Interesting. Dark. Careful.
These are just a few of the many words that come to mind when I reflect on Sam Taylor-Johnson's adaptation of E.L. James' erotic bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.
Nearly drowned in an undeserving puddle of controversy, Taylor-Johnson's adaptation keeps many things close to the cuff, refusing to show all its cards as it takes audiences on a provocative (and somewhat painful) ride through the world of BDSM. And while the films mere existence has conjured up a wealth of argumentative bickering, the final result proves it all unwarranted.
The film centers on Anastasia Steele, a college a student who turns a chance encounter with billionaire Christian Grey into a cat-and-mouse game of seduction and sex. And while much of the discussion has been pointed towards the violent (albeit realistic) bedroom behavior that Grey demands, the film opts for a softer presentation that proves a bit too tame to fully satisfy those who are expecting sequences from the book to play out the same on the big screen.
Fans of the novel will likely find their minds muddled as the film appears to follow the book quite well, but somehow loses the excitement and intensity that made it so addicting. Apart from the carefully choreographed sex scenes, there's little else that pulls the audience into the world of Anastasia and Christian.
I do have to credit Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. Both rise above the material and give audiences seemingly relatable characters. And while their introductions are better than audience members necessarily need, their failure to truly grow and change throughout the course of the film is what prevents us from caring as to their fate. The progression of their relationship is faltered from start to finish as the plot gears more towards romantic fantasy than sexually charged billionaire and his submissive.
The controversial story is gone. The only remains of it include a room full of toys and a tense relationship that relies more on a contract than actual emotions. After two hours all you really get is a thorough introduction to "The Red Room of Pain" and an admittedly killer soundtrack that at times is too strong for the movie that it backs.
It isn't until the final minutes that we begin to see a change in Anastasia. By this time most everyone has checked out in regard to any level of actual plot advancement. I couldn't help but ponder when we would be introduced to anything remotely similar to character conflict; its quick rise during the final scene gave a quick glimpse into everything that the film could have been. Sure it leaves us with a slight interest in regard to what happens next, but it made me question why it took two hours to get there.
While the landscapes and artistic tones do show off a wide array of grey, the film itself opts to present only a few"¦keeping audiences wondering just what makes Anastasia and Christian's story so damn interesting.