Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Fifty Shades of Grey

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Is This Movie Really A Sign Of The Apocalypse? It'll have to hold us over until the next Magic Mike, I suppose.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: One and a half W. Somerset Maughams out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side."

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Tagline: "Mr. Grey will see you now."

Better Tagline: "No one gets away/Until they whip it."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: College senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) goes to interview mysterious billionaire bachelor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in her sick roommate's stead (is that allowed? Wouldn't the magazine send a back-up?), and it's all downhill from there. Before you can say, "Tie me kangaroo down, sport," the obsessed Christian is pressuring Ana into becoming his "submissive." At night, the ice weasels come.

"Critical" Analysis: Fifty Shades of Grey is an episode of Red Shoe Diaries with a major studio budget. It's a Lifetime movie with insider art pretensions. A Harlequin romance with anal play. Whatever analog you use, the movie is mostly garbage.

Though by all accounts, it's a fairly accurate representation of the E.L. James novel that went from online Twilight slash fiction to bedroom nightstands across suburbia. The biggest difference, as far as I can tell, is the elimination of 90 percent of the smut. I'm no Big City Studio Executive, but if 60 million people bought a book with dialogue like "his erection springs free" and scenes where a woman gets silver balls inserted in her hoo-ha, why would you deliver a movie less scandalous than your average straight-to-cable Emmanuelle sequel?

Having never read the book, I can't speak to the troublesome nature of Christian and Ana's "relationship" therein. I can tell you it has plenty of issues onscreen. Movie Christian is an aloof, possessive ("If you were mine, I'd take you across my knee") stalker. The *least* of his defects being the accommodations demanded from Ana when he himself is unwilling to change. Case in point: She's expected to sign a contract requiring her to be tied up and beaten for transgressions (and don't forget the codicil about anal fisting), yet he "doesn't do" hearts and flowers. What a catch.

But the real problem with the Fifty Shades of Grey movie isn't that dysfunction, or how tone-deaf the allegedly sexy dialogue is (Christian and Ana's conversation in Clayton's hardware store could have been lifted straight from the "Do you *do it* yourself?" scene in The 40-Year Old Virgin). Hell, it isn't even the apparent misrepresentation of the BDSM lifestyle. No, the real bummer is how laughably boring it is.

Granted, not even Lawrence Olivier could utter lines like "I'm 50 shades of fucked up" without eliciting spontaneous vomit laughter from movie audiences, and pointing out Dornan is no Olivier is like pointing out sulfuric acid is non-potable. Nice abs don't mitigate a complete lack of mystery or menace, which just makes the scenes in his Forbidden Closet of Mystery (or whatever the hell he calls it) that much more awkward.

The only person I feel bad for in this fiasco is Johnson. She delivers Ana's lines with humor and feeling, and brings depth to a depressingly shallow character. She's the only person who engaged me on any level, and her reward will be to watch her career Elizabeth Berkley'd over the course of this and two more movies. Sorry, kid.

Oh, the soundtrack is also pretty decent. Such is the nature of this terrible movie, however, that I'm going to download the tracks individually, from their respective artists, and prevent the Fifty Shades cover art from despoiling my iPod.

At the screening I attended, I sat between three young women enjoying a girls' night out and a fiftysomething man (there with his wife), the expression on his face reminiscent of a Depression-era gangster's as the bucket of cement hardened around his feet. By the end of the movie, the women were alternating chuckling and sitting in uncomfortable silence. The man was asleep.

In retrospect, the rest of this review was probably superfluous.


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