|Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in the tub|
"I don't make love. I fuck. Hard." -- Christian.
Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews handsome 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and eventually falls into a romance with him -- of sorts. Christian is a "dominant" who needs to be with a "submissive" and goes so far as to show Ana his s&m playroom. Ana turns out to be a virgin -- quite literally -- making her perhaps not the best person to be a happy candidate for the kink and fetish scene. Another problem is that Christian tells Ana that he's not really looking for a romance, doesn't like to be touched (without permission) and draws up a contract for her to sign detailing her rights and responsibilities as to being his submissive. Now most women not into the kink scene would run screaming into the night at this point, but dumb Ana (or not so dumb, remember Chris is a handsome billionaire) continues to see Chris, although she holds off on signing that contract. Clearly things will not go well for this couple ... Despite the erotic trappings, Fifty Shades of Gray is old-fashioned at its core, does nothing to explore the scene with any depth, and amounts to little more than a romantic fantasy crafted by the book's author, E. L. James, who is highly unlikely to be lusted after by a handsome billionaire. This is only the umpteenth movie to have a heroine falling for a guy who wants no entanglements (at least at first) and there's even a point when he tells her what amounts to "don't get hooked on me, baby!" That said, Fifty Shades of Grey is not as cheesy as it sounds, because the actors are quite good, the production gloss high, and the direction solid. I'll leave it to others to judge if this is a sad story of a man unable to commit due to his kinks, or a clueless woman who can't deal with the fact that the man she loves has kinks (what in a less enlightened era would be called "perversions") in the first place. Conventional at its heart, there is nothing that risky or edgy to the movie [it might have been fun to have Ana find Christian in bed with his hunky chauffeur.] While Dakota Johnson is attractive and appealing, by Hollywood standards she is comparatively plain, which may or may not be the point, but makes the sex scenes less sizzling than they are, perhaps, meant to be. No less than two sequels are being filmed even as I post.
Verdict: This might have worked better if it had been played as a wild and campy comedy. **1/2.