2 out of 4 stars
Does it even matter if Fifty Shades of Grey is a good movie?
It has a hot guy (Jamie Dornan), a pretty hot girl (Dakota Johnson), more sex toys than any shop on Baltimore’s notorious Block and it’s based on a E.L. James’ trilogy that’s attracted 100 million readers in 52 languages.
Millions of tickets have already been sold in advance of when it opens today. So does it really matter if it’s worth, you know, actually paying to see a movie about Christian Grey (Dornan) turning Anastasia Steele’s (Johnson) virginal body into his perverted playground?
Nope. Why? Because nowadays, hit books become hit movies. How good was the last Hunger Games movie — really? Katniss Everdeen could have spent two hours baking a cake and the movie would have still raked in hundreds of millions. Hollywood doesn’t have to come up with great films on its own any longer; it just has to buy the rights to a book and the money starts popping like corn.
It’s the same with Fifty Shades of Grey, which at times is more like Fifty Shades of Boring, which is unfortunate because the movie had so much promise, even without its literary foundation.
A 27-year-old billionaire who owns a mega-corporation becomes attracted to Anastasia, a recent college graduate who works part-time at a hardware store. Grey, who walks out of his penthouse apartment in Seattle looking like a GQ cover, could have any woman he wants.
But he only wants one — Anastasia, provided she signs a contract agreeing to spend her weekends letting him handcuff and flog her as he pleases as his “submissive” in his “Red Room of Pain.”
Dinner and movie? Nope, that’s not part of the deal for Anastasia, who Grey thinks should be incentivized by the thoughts of being ravaged by butt plugs and clamps. But hey, at least Anastasia gets to spend the night at Grey’s crib, even if she has to sleep in a separate room.
Who wouldn’t take that offer?
But the constant waiting to see if she’ll sign – or won’t sign – the contract isn’t enough to carry the movie, especially since Anastasia goes from virgin to enjoying being tied down and whipped in what seems like a matter of days, making the contract seem moot.
Since Christian and Anastasia couldn’t be further apart on the sexual relationship spectrum — he wants hardcore sex while she wants to make compassionate love — the movie is part romantic comedy, part melodrama. The audience laughed at least a half dozen times during the 118-minute film but was quiet during the sex scenes.
And boy are there sex scenes, as the movie is as close as Hollywood has come to making a box office porno since Boogie Nights (1997) or Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
There’s no bodily fluid, but there are plenty of breasts, nipples and butts to complement a quick shot of Dornan’s you-know-what. If the camera filmed about four inches lower on Johnson, you would have seen as much as her parents, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, did the day she was born.
Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel could have pushed the film’s limits further, but tapped the brakes when they could have plowed full speed ahead.
In the end, Fifty Shades of Grey is exactly what it’s supposed to be, yet nothing more, as too much is left to the imagination when it could have been explored.
But don’t worry. There’s plenty of time for that.
After all, Fifty Shades of Grey is a trilogy.
And this is only the first movie.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.