Saturday, February 28, 2015

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015)

Written by Kelly Marcel


Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. February 18, 2015 5:00PM



Back in the early days of cinema, Hollywood movies would freely feature racy themes involving mature subject matter. Once religious zealots began to use their influence to put pressure on the studios to change their wicked ways, the Hays Code was born, designed to censor any undesirable activities from the silver screen. The code was strictly enforced by 1934 and American films would only feature a sanitized world where there would be no morally objectionable content or language and kisses could not last more than three-seconds.

Thanks to provocative foreign films and US film makers pushing the boundaries, the Production Code finally came to an end by 1968 with a rating system taking it's place. This leads to cinema telling once forbidden stories, particularly involving sexuality. The X-rated "Midnight Cowboy" (although very tame by today's standards) about a male prostitute won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1969 and porn films like "Deep Throat" and "The Devil In Miss Jones" became very chic during the early 1970's.

Cinema has cooled down considerably since then as the sexiest thing you might see today at your local theater is some super-hero wrapped in a skin-tight suit. This is why I was thrilled with the prospect of a film being adapted from "Fifty Shades of Grey". This sexually drenched tale, based on the mega-selling novel by E.L. James, involves the kinky relationship between a domineering businessman and a somewhat compliant college student seemed to finally offer something for adults at the movies. This glossy film from director, Sam Taylor-Johnson disappoints as it may stimulate some from the waist down but it doesn't offer much to anyone from the neck up. The book is hardly revered as a great work of fiction but it's fans are quite vocal and rabid. The female team of Taylor-Johnson and writer, Kelly Marcel attempt to bring some substance to this light-weight erotica but there's only so much they can do with this material.

A mousy student, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is filling in for her ailing roommate to interview the young billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the college paper. Overwhelmed by how attractive he is, Ana is flustered as she attempts to ask him probing questions. Mr. Grey, amused and intrigued by the student, flusters her further by putting on the charm.

It doesn't seem likely their paths would cross again but the two meet cute at a hardware store where Anastasia works. On a mysterious errand to pick up ropes and other restraints, Ana takes this opportunity to ask him if he would agree to a photo shoot to accompany the article. Mr. Grey complies, which he uses as an opportunity to ask Ana out.

After they begin their affair, Anastasia is mesmerized by the expensive gifts and lavish trips that Christian bestows upon her. But she is warned he doesn't do relationships and has particular requirements in the bedroom. Actually, a bed isn't even involved as Mr. Grey introduces this young lady to his idea of ultimate pleasure; complete sexual submission. The rest of "Fifty Shades" focuses on the pushing of Anastasia's limits, not only with Christian's unusual carnal desires but also with his lack of romance or commitment.

Although "Fifty Shades" is being promoted to be about love and passion, it's message is clearly anti-romance. If Christian was broke and ugly, you can be sure that Anastasia wouldn't be conflicted over what to do about this unavailable, emotionally stunted man. Due to the subject matter, you would expect at least a certain amount of edginess and tension but the sexually inexperienced, Anastasia takes it all in stride, making the extreme bondage seem simply playful.

Ms Johnson shares in the appealing qualities of her famous acting parents, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith. She's quite a compelling presence although it's unfortunate the actress is forced to rely on the silly act of biting her lip to express all of Anastasia's jumbled emotions. As for our Mr. Grey, I'm unsure of what to make of Mr. Dornan. The Irish model/rocker is perfectly handsome and brooding but he isn't able to reveal much behind those sexy, dark eyes. Jennifer Ehle and Oscar-winner, Marcia Gay Harden appear briefly as the mothers of the lead characters but these talented actresses are pretty much wasted..

I can't say I enjoyed "Fifty Shades of Grey" and I certainly wasn't turned on. Perhaps it wasn't made with me in mind (in fact, I'm quite sure of that) but I can't imagine who this film was actually made for. Are there really a large number of women out there who literally want to be dominated and punished by a man? Sure, many people bought the book and the story is played off as a naughty, sexual fantasy but for some women, it's a brutal, unpleasant reality that they wish they could forget.