By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

Based on the best selling novel by E.L. James, Fifty Shades, the movie, feels rather tame considering all the hubbub the book has received.  Make no mistake; the movie does earn its R-rating. However,  at the same time, I couldn’t help, but wonder what was cut to keep it out of NC-17 territory.  Regardless, I seriously doubt that anything cut from the film would add much dimension or intrigue to the characters and their sexual exploits.  This film version of  Fifty Shades plays out like a high budget “Skinamax” soft core movie, but lacks a lot of passion and heat needed to make it a guilty pleasure. It also takes potentially interesting characters and doesn’t do anything all that interesting with them.

Dakota Johnson stars as Anastasia Steele, a shy and bookish college student whose world is forever changed after she encounters the enigmatic Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).  Filling in for her sick best friend Kate (Eloise Mumford), Ana has an appointment to interview the very private entrepreneur.  At their first meeting, the two share an instant attraction which leads to Grey pursuing the flattered, but hesitant Anastasia.  As Grey continues to woo her, her interest in him grows.  Grey eventually reveals that his female relationship interests are not of the conventional, romantic variety.  Even though she feels drawn to Christian, Anastasia never feels completely comfortable Grey’s interests in a beginning a dominant/submissive relationship.

With a screenplay written by Kelly Marcel, Sam Taylor-Johnson directs this style-heavy film that has a story of little substance and limited passion.  The characters have the potential of going to fascinating directions, but their development stagnates about halfway through.  The movie promises an intriguing and disturbing back story for Grey’s character, and some of this is revealed in the film, but the audience only gets a taste of this.  As for Anastasia Steele, her personality is adorable and lovable, but the development never goes beyond this.  The erotic content of the film never really goes to any groundbreaking places. The sex scenes are typical of soft core erotica, the BDSM scenes never shock, perturb or titillate.  The movie also has some highly laughable dialogue fitting of a bad soap opera.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan offer performances that range between exciting to flat.  With scant character development and dull writing with which to work, it’s not completely their fault.  The chemistry between these two leads is inconsistent.  In some moments, there is a genuine spark, but in others the passion feels forced.  Dakota does play wide- eyed virginal naivete well, but I would have loved to see a tad more range as her character matures in the story.   Dornan performs well as the cold and calculating business side of Grey, but is also somewhat cold in what should be hot and passionate scenes.  I just couldn’t buy Ana’s continued interest in Grey.  I can buy her fascination with his unconventional lifestyle, simply out of  pure curiosity, but not her falling for him.  His character is rather somber and monotonous.

That pretty much goes for most of the moments between the sex scenes and scenes of BDSM.  This story had the potential for enlightening the uninitiated with the world of BDSM, but merely teases and makes a mockery of such activities.  I suppose this film could serve as a beginners intro to that world, but the activities never go beyond the extreme-novice level.  As a romance story, there is little romantic about the movie which makes me question why the studio chose to release it on Valentine’s Day weekend.  For couples looking for something hot and spicy on their Valentine’s night, they are better off watching Cinemax.


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