|The lead actors & director at the Berlin Film Festival.
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So if you've read the middle-class middle-aged woman soft-porn fanfic that is FIFTY SHADES OF GREY your expectations for the movie are probably not high. Especially when you realise that the novelist, E L James, was very controlling (!) as to the adaptation, insisting on things like banal little email exchanges being kept verbatim. And once you note that it has an R rating, which means that the studio has effectively cut the balls off the already fairly mild sex scenes, one wonders what's left to play for.
The good news is that Sam Taylor-Johnson's movie is not terrible. As one would expect from a great visual artist, the movie looks sleek and beautifully designed, and has less of the crass consumer capitalist logo brandishing than the book. Moreover, despite or maybe because of the many rewrites, the dialogue scenes have a certain knowing charm. For in this version of FIFTY SHADES naive young college student Anastasia Steele has a little more bite to her. Whenever Christian Grey - the young, gorgeous billionaire sadist who tries to woo her into an S&M contract - says something cringe-inducingly cheesy or just downright odd - she skewers him with her deadpan disbelief. It's like she's stumbled into a movie and instantly starts to spoof it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that on occasions this movie almost becomes a great screwball comedy. And if you'd have taken out the tedious and desperately unsexy sex scenes, it would've come in at a more sensible 90 minutes and with its integrity intact.
The other genuinely surprising fact is that Dakota Johnson who has the unenviable task of playing the goofy Miss Steele is a very good actress. She pulls of shy and nervous, playful and witty, as well as tragically in love. I love her final scene in the film where she finally finds her boundaries and raises her voice. I'd love to see her in a decent romantic comedy of the kind they made in the 30s and 40s. This kid has a future. Unfortunately she leaves poor Jamie Dornan in the shade as Christian Grey - which may just be the simple side-effect of playing a character who with-holds so much of himself. I couldn't help thinking of his recent performance in the BBC serial killer drama The Fall in which he was far more charismatic, sexy and dangerous. We completely understood his magnetic gaze and why women would deliberately put themselves in danger to be with him. Why isn't any of that in THIS performance?
Overall then, a decent movie riddled with bad sex scenes. But that's not the fault of Sam Taylor-Johnson. I just don't understand why a studio buys such a novel in order to turn it into mush? I mean, seriously, there's more fetishistic sex in the average episode of Game of Thrones.
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY is rated R and has a running time of 125 minutes. The movie is on release pretty much everywhere except India where it opens on February 20th, South Korea where it opens on February 26th and Iraq where it opens on March 5th.