The opening scenes of Fifty Shades Of Grey are crafted for steam. The meet-cute between virginal student, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson), and millionaire businessman, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), is loaded with close ups, phallic symbols and corny dialogue. It’s giddy, romantic fantasy.

Christian is a ‘dominant’ (his play-room is complete with handcuffs, ropes and flagellators) but it’s outside the bedroom where the fantasy turns sour. Christian pursues Anastasia with disturbing persistence, isolating her from friends and family through a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and actress, Dakota Johnson, bring us close to Anastasia’s unease about being reduced to a ‘submissive’ sexual fantasy and, despite the lighthearted opening, it feels irresponsible to watch Fifty Shades Of Grey as the light entertainment viewers might expect.Fifty Shades Of Grey Dakota Johnson

Confused with Christian’s wider control issues, his dominance fantasies represent the ultimate extension of gender stereotypes (Christian wants sex, Anastasia wants a loving relationship). Yet the film’s writers appear unaware of the potential satire on their hands, instead doggedly pursuing the source material for titillation and romantic fantasy. Something that entirely fails.

The film’s sex is tame, softcore and cinematically dull, lacking both the boundary pushing confidence of Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and the sexual awakening of Blue Is The Warmest Colour. By confusing a romantic hero with a thinly veiled abuser, Fifty Shades Of Grey becomes a repetitive, depressing fantasy that lacks the courage to fully confront its sinister themes or to satirise the ridiculous stereotypes at its heart.

 

VERDICT: ✭ 1/5

 

Certificate: 18
Running Time: 125 minutes
Images: © Universal Pictures
UK Release Date: 13 February 2015

 

Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad

Later this week, I’ll be launching another Talking Point to discuss the character of Christian and his role as a romantic hero in greater depth. Stay tuned and join in the conversation.
 
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