Junk or Fine? You Decide
An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis
Has any movie elicited as many contradictory reactions as Fifty Shades of Grey? Determined to avoid making fools of themselves, critics write in circles to avoid admitting to liking or disliking the movie. Some protect themselves by dismissing it as soft porn; others object to dominator/submissive relationships; still more are upset that in this era of the ascendancy of women, the submissive partner is a cerebral woman.
In the South where evangelicals have roared orders to stay away from the film, theaters are packed (mostly with teenage girls). The opening weekend brought in $90,000,000. Many who would dismiss both the books and the movie as trash find themselves interested. So let’s take a look.
Anastasia Steel (Dakota Johnson) studies literature, works as a clerk in a hardware store, and subs for her roommate at Grey Enterprises where she works for its president, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The English major and the billionaire are immediately intrigued, each by the other. As they walk about, they pass Christian’s toys: cars, planes, helicopters, buildings, silent servants.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan set out to save the movie from the expected disaster. Johnson is credible as an English major. She makes it clear that she is uninterested in Chris’s toys but very curious about the man himself, and yes, she would like very much to become an experienced woman. First with delight in ordinary exploring, then with curiosity and pleasure in Chris’s secret pain palace, Johnson creates a curious, willing adventurer who also sets limits. In a movie that is hardly about brain power, she empowers her character with both a brain and humor. She makes Anastasia interesting and unpredictable.
Jamie Dornan has the impossible task of injecting personality and character into a hollow man whose power is money. Whether it is the writing or Dornan’s acting, Chris never comes alive. “I control everything; I’m used to getting my own way.” In his formal courtship to submission, he assures Ana she can leave whenever she wants. Free choice levels the playing field and saves the story from the porn pile. With his partner naked throughout, can we expect Chris to discard his blue jeans next time around?
In this culture of instant communication, will teenagers risk real trouble by playing games with cuffs and ropes? It’s not the sex that’s the problem in this era of ready availability. The real question: to what degree will bondage breach the mainstream? A British fireman has already urged young people not to play games with handcuffs lest they be left hanging there abandoned in a lockup by their own version of Christian Grey.
Certainty: you’ll fit somewhere on the long fluid line between enjoying and disliking this movie – perhaps midway in self-protective mockery – but the expected disaster is averted by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and a game Dakota Johnson. Their movie is a carefully crafted announcement that from now on, nothing on screen is off limits.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Title : Fifty Shades of Grey
Word count : 495
Distributor : Universal
Running time : 2:05
Rating : R