Saturday, June 20, 2015

I rent, I watch, I review: 50 Shades of Grey

I expected very little from renting "50 Shades of Grey" this weekend and I got even less than that, unfortunately. No perverse thrills. There isn't even much in the way of kinky sex. The movie holds the promise over your head that the mind of Christian Grey will be uncovered to reveal a dark, twisted, depraved man. In reality? He's just kinda emo, really. He happens to own a bunch of whips, chains, belts, cable wires, tape, etc that he uses for pleasure, but he personally doesn't appear to find much pleasure in it. There's promise that there's an interesting fellow behind Christian Grey, but the movie never makes a compelling case for him.

Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele (no relation to Lexington Steele). She's an English Lit student who interviews Grey for her school paper as the very rich Christian Grey has been picked to give a speech at her college's graduation. Steele apparently found her first meeting with Christian to be quite arousing, but you would be hard-pressed to discover that while watching their first scene together, as there's hardly any chemistry there. After their initial scene, Christian aggressively pursues Ana. But before they can officially begin an official relationship, Christian demands she signs a form of consent. This form basically allows Christian to perform all the kinky shit he wants to perform on her.

No chemistry between the leads isn't the only thing that makes the largely sanitized kinky sex a hard sell, Jamie Dornan's wooden performance is also a huge problem. He plays Christian Grey and he's really kind of small. Nothing about his stature suggests a powerful, dominant man. Sure, he's got the typical good looks, even a bit of a six pack. But unlike Christian Bale in "American Psycho," it's hard to buy that he's legitimately into some fucked up sex stuff. It's not his fault he's given several cringe-worthy lines of dialogue that he has to spew throughout the movie, but man, he just can't deliver. He seems completely devoid of a personality. Honestly, he seems kinda boring and stiff. What does Ana see in him exactly?

Dakota Johnson does the best she can, but the script doesn't allow her much freedom. Apparently, the only direction she's given is to bite her lip whenever she's near Christian. Seriously, she apparently bites her lip every five seconds. How do I know? Because Christian Grey says, "You're biting your lip" every five seconds.

Take away the promise of kinky sex and what you have is a very dull and practically plot-free romantic "drama". Even worse, the movie ends at the moment where things actually seem like they're about to get interesting. There's no drama, there's no building of tension. The climax that occurs towards the end feels like a giant tease. This is the moment where we find out just how messed up and depraved Christian is and he... whips Ana a few times. That's it? That's what this has been building towards? And we're given nothing that clues us in as to why Christian behaves like this.

Ana seems pretty down with most of the kinky sex Christian's into, she just wants a relationship. Christian wants a sex toy. He sees Ana as nothing more than a sex object and is stunned when he discovers he may have some feelings for her. But the movie never really goes anywhere. It beats around the bush when it comes to these character's emotions, but it never clutches onto anything substantial. It's one giant tease.

Sam Taylor-Johnson must be given some credit for crafting a film that sorta emulates that David Fincher look. She captures the clean, yet cold nature of Christian very well and I thought the movie had some compelling moments from a visual standpoint. But beyond that, I at least expected to have fun at the movie's ridiculousness, and there were a few moments that made me laugh. I found the movie to be watchable, but never ridiculous. Never that fun. It was watchable, but I was glad when it was over. It just never gets as weird as you'd hope. It's funny because there were dozens of films like this made in the early '90s. We've become so sanitized and squeamish around sex these days that "50 Shades of Grey" is promoted as some sort of kinky sex blockbuster. Weak.

Grade: D+

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