Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

(Video on Demand, May 2015) My favourite vice is curiosity, and so there was no way I could stare at the Fifty Shades of Grey new entry in the video on-demand menu and not, eventually, succumb to the temptation of seeing what the fuss is about.  Take the hype, the controversies, the tut-tutting think-pieces away and focus on the film; what’s on screen?  As it turns out, not much.  There is about twenty minutes of plot in Fifty Shades of Grey, stretched over an oft-exasperating two hours.  The story couldn’t be more basic if it tried: a young innocent girl meeting a rich handsome man, and then the push-and-pull of “will they?”  Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan do the best they can with their wish-fulfilment characters, and they don’t really embarrass themselves.  Obviously, the domination/submission aspect of the story is the big avowed draw here, as the protagonist quickly get in bed and then spend the rest of the film arguing about their different conceptions of their relationship.  At best, Fifty Shades of Grey can be funny, skillful and moderately intriguing (the boardroom negotiation scene is as good as it gets, although I kept wondering how they could read anything in that low light.)  Alas, those flashes of interest are rare: Much of the film is a fairly dull affair not just despite the subject matter, but because of it.  As with most sexual fetishes, domination games tend to feel silly or boring if you’re not tempted by them, and so Fifty Shades of Grey’s interest grinds to a halt every time the characters step into The Red Room, or as artificial complications just push the ending further away.  The film does get extra points for an unexpected finale by the usual romantic standards, although that’s mitigated considerably by the knowledge that this is just the first film in a trilogy.  From what I read from the book (which wasn’t much, exasperated as I was with the writing), the film seems to be making the best out of weak material –proof that Hollywood doesn’t always ruin things.

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