'Fifty Shades of Grey' review: The awkward, unintentional comedy of 2015
Shouldn't a movie whose core subject matter is the racy, brow-raising world of BDSM be more ... exciting ... on any level? Unfortunately "Fifty Shades of Grey" (now in theaters) lacks the edge of so many other films in the realm of sexual exploration.
For a moment, forget the titillating and extreme aspects of "Fifty Shades" (aka, the only notable aspects of the infamous source material). If the more infamous facets of this movie were removed, all that would remain is a poorly directed, awkward and overall confusing awkward "romance" between two characters - with zero chemistry - in a movie that fails to present anything resembling a narrative.
First, and foremost, this is a "story" told about two non-characters. The only thing important, on a character level, about the protagonist is that she is a virgin, while the other thin character barely has much more character development, aside from him being a possessive stalker. He is the hunter and she is the prey. The movie makes a sad attempt at fleshing out their back stories - Grey's troubled mother died when he was a child and her parents are divorced ... but none of their personal history matters at all. Any character history is forgotten as quickly as it is lazily established.
To call these characters flat is an insult to two-dimensional beings. And they are incredibly, surprisingly boring. She drives a classic VW bug and likes to read books -- he likes to fly and is very powerful. She dresses like a librarian and he dresses like Tony Stark. That's pretty much summarizes their "character traits."
So it's no surprise these two flat placeholder characters have almost no chemistry together. The stilted nature of their obviously incompatible relationship only makes the movie more awkward. An alleged "romantic" drama between two characters with zero chemistry is doomed to failure.
Now, reintroduce the BDSM elements of "Fifty Shades" and this movie becomes next-level bad. The dialogue ranges from formulaic ("I don't do romance" -- repeated countless times) to outright ridiculous ("I don't make love. I f***.") to absolute bonkers ("Where have you been?" as a response to discovering Anastasia is a virgin). This horrible combination of uninspired writing and silly dialogue often results in a lot of unintentionally funny scenes. "Fifty Shades" has maybe two legitimate attempts at humor -- but somehow yields many more laugh-out loud moments, by way of poor writing and ridiculous situations. And these are not laughs with the movie -- these are laughs directed at this bizarre mess.
Circling all the way back to the BDSM elements of "Fifty Shades" (ie, the only reason this book was a best seller): this film adaptation has more in common with lame made-for-TV movies than bold explorations of sexuality. In the moments "Fifty Shades" could have separated itself from so many sexually-charged erotic dramas, it instead opts to be a watered-down version in a sad attempt to appeal to the masses. This movie screams its safe word at every opportunity and its filmmakers obliged -- resulting in a wasted opportunity for bold cinema.
In the end, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has all the cinematic quality of a Lifetime channel offering, except with the nudity of a "Skinamax" flick.
Final verdict: Forget this movie - see "Secretary," "Nymphomaniac," "9 1/2 Weeks" or any one of many sexually-based films that stand head and shoulders above this confusing, muddled and messy film adaptation.
"Fifty Shades of Grey' is now open in theaters nationwide and is rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language.