Movie Review

Film Review: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015): Bad Casting & Wooden Dialogue

Jamie Dornan Dakota Johnson Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015) Film Review, a movie directed Sam Taylor-Johnson, starring Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden, Rachel Skarsten, Rita Ora, Dylan Neal, Luke Grimes, Jennifer Ehle, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Victor Rasuk, Anthony Konechny, and Andrew Airlie.

Fifty Shades of Grey was fifty shades of awful, or any other lame analogy that’s been tried and failed as much as this movie should have. Based on a novel that didn’t scream literary excellence in the first place, this movie baffles with dialogue so wooden, so incredibly stiff that not even Christopher Walken’s voice and Brad Pitt’s face could get you to want to pay attention.

This movie falls short in every area other than the soundtrack, so we might just as well get the positive out of the way now:

The choice of songs is good and the final credits are in fact the one time I’ve enjoyed myself most during the 125 minutes I’ll never get back, and that’s because the sounds of The Weekend, Beyonce and co were genuinely pleasing. That and the final credits were running, which meant the movie was over, which in turn added to my joy.

Genuinely, this is a movie that alters careers and not in a way that Django made us see Leo as the menacing scumbag for the first time or Moneyball showed the world that Jonah Hill can actually act. No, this is the kind of career makeover you don’t ask for. It’s an ‘after’ picture you don’t want anyone to see, or, more specifically, Jamie Dornan wouldn’t want anyone to see. This is a film that Dornan should have never touched. The original Christian Grey is meant to be a charmer. Sex personified. Electrifying, not just to women but men as well. Jamie Dornan is not that. The thing with strapping male movie stars is that they have a certain appeal that makes them shine even when they are roaming the streets in sloppy sweats and a hoodie. Dornan is donned in more expensive suits than Don Draper, yet he still falls well short from shining in any way. Yes, the casting of Christian Grey would always have been tricky and the portrayal of a fictitious character lauded as perfect is daunting. Yet it is exactly living up to such a task that separates movie stars from normal actors.

Dornan is so unconvincing as Christian Grey that it is hard to tell whether Dakota Johnson simply had the case of when a good team is faced with a poor team and performs worse than it should or whether she genuinely delivered a poor performance all on her own. At least with Johnson I enjoyed the scenes where she was alone or interacted with others and there was something about her that made me feel empathy for her, which is exactly what Anastasia Steele is meant to evoke in order for her to seduce Christian Grey, the richest and coldest man in the world, to whom empathy was once merely a word.

So while Johnson manages to embody the spirit of Anastasia, Dornan is just not up to the task. That being said, even the greatest of actors would have struggled to avert the train wreck that is Fifty Shades of Grey. While not a revelation, E.L. James’ novel did one thing right: It was an engaging and entertaining read. A guilty pleasure in the truest sense of the words: It had just the right ingredients to satisfy your short term needs, like that greasy burger you can’t say no to, even though you know you will regret it after. Fifty Shades of Grey sold millions of copies because it had charm, it had sex-appeal and it was naughty. It was the book that made you think twice about reading it in public places, yet this movie goes to great lengths to be as vanilla as possible – an issue that anyone who paid attention to its production could have seen coming from a mile away when it was announced that Dornan had actual contractual reassurances put in place for him to not have to show his penis.

Why one would sign on to play sex-god Christian Grey, unwilling to go all the way is baffling enough and while it’s not a good look for a leading man in such a high profile movie, it shines a more sobering light on the director: Coming off the critically acclaimed Nowhere Boy, a movie that grossed less than a tenth of what Fifty Shades of Grey grossed on the first day, Sam Taylor-Johnson must have known the stakes. Yet, rather than capturing the raw nature of the book, Taylor-Johnson churned out an uncreative romantic drama that pushes no boundaries and abuses its character’s staples:

Dakota Johnson’s attempt at the infamous, irresistible Anastasia Steele lip-bite seemed unnatural and it was overused. Dornan’s uttering of Grey’s catchphrase “Laters baby” is so cringe-worthy, it makes me want to call the date-doctor for an urgent how-to session.

‘Why waste time with character development, when everyone has already read the book anyway?’ seems to have been the prevailing thought, as any attempt of creating nuanced and charismatic characters, or creating any believable sexual tension, is dumped in favour of creating overly aesthetic scenarios of stale beauty, like a contract negotiation scene that is framed in such perfect synchrony as to satisfy any OCD itch, while most of us are left wondering why a contract negotiation is held in such an inconveniently dimly lit room.

Still, Taylor-Johnson seems to know that this isn’t exactly the film-making quality she is capable of, nor wants to be remembered for, as she has now left the franchise, allowing a new director to have a crack at righting the many wrongs.

Good luck with that, although whoever does dare to touch this has one thing going for them: It can’t get any worse.

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Amidu Njiemoun

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