Fifty Shades short of being a decent film :
This Valentine’s Day weekend many couples celebrated with the erotic film, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which sold out three showings this past Saturday at our local AMC in Fashion Valley.
There has been a lot of hype around this film, especially with the book’s extensive fanbase, but it was a letdown. Both the book and the screenplay are considered low on the spectrum of good writing, and while the screenwriter had bad prose to work with, there was no literary climax and not enough “climaxes” to pay justice to the book.
The filmmakers did do some things correctly. A Danny Elfman score in a film is a win for anyone; the soundtrack of the film actually earned more positive reviews than the movie itself. The album features Beyoncé, Annie Lennox, Sia, and the Rolling Stones, and the music added body to the mostly lifeless scenes.
There were also many impressive visual features of the film. The costuming and location were amazing, although at times redundant. It was symbolic for most of Chrisian Grey’s house to be, well, gray, along with his office and his entire wardrobe. This contrasted with Anastasia Steele’s colorful clothing and warm apartment, and of course the infamous Red Room.
On an acting level, both Jamie Dornan as Grey and Dakota Johnson as Steele did well with what they were given, with Dornan able to reveal more layers, or “shades”, while Johnson was given a pretty one-sided character.
One major opposition to the film, and its print counterpart, is its romanticization of abusive relationships. Throughout the movie, the sex and related acts are all consented to and Steele seems to enjoy most of it.
The relationship outside of the sex, though severely underdeveloped, does relate Grey to his origins as a fan fiction Edward Cullen. Grey is guilty of stalking, intimidation, isolation, and numerous other forms of emotional abuse. The counterargument could be that he did outline in his contract what he was looking for—a contract Steele never signed physically though basically adhered to.
The crime may be a fatal lack of communication. Neither Grey nor Steele strove to accept the other for who they were and instead tried to force each other into their ideal partner. Needless to say, the relationship, whether abusive on Grey’s part or simply poisonous on Steele’s part, was ended. Although the ending of the movie wasn’t truly an “ending”, she said “no” and so ended her life with Grey, and with all the sins this movie commits, it does empower the victim who then leaves the relationship that was taking a toll on her life.
While many movies like “Fifty Shades of Grey” deviate from traditional storytelling because the subject matter deviates with the norm, it falls short of any plotline. Every moment is anticlimactic, as is the whole movie, finding no real peak of conflict. Then when it fades to black the audience is unsure if it is even the end.
While Grey has layers he continues to reveal throughout the story, he is still a flat character. And while the heroine, Steele, loses her virginity, undergoing the dynamic change akin to the protagonist of most films, she remains the same static character throughout the film. The screenwriter does try (and fails) to exemplify the change, with Steele’s best friend saying how she looks different.
Attempting to be the salacious, guilty pleasure romance the cult novel was, the film unintentionally fell into cheesy comedy with lines like Grey’s “Laters, babe.” The funniest scene is when the two leads negotiate the terms of Grey’s contract, which Steele never signs, and Steele says no to all manner of dirty deeds and goes on to list many which she was unfamiliar with and that some of the audience understood.
The book, although debasing the very name of literature with its middle school prose, does develop a relationship between the two. It shows both of their ability to learn from each other and Steele’s enjoyment of all the sexual acts, no matter how scandalous the book.
The film, however, does not develop this relationship at all; she fears him and abhors almost all the things he is capable of. Despite this, there is a dramatic scene where she reveals she is in love with him. The movie gives us no reason to believe she has fallen in love with him.
As someone who never completed the book nor really understood the excitement until recently, I had less room to be let down. Yet screenwriter Kelly Marce, who also wrote “Saving Mr. Banks,” found a way to disappoint.
With the loosely-termed “ending” of a victim overthrowing her tormentor, I believe there are a million ways they could have done this better, even with E. L. James’s work as source material.
Steele’s “no” could have been more of a celebrated victory than a somber separation. The best way to describe the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” would be that last word, gray. Gray as in colorless, featureless, dull. Fifty Shades of Dull.