After the chaos of the Oscars last month, there were two films I missed out on actually writing up: Boyhood and Whiplash. So before I get started, I wanted to quickly address these two films. On Boyhood: while the impressive undertaking of filming the same cast across 12 years gave a sense of genuineness to the narrative, boring mundane life is still boring mundane life and if it weren’t for its unique filming practice no one would care. Whiplash, on the other hand, was a fantastic edge-of-your-seat thriller featuring nothing but jazz eisteddfods. Seriously, wow.
Anyhow, let’s get on to Fifty Shades of Grey. There’s something I never thought I’d say…
Now Showing this week is Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and based on the novel of the same name. Literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) has found herself between a rock and a hard place (ZING) after entering into a relationship with sexually deviant billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Christian’s kinky, dominating tendencies may prove to be too much for Anastasia as she struggles with entering into a binding, life changing contract with a man she has known for pretty much all of two seconds. And… yeah, that’s about it.
I’m going to come right out and say it: Fifty Shades of Grey is terrible, but, on the up side, it is hilariously terrible. Given it is a film that is all about making excuses for sex things to happen, that was hardly a surprise. Its lead characters are so shallow that they are essentially defined by sex. Dakota Johnson’s Anastasia is a walking clitoris, shaking with orgasmic pleasure at even the slightest touch to her cheek; while Jamie Dornan’s Christian has all the charisma of his abs, his every stance can be summarised as “I am sex-man”. They have absolutely no chemistry, constantly contradict their own character traits and unrealistically settle would be arguments so fast because they realise they need to get back to shagging. All of their dialogue together is crammed full (SWISH) of cringe worthy innuendos and half-arsed attempts at actual conflict to the point where it isn’t even dialogue any more, it’s filler. But it’s unashamedly filler and it brought tears of laughter to my eyes.
Now, I know a majority of the BDSM community are offended by this film’s portrayal of their sexuality and, to be honest, I can see why despite my admittedly limited knowledge of the culture. Both through Anastasia’s perspective and Christian’s very slight attempt at a back-story, his sexuality is treated like a mental illness. Anastasia is constantly asking “why must you be like this,” “why can’t you just be a normal person,” like someone ignorantly berating a person with depression. And on Christian’s side of things: his desires stem from being sexually abused as a minor, as well as those desires going well beyond the point of consent on some occasions. That’s not BDSM, that’s abuse. And for a film touting itself as a steamy, erotic, make-all-the-couples-go-home-and-Steele-their-Greys kind of film, that’s not really OK.
Those aspects of the film don’t really start to emerge until the latter quarter, where the film takes a huge downturn in the hilarity department and ends as unsatisfyingly as the post-film-sex must have for most of the movie-goers. Before that though, it’s all sunshine and dick jokes.
Fifty Shades of Grey toes the line of being-so-bad-it’s-good and only occasionally lands on the side of no-this-is-bad. If the film isn’t making you laugh at terribly unsubtle symbolism or shocking dialogue, you’re shocked wondering how anyone could find a naive woman in way over her head in an abusive relationship sexy. Nothing about it makes it a good film, but I sure had a good time watching it.
See you next time!