major on the verge of graduation, is tasked with conducting an interview for her roommate with a billionaire businessman named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Upon meeting each other they are immediately enamored with one another. Anastasia captivates Christian, he shows up at her work and pretends that it was coincidence. They go out for coffee and the attraction grows, but Christian unexpectedly leaves, telling Anastasia that he’s not the kind of guy she is looking for. They don’t stay apart for long as Anastasia is opened up to Christian’s world of dominating sexuality, one that incorporates contracts and control.


“Fifty Shades of Grey” is focused on sex while also attempting to convey something about the complicated nature of relationships. The problem with this film isn’t the sex, which is dialed way back from the graphic renditions depicted within the pages of the novel, but instead lies within the characters. As the desires of these two people become more complex and complicated so should the characters ambitions and choices. Instead the averting one-dimensional qualities of Christian Grey continue to undermine the growth of the characters and their courtship. Nothing seems to change between the characters, as Anastasia blossoms sexually and Christian guides her into unexplored territory the same scene of the two characters wanting to transition towards the next step is proposed but never taken. Anastasia is left indecisive and conflicted about Christian’s wants. It’s frustrating but understandable considering the film is a trilogy and room needs to be left for further examinations.  This aspect of narrative structure keeps the film from being nothing more than a waiting game for visual stimulation, and there is nothing wrong with that. The comic book movie, the horror film, every Michael Bay movie, have long been successful by offering nothing more than a visual experience with little worry about narrative cohesiveness.  With a movie released on Valentine’s Day weekend what else would you expect but a little romance, albeit a sensationalized romantic drama with hallmark movie sentiments topped with hard R-rated sexuality.


Dakota Johnson is quite good in the role of Anastasia, her plain yet still attractive appearance and somewhat naïve perspectives accommodate the development of the character. In one of the best scenes Anastasia is talking to her mom and is overcome by the unusual and confusing situation with Christian. Trying to withhold the emotions, a teary eyed Ms. Johnson simply listens and reacts. Unfortunately Jamie Dornan feels miscast. The authoritative and dominating side of the character that is also composed with elements of fear and to an extent pity never feels committed, which renders his mysterious eroticism mute.


While “Fifty Shades of Grey” tries to be a daring examination of sex and gender, it’s unfortunately overly formulaic and conventional. It ruminates from a romantic comedy into a place of melodrama and continues this structure after each sexual encounter. Though there are moments when the director and writer attempt to correlate deeper implications into the nature of sexuality, it is undermined by superficial trappings.  Though I wonder if I am being too critical of a film that looks to impose no more than two hours of playfulness in the safety of a movie theatre?


Monte’s Rating

2.00 out of 5.00