The film adaptation of E.L. James’ best-selling erotic fiction novel,“Fifty Shades of Grey” hit the box office over Valentine’s Day weekend. However, the movie has little to do with love, and is almost exclusively is about sex.
Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele – a frumpy, English-literature major who works at a hardware store and drives a beat-up Volkswagen. In an interview for her school newspaper, she meets the sexy and successful business tycoon Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan. This begins the typical story of boy-meets-girl, who proceeds to fill the screen with two hours of painfully boring dialogue and erotic sex.
Johnson and Dornan awkwardly fumble through their lines like two horny teenagers who attempt subtlety while exchanging heavy-handed innuendos. Their conversations could be mildly interesting, except both characters constantly undress one another with their eyes. It is not entirely the actors’ fault, however, the dialogue is laughably bad, and is so cringe-worthy viewers may feel the need to shower and then promptly take a vow of celibacy.
For an author who began writing erotic-fan-fiction based on characters of the “Twilight” series, this kind of dialogue is not particularly surprising. The plot is not much better, and viewers witness a cyclical narrative of the two characters pouting, flirting and having sex. It is the story of an emotionally abusive relationship.
What is more disconcerting is that the film depicts BDSM as an emotionally abusive form of intimacy. BDSM, which stands for “bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism” practiced in sexual encounters.
The film seems to equate sexual submission with emotional abuse. Grey – who is a textbook sociopath – stalks, controls and belittles Steele throughout the film. The film implies that individuals who are sexually dominant exercise this abusive behavior, which is untrue.
The film does not feature extensive references or depictions of BDSM outside of the erotic imagery. The film’s real conflict intends to show Steele experiencing sexual liberation while simultaneously suffering emotional abuse. BDSM is thrown in as an aesthetic for the sex scenes, and if its inclusion intended to add anything else to the narrative, it fails horribly.
The sex scenes themselves are quite boring. The film provides such little characterization that the sex becomes almost meaningless. Sexual intercourse in the film seems to represent little beyond pleasure. It is sex, for sex’s sake, which does no favors for a poorly developed story that sounds like it was written on a note by a sexually-frustrated teen.
The best part of the movie is the soundtrack. It features ambient songs that seamlessly augment the scenes, some of which are composed by renowned musician Danny Elfman, and includes songs from Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, and Sia.
”50 Shades of Grey” set a new record for the highest opening day gross for a domestic release in February, totaling $30 million, and currently sports a 27 percent freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The conclusion here: sex sells.