Fifty Shades of Grey ★½

First things first: I know nothing about the book, I know nothing about the director, and I didn't even notice this film when it came out. There, my ignorance on display.

My problem with this kind of picture is that intimacy is one of the hardest, if not the hardest, thing to get right in cinema. It's not a matter of showing off genitals, it's a matter of chemistry. You must find the right actors, you have to understand how the choice of words and the delivering of those words come into play, you have to balance artificiality with natural instincts. Eyes closed, you can feel it coming from the screen when it's done right. A sex scene to me is only interesting when it conveys intimacy, otherwise is soft porn for the masses. Even a violation of that intimacy can be a worthy subject, but it takes an even more apt hand to impress me with that.

Fifty Shades of Grey fails on intimacy from the very beginning. The stiffness of the dialogues makes it impossible to connect with the events, and the actors play the mutual attraction with such coldness that it's equally impossible to accept the sex scenes as the power struggle they aim to be. I can fake my interest in a rich guy with sadomasochistic tendencies, but I cannot fake my interest in a bonding that never feels possible.

Moreover, it doesn't help framing everything in an expensive music video style, unless you want to highlight the artificiality of it. Artificiality comes with a cost, though, and it's not enough to toy with smooth lights to build it. Even artificiality craves for believability, and from the helicopter drive to the spotless rooms lushly decorated, everything looks simply lifted from a trendy furniture catalogue.

Ōshima Nagisa and Bernardo Bertolucci paved the way for portrayals of sex and intimacy beyond trite erotic fantasies. They grabbed the fantasies and pull them on the screen without masks of fake prudery. Nobody has followed, and Fifty Shades of Grey surely hasn't learned their lesson.