50 Shades of Grey is the definition of pure hype. The book that the movie is based off of has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and is the highest selling erotic fiction novel of all time. The story of both the film and the book involves the relationship between Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), an intimidating billionaire, and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a college literature student. As part of the relationship, Christian Grey insists that Ana sign a contract that outlines the guidelines of a BDSM relationship, something that Ana is not sure she’s comfortable doing.
The movie has some reasonably decent cinematography, at least. It looks like a movie. The film also uses colors in an interesting manner, with grey definitely being utilized as a motif. None of the actors give particularly bad performances either. I guess as far as positive notes go, that’s about all I have. It’s noticeable that there was minimal effort put into the production of the film though. It doesn’t pay off all that much, but it’s refreshing to know that there was at least some sweat put into making this cash cow.
50 Shades of Grey’s biggest problem as a movie derives from too many different voices adjusting the film’s focus. Trying to get their say, we have the film studio, the producers, the director, the author, and the MPAA. As a result, we have a film split into three parts: One portion of the film is boring, one portion of the film is steamy, and one portion of the film is just plain creepy.
Depending on the age of the report, the number of minutes of sex scenes in 50 Shades of Grey has vastly differed. In early reports, 20 of the film’s 100 minutes were to be devoted to sex. Then, that number was lowered to 15. In the final cutting of the film, the full run-time has been pushed up 2 hours, but the length of the sex scenes have been reduced to 9 minutes. I can only imagine that these changes occurred because of the MPAA’s insistence. In order to make as much money as possible, the film needed to have an R-rating. However, as the MPAA is afraid of sex, there can only be a limited number of sex scenes while avoiding an NC-17 rating. As the original book falls under the category of ‘erotic fiction’, there is around 110 minutes of filler in this film. And nothing happens in that time. The same plot points and character struggles are repeated over and over again. This movie would have greatly benefitted from about 20-30 minutes being cut. This movie would have also greatly benefitted from a new script. And new source material.
9 minutes is still a lot of sex for a movie though. To put things into perspective, Steve McQueen’s NC-17 drama Shame (2011) had only 5 and a half (that movie had Michael Fassbender go full-frontal in the opening scene though). This movie definitely pushes the barriers between NC-17 and R. However, given that the film’s source material is porn, the sex scenes don’t serve any greater purpose, and end up feeling somewhat exploitative.
This movie also demonizes BDSM relationships. The film heavily implies throughout that those who participate in BDSM relationships have had sexual or other traumas occur to them as children. Christian Grey isn’t romantic or sexy, he’s abusive. He regularly makes Anastasia engage in acts that she is not comfortable with; most of the time Christian simply manipulates Ana into doing things under the pretense that she’ll ‘enjoy it’. He is unwilling to compromise for the sake of the relationship, saying that the contract is the only way that they can work. There is no aftercare in their relationship either. This isn’t BDSM, this is abuse. But the film doesn’t seem to have awareness of this fact, as it paints Christian Grey as a tormented man of chivalry. Money talks, I guess.
At the end of the day, this movie doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done better by other films. Turning a pornographic novel into an R-rated film just doesn’t work. I thought that the film was interesting, but not in the way that the filmmakers wanted me to find it interesting. Again, 50 Shades of Grey is pure hype. Everyone kind of recognizes this, too. Most of the ticket sales and excitement around this film seems to come out of curiosity towards it. I won’t see it for that reason though. It’s not really worth it. 3/10.