fifty shades of grey

The marketing campaign for the highly anticipated film version of E.L. James’s erotic romance says simply, “Curious?”…Unfortunately the only curiosity that should drag most discerning film lovers into the theater is seeing how the filmmakers removed so much of the original steam and made it so pervasively boring.

Regardless of whether the book was “literature” or smut, well written or not, there is no question millions around the world embraced the trilogy passionately. What in the books captured the imaginations of so many, who were formerly ignorant of the ins and outs of the world of BDSM and dominant/submissive sexual relationships, was the fact that sexually can take many forms while still allowing for deepening love and commitment. This is a powerful message and arguably freed fans to express themselves sexually in new ways without self judgment. All this is lost in the film.

The story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, how they meet and change each other, their sexual exploration, and their conflicts, is made not only vanilla, but has no fire. Dakota Johnson as Anastasia lacks the star power to explain Christian’s fascination. Lip biting is not an acting style. Jamie Dornan, a perfectly fine actor in TV’s The Fall, is slumming here, but he also does us no favors by mistaking inscrutability for smolder.

Female director Sam Taylor-Johnson inexplicably chooses very traditional camera angles. Due, one assumes, to MPAA requirements for ratings, as usual we see more breast than at a La Leche League convention, but only the occasional male bum cheek. There is little more critical than to say a third of the film had people laughing at dialogue, and the other two thirds wiggling in their seats, not from discomfort or innervation, but from boredom.


Would that the whole movie was as hot as Annie Lennox singing “I Put A Spell On You” as the film opens. That’s a bit like panning into a palatial mansion in the Pacific Palisades only to find the interior a ramshackle, dilapidated shell. She is almost reason to see the film, but then you could go on iTunes and buy it on its own for less money and save yourself the disappointment of two boring hours of non-orgasmic sex between two people about whom we never learn to care. Here’s hoping it only makes a ton of money opening weekend, and thereafter the viewing public says “laters, baby”…

1 out of 5 stars (for Annie Lennox)