Should you go see “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the steamy movie adaptation of the successful novel by E. L. James (who’s taking a beating in the press!)? The reviews are filtering into the web, and critics aren’t particularly revved up by the highly anticipated film.
The erotic story follows a young, handsome billionaire named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who lures young Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) into his dark web of kinky sex, much of which takes place in his red “playroom” stocked with sex toys.
My review is forthcoming, but as mentioned in this link roundup, for me it’s less about the sex and more about the dysfunctional relationship between the two leads. Here’s what other critics are saying about the sexy film:
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: “The movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is considerably better written than the book. It is also sort of classy-looking, in a generic, TV-ad-for-bath-oil way. Dakota Johnson, who plays the virgin English-literature major Anastasia Steele, and Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey, the wildly rich and sexually … particular business titan who wants Miss Steele in his playroom, are exceedingly attractive actors with enviably supple bodies well suited to nakedness. And really, under the circumstances, movable parts matter more than acting skills.”
Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s a slow build to the smutty bits, and one that’s disappointingly devoid of tension. Even so, the movie is, by definition, a stronger proposition than the book because it strips away the oodles of cringe-inducing descriptions and internal monologue that tip the text heavily toward self-parody.”
Justin Chang, Variety: “If the problem with too many literary adaptations is a failure to capture the author’s voice, then that shortcoming turns out to be the single greatest virtue of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ … Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have brought out a welcome element of cheeky, knowing humor that gradually recedes as the action plunges into darker, kinkier territory.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times: “It dabbles in romantic comedy and splashes around in melodrama, but the one thing it can’t be — the thing the novel so trashily and triumphantly is — is pornography.”
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “Going in, I expected either a camp hoot or a complete, slavishly faithful Submissive of a film, playing opposite the Dominant novel. Instead, ‘Fifty Shades’ turns out to be roughly as pretty good as the first ‘Twilight’ … appropriate, since James wrote ‘Fifty Shades’ as sexed-up, loinzapoppin’ fan fiction paying tribute to the ‘Twilight’ bestsellers.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Though it has its charms, including pleasing and well-matched actors Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as the star-crossed couple, these pleasures have little to do with the bondage-themed sexual encounters that enabled E.L. James’ badly written, unapologetically graphic trilogy of novels to sell a whopping 100 million copies in 52 languages worldwide.”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: “Like the character who inspired her, ‘Twilight’s’ Bella Swan, I expected Ana to be meek and featureless and utterly passive, a blank, empty vessel for readers’ and viewers’ sexual and romantic longings. And I suppose Ana is that, a little bit. But in the movie, she’s also funny and expressive and centered, not sapped of agency as it seemed she might be, not the timid, self-sacrificing mouse of so many melodramas of this ilk. Credit to Kelly Marcel, who wrote the screenplay, for that, and of course to Taylor-Johnson, who stages this beloved, closely held material with a respectful but not obsequious smile. But it’s Dakota Johnson, playing Anastasia, who really brings her to life.”
Alynda Wheat, People: “What the film gets spot-on is the essence of E.L. James’s wildly successful stab at ‘Twilight’ fan fiction: the frisson of excitement when naïve college senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) embarks on an affair with wealthy CEO Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). It’s too bad the movie also imports James’s atrociously written prose and bizarre sexual politics, but then, no one buys a ‘Fifty Shades’ ticket for the dialogue.”
Scott Mendelson, Forbes: Fifty Shades of Grey’ is exactly what it promises and little more. Johnson is pretty terrific while Dornan does what he can with the material he is given, and they do make a somewhat entertaining couple. The film is an explicit and unapologetic female escapist fantasy in a time when such things are few-and-far between in Hollywood. Sam Taylor-Johnson has crafted a gorgeous looking motion picture that looks grand without necessarily calling attention to itself.”
Rafer Guzman, Newsday: “The blame begins with James’ artless, witless source material, which began its literary life as a work of ‘Twilight’ fan fiction. That explains the story’s Northwest setting, Seattle, and the maddening way its adult characters behave like dopey teenagers. Grey, a vaguely defined ‘businessman,’ is an unconvincing mix of Regency aristocrat and high-school hunk, while Anastasia is another Bella Swan (‘Twilight’), though with even bigger daddy issues.”
Sara Stewart, New York Post: “‘Fifty Shades’ is not without its howlers. More than once, we find Christian mournfully playing the piano, the instrument that’s lazy shorthand for emotional depth. Anastasia’s constant refrain of ‘Why won’t you let me in?’ is a little too on the nose, aimed as it is at a guy who maintains a locked ‘playroom.’ And Christian’s world is Rich Guy 101, all private air travel, champagne and bespoke suits.”