Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey

Of course, I had to see this movie. I won't read the book, because there are limits to my curiosity, but a big budget Hollywood romance with riding crops was too much for me to ignore. I read before that the lead actors hated each other and that the writer of the book hated the director of the film, so I was prepared for an unwatchable mess, a train wreck of glorious misery. Instead, what i got was an awkward, misguided attempt at exploring the mind and heart of a sadist that perhaps rang true for someone but for me just felt hollow and dull.

I wrote previously about how bad dialogue rendered Lying Lips meaningless and weak; here, it renders the tension between the leads nonexistent. In part, yes, the characters/performers had no chemistry, but only the best of actors could have turned the cliche-ridden, unnatural, and irritatingly repetitive dialogue into anything resembling passion or romance. This film's best moments are contract negotiation, because at least then, there's some excuse for the stiffness (and honestly, they have some decent moments in there even in the writing, but it's fairly juvenile humor that breaks through).

The other piece of the bad performance puzzle is that the characters these actors were asked to portray were... stupid. I mean, they were not intelligent people. Nor realistic (Christian Grey is a fairly awful fantasy figure, rich and hiding a heart beneath a supposedly cold exterior--a cold exterior we never see). But mostly, this film portrays sad romantic cliches of uncommunicative partners behaving stupidly for the sake of cheap drama, which is one of my biggest pet peeves. Notably,

Anastasia (you can really feel the roots of this as fan fiction) demands at the end to feel the worst punishment Christian can dole out, then has the gall to be outraged at what it turns out to be; meanwhile, Christian has been showing signs throughout the movie of being dishonest with his claims that he would do nothing without her consent. He literally breaks into her apartment, sells her car, and stalks her when she flies 3000 miles away. But it's only when he belts her at her request that she has the gall to be outraged? It seems as if the writer has no concept of what consent is, nor the emotional content of submission or dominance.

Visually, the film is fairly slick, and there are moments where it has an impressive look to it. Christian's piano room (no idea what it's supposed to be) is framed and trifurcated in a striking way, and the contract negotiation took place in a room my friend called the "Michael Mann room" for a reason. But at other times, the slickness came off as trite and dull--it's clear they are avoiding showing anything actually risque during the sex scenes in a way that is almost offensively vanilla--or blatantly commercial. The latter is most evident as Christian's car pulls up in a forest highway and the camera pauses on the car in a manner that is right out of a car commercial. Other moments are defeated as the camera shakes and bobs its way up and down, awkwardly, for no discernible reason.

Overall, this is a film made for its hype alone, it feels like. No one seems much interested in making more it than that, going so far as to avoid any depth of emotion or imagery beyond a few cold cityscapes and clinically austere offices (how fittingly empty). It's a story of two emotionally stunted people bouncing off each other boringly, while the dialogue heavy handedly points you to the obvious conclusions, which are then never reached due to this film's being nothing more than an ephemeral pep rally for later installments and more money. it is loud spectacle courting bored milquetoasts for easy profits.

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