You want hearts and flowers? That’s not something I know.
Plot: Literature student Anastasia Steele’s life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.
I honestly did not expect I would give this movie something higher than a 5. It was a movie doomed from the start: I honestly don’t think even J.K. Rowling would even be able to write a viable screenplay for this series. The books were written mostly for needy old women (and a surprising amount of young females got on board too). Whatever the reason, E.L. James’ books of an abusive relationship between two people went viral and inexplicably became the craze of 2013/2014. Regardless of the material, the atrocious writing was the most offensive. I was even more unimpressed when I heard about the film rights being sold, extremely uninterested about the casting and the drama surrounding Charlie Hunham leaving the cast (a wise decision on his behalf), and the subsequent choosing of Jamie Dornan.
Yet, for all this apathy I felt I still watched the movie. Let’s call it FOMO because I just wanted to see what the people were talking about.
The movie is really, really, really bad. Yet, it could actually have been worse. I could finish the movie, surprising because I stopped reading the books near to the end of the first novel – the bad writing was just too painful.
Let’s first discuss the things that actually worked in this movie:
- The first half hour can be listed as the better quarter of the two hour long movie. It is still fairly bad, but it comes across as a developing love story between a powerful man and a naïve college graduate. No one can hate on it or claim it is the first time this avenue has been explored on screen. It is cheesy and badly directed and Jamie Dornan is stilted and uncharming, but up to that point the movie isn’t overly offensive.
- Dakota Johnson did a good job with the material she had available. Her casting initially seemed like strings being pulled by an influential mommy and daddy, thus it came as the biggest surprise that she was the only thing that worked in here. Her performance stands out above the entire cast. She manages to inject humor into scenes I would not have thought possible by such a new actress. She is able to be charming and funny and save so many of the scenes were Dornan stands as a statue. I really liked the drunk dialing scene. Everyone is very insistent that this is the best scene in the movie and I agree completely. It was incredibly funny.
- The set design is beautiful and Christian Grey’s apartment is really a beautiful and appropriate setting for an extremely rich man.
- I love Anastasia’s Bug. I’ve always loved those cars.
- The music score – there were some odd choices but overall it worked.
- This might be seen as a negative for fans of the literature, but one of the things this movie got right was displaying that this relationship is ABUSIVE. Regardless of Christian Grey’s sexual preferences, he is abusive outside of the bedroom and borders on being a stalker. His jealousy and need to control Anastasia is terrifying, and that menacing aura is something Dornan actually conveyed.
- The end of the movie where Anastasia walks out: This should be the END of their relationship, not another two books. This is where the story should end: Anastasia realizing that this man is dangerous and insane and needs to be avoided at all costs.
Okay, the list that didn’t work is quite long:
- Jamie Dornan. Erm. I have never seen a more uncharismatic performance in my life. I do agree that Charlie Hunham wouldn’t have worked either, but Dornan was their alternative? His acting is stilted and cold. It is obvious that he doesn’t want to be there. It is very obvious in places that he is pained to be taking part. It is very obvious that he doesn’t like his costar. It’s obvious that his acting is atrocious.
- The chemistry between Johnson and Dornan. It is non-existent. They do not come across as two people who would even look at each other in real life. I think if you plan to bring a movie with so much sex vibes to the big screen it is probably the most essential thing to find two people who look like they would bang each other. I felt sorry for Johnson because it looks like she genuinely hates it when he touches her.
- The supporting cast is as bad as the main cast. The producers couldn’t even get that right. The casting for Kate was such a mistake. The woman can’t act, she looks way too old to be a student and there is no feeling of friendship to be detected between Kate and Anastasia. Every single parent was miscast, Jose was miscast, Dornan’s brother is the usually very delicious Luke Grimes and he came across as a fool even. Rita Ora as Mia? With all the excitement of her being cast they had her on screen all of five minutes.
- The directing. WHAT is up with that? Sam Taylor-Johnson might just be the very worst thing to have happened to this film. The directing is unrefined and rushed. She makes it seem like a low budget project. The characters are stilted and I think with the proper directing that might have been rectified.
- The introduction of Christian Grey’s lifestyle is really badly done.
- The movie is just not sexy. For a movie based entirely on sexual exploration it lost the sexy factor along the way. The scenes seems so forced and glossed over. It isn’t classy, it isn’t natural and it isn’t even remotely sexy.
Things that can save this franchise:
- Fire Jamie Dornan
- Fire Sam Taylor-Smith
- Keep Dakota Johnson
- Rewrite the entire novel where Grey enters the psych ward for two years and exits a rehabilitated man.
- Just fire Dornan. Seriously