Director: Sam Taylor Wood Writers: Kelly Marcel, E L James (novel)
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Marcia Gay Harden
The long-awaited screen adaptation of the E L James popular novel has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons in what is clearly one of the biggest hypes of recent cinema history – if you choose to read the Daily Mail. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY emerges as fluffy and flirty as a freshly-groomed poodle. And as Ms Taylor Wood races to the bank, her classic romcom, a softcore porno outing suitable for teenagers (who are all on pornhub anyway), has captured the imagination of vast swathes of the mainstream cinema-going public.
This saccharine ‘erotic’ fare was scripted by Kelly Marcel, whose previous credits include Mary Poppins drama SAVING MR BANKS. But the tasteful and rather sanitised SHADES is possibly the most innocuous and respectable LGBT outing in cinema history. There were certainly more salacious and revealing adventures happening in Greenaway’s EISENSTEIN IN GUANTAJAUTO premiere which screened earlier in the day during Berlinale 2015.
But don’t be disheartened. There is plenty to enjoy about Taylor Wood’s film. The bland and baby-faced Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth and has come up smelling of expensive aftershave since being born to a crack addict who disappeared shortly afterwards. Adopted by the respectable Dr Grey (a delightful Marcia Gay Harden), he then morphs into a billionnaire (aged 27) with swanky offices in downtown Seattle: a successful career he puts down to his ‘people skills’. But this is more likely due to his being a dispassionate psychopath.
Christian Grey has plenty of time on his hands to interview college literature grad, Anastasia Steele (Melanie Griffith’s daughter, Dakota Johnson) about his business acumen. Taking a shine to Ms Steele, he then showers her with gifts and ‘love bombs’ her into his squeaky clean life of emotional denial and repression, assuring her that he will “fuck her hard”. It transpires that the sweet and sassy Anastasia is a virgin. Any young student with little experience of the male species would naturally fall head over heels for a gent who is solvent, be-suited and sweeps her off in a helicopter promising a good time between the sheets, even if he is a little ‘bossy’. But sexy he ain’t – rest assured – and the chemistry between these nubile lovers is sadly as flat as yesterday’s champagne.
After giving her a reasonable initiation ceremony into his sexual style: a bit of bondage, sexual role play and control freakery – but sleeping together; nights out for dinner and intelligent conversation are only up for negotiation by written contract. He doesn’t do romance but he does do expensive gifts, and the usual reverse psychology ensues – as it does in most early relationships – where the couple jockeys for position and the woman flirts and plays hard to get. And just as Mr Grey is falling hard for Ms Steele, her four-times married mother (a glowing and simpering Jennifer Ehle) has the best advice for her daughter: “I wish I could tell you that things get better – they don’t, you just get to know yourself”. Meredith J Taylor
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 13 FEBRUARY 2015 – REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 2015