I consider myself to be a fan of romance. I read fairy tales, I like listening to Peter Gabriel, and I eat way too much chocolate on a daily basis. And the best thing about romance is that everyone can have their ideal fantasies of how it’s supposed to be. For me, big poofy dresses, strolls through Central Park, and an 80’s soundtrack are usually involved. But to each their own, as they say, which definitely applies to the population that finds a certain book, which is now a movie, the height of their romantic fantasies. And in case you haven’t realized which movie I am speaking of, just know that it uses a lot of grey. Tons, and tons of it. Fifty shades, you might even say.SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD
From the opening title sequence, which heavily features some generic B-roll footage of grey clouds, heavily rendered in some of the worst of iMovie’s built in effects, with Annie Lennox’s cover of “I Put A Spell On You” playing throughout, I knew I was in for a truly majestic, enchanting cinematic experience.
In case you’re not one of the hundred million people that purchased a copy (or illegally read) Fifty Shades of Grey, let me try and explain this “romantic epic” as best I can. Our lead heroine is Anastasia Steele, a mousey, down to earth, college student, sent to interview the mysterious young entrepreneur, Christian Grey. He is stereotypically handsome, rich, stylish, everything a person could want in a movie love interest. Well, except for one thing… but we’ll get to that in a bit.
The first forty or so minutes of this movie are completely devoted to Anastasia mysteriously bumping into Christian, and them somehow finding themselves completely and utterly enamored with each other (
even though they each know absolutely nothing about the other person). Now, in general movie terms, these fast developing romances are not a new concept. But in Fifty Shades, they take this instant attraction element to a whole new level of ridiculous. Rather than having the general “meet cute” of silly comments back and forth, or the hints at chemistry, we are shown some of the most forced motives of flirting humanly possible. From Christian suddenly showing up at Anastasia’s work place, to him buying her a random selection of first edition books she never mentioned ever wanting to own, the efforts that Mr. Grey puts into this relationship sure goes above and beyond the usual flowers and chocolates.
But if you thought these elements were ever so “charming” in the literary version, cinematically they are elevated to a whole new degree by the acting talents of Mr. Jamie Dornan. Never have I witnessed an individual who simultaneously tries so hard to be charismatic, and yet makes a piece of stale, week old toast look more interesting. From his “deceased puppy dog eyes,” to his cold delivery of the most basic of phrases – no, Jamie is not portraying any sort of character, but instead doing his best interpretation of a Ken doll. Plastic, cold, and bland to the touch.
Our heroine, played by newcomer Dakota Johnson, is not much better. Many critics have seemed impressed by her performance, but to this reviewer, I’m left baffled by that statement. If you’ve seen any interviews Ms. Johnson has done for the press tour of this film, you’ll know she comes off painfully awkward, which does work to her advantage when “playing” her role as Steele. But the problem (much like Twilight’s Bella/Kristen Stewart, whom Anastasia is based on) is that Johnson really isn’t acting, this is her real persona. Sure, she can cry on cue, and “vogue” for the camera, but that doesn’t mean she is deserving of any sort of praise.
But one thing that this cast and crew can be rewarded for is their honest attempts at making this once Twilight fan fiction, palatable. It’s clear to see that screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, was having the time of her life taking E.L.James questionable writing and making it into some sort of enjoyable movie going experience. Diving into the deepest levels of Lifetime movie cheese, Marcel succeeds in allowing the audience to see the silliness of the material, while still attempting to please the actual fanbase the franchise has. One scene, in which Anastasia drunk dials Christian, followed by her explaining his strange courtship behavior, both mocks and celebrates the movie, brilliantly.
We then arrive to the part of this review, I’m assuming, you’re all wondering about: The “steamy” scenes. As I mentioned, there is one tiny little thing that makes Mr. Grey different than most guys: He’s into BDSM. And because Grey is really supposed to be Twilight‘s Edward Cullen, his “interests” are viewed as scary and intimidating, yet something innocent Anastasia is curious to explore. This leads to the elements that have made this franchise so popular in the first place, and yet somehow, the movie completely misses the mark on how sex scenes themselves become, well, sexy. Maybe it is due to the painfully lackluster chemistry of our two leads, or the cringe worthy editing that plagues this entire movie, but every moment in Christian’s “Playroom” came off more like a poorly stylized advertisement for new leather goods, being sold at Old Navy.
I’d also like to draw your attention to one fact that has been incredibly overlooked by the majority of the public: Danny Elfman, movie music icon extraordinaire, composed the score of this film. Were there the zanny, memorable tunes of his Tim Burton past? No, not even close. But deep down I had wished that a Pee Wee’s Big Adventure styled number would have magically played in the background, when Christian revealed “his dark secret.” But, alas, Elfman’s score is mostly replaced by over the top covers of Beyonce’s sexy songs, but done by Beyonce herself, to make them more sexy, which in turn just made them not as sexy, because she was trying too hard to be sexy.
And thus, when the credits rolled, and the lights went up, I sat there in pure shock. This is the movie that has garnered so much hype? This is the thing that so many people are obsessed with? I guess a movie, in which a man proclaims he isn’t interested in “boyfriend” things, but clearly goes to romantic extremes, is totally worthy of the fanfare. I suppose a film, in which a wide-eyed girl changes into a slightly more “mature” wide-eyed girl, is truly considered a groundbreaking piece of cinema. And I also believe that unicorns live under the ocean, and eventually they will explode from their sparkly castle, and take me up to the moon to be with my alien race, who listen to Duran Duran albums and wear only chiffon.
In short, Fifty Shades of Grey is thus far, the greatest comedy of 2015. It goes to Mommy Dearest levels of pure insanity, with moments that’ll live in bizarre movie infamy for decades to come. Whether that be something you consider a positive or a negative, is up to you. But as for this reviewer, it’ll be yet another “cinematic classic” that’ll bring the laughs coming, for the rest of my movie going life. Fifty Shades of Unintentional Laughter? Yes, that sounds like a perfect title.