Fifty Shades of Grey. Ubiquitous. Read by millions the world over. Seemingly omnipresent.
Where once there was Harry Potter, Life of Pi and Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth,’ these days, there’s barely a commuter line the length and breadth of the country that’s not awash with copies of El James’ best seller.
I’ve not read the book and have no frame of reference whatsoever, but as with many bestsellers, it’s just a matter of time before they hit the big screen and considering Fifty Shades’ somewhat risque subject matter, I guess it was inevitable in this case.
Christian Grey is the lead, played by heart throb Jamie Dornan; a tycoon, billionaire businessman who knows what he wants and how to get it with a virtually non-negotiable set of contractual conditions. This said and accepting that no amount of back handers or favouritism is ever going to make this offering a contender for film of the year and entering into the spirit of things, with a Grey-like approach to ordered efficiency, I shall hereby contractually agree not to take easy pot-shots at the film’s somewhat glaring inadequacies or be drawn into inevitable negativity for the sake of it; particularly in light of the film’s surrounding hype.
So, what’s all the hype about then?
Perhaps most surprising of all is that Fifty Shades, if one digs deep enough beneath the surface gloss, bubblegum and preening nonsense, hides what could have been, in the right directorial and film company’s hands, an interesting and darkly troublesome idea for a story; the idea of a truly scarring and affecting corruption of innocence; and not what we got, a sort of surface level, fleeting dalliance with a slightly strange world. Fifty Shades really does get stuck half way between undercooked, romantic fiction and toned down erotica; equally unconvincing in both areas and consequently, it’s left flapping about in no-man’s land, somewhere between the two.
I couldn’t help thinking that the film could have benefitted from a bit more of the Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman in American Psycho) and less of the Christian (aptly named) Grey. I suppose the idea is that Grey, whose unorthodox childhood robbed him of his sexual innocence far sooner than he might have wanted or expected, is greatly affected by such early trials and tribulations and thus, combining that with his elevated status of power, wealth and the generally skewed sense of reality he has from his lofty Seattle perch, it’s no wonder that this sometimes charming yet slightly alarming character comes across as a bit (but crucially not nearly enough for the film’s sake) of a creepy weirdo.
With his ‘the sky’s the limit’ approach to life and the wooing of the ladies, Grey whisks the object of his desires, Anastasia, (played nicely enough by Dakota Johnson), off in a helicopter, up in a glider, around in one of his many cars and about town via his personal driver, Taylor. She lives the dream, but all the while, Grey is intent on owning her, contractually.
Will she succumb to his sexuality and uber-persuasive powers? Will she allow herself to sign away, quite literally, her life and body to his every whim and desire? These are the questions indeed and questions that nine or ten of the audience attending my particular screening will probably never know the answers to, seeing as they bolted for the door long before the film’s conclusion. I also imagine that they won’t be back for the sequel either. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey was left at a decidedly incomplete point in the storyline, primed for the next chapter.
I’ll not be back in any sort of rush for that one, but I hope, for the film and the film makers’ own good, that it delves a little deeper into the forbidden, twisted and generally macabre and either goes full pelt, unapologetically in that direction, or it loosens up a little and has a bit of dark, mischievous fun.
Fifty Shades of Grey really does take itself far too seriously and possesses neither the depth of plot nor intensity of action and content with which to back it up.
It will doubtless appeal through curiosity at the very least to those that have read the novel, but essentially, it’s half-baked, glossy, very forgettable nonsense.