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Fifty Shades of Grey: A Review

A glossy, soft-core porn and even humoristic adaptation, realised by S. Taylor-Johnson, of the erotic-romance blockbuster novel written by E.L. James.

Fifty shades of Grey traces the relationship between Christian, a young, rich, sexy and successful bachelor manager, and Anastasia Steele, a shy and virginal college student. They are attracted to each other as soon as they meet. However, Christian has a hidden dark side into which he would like to draw Anastasia, but only if she signs his (sex) contract. The man himself admits having difficulty controlling his “singular tastes”, his penchant for BDSM. All he wants is to get the innocent and naïve Anastasia into his Red Room of pleasure (or pain…).

Reviews have been quite critical about this first adaptation featuring Dakota Johnson as Anastasia and Jamie Dornan as Christian. It is certainly true that the movie shows some significant flaws and that it is far from being a filmographic gem.

The shoddy script is full of clichés and it is was quite disappointing to be able to predict every single reply. The film tries to stick to the dialogues from the book which is itself of a poor literary quality, resulting in rather awkward and sadly laughable lines. So yes, the entire cinema room burst out laughing when the two characters were supposed to say pseudo deep words to each other.  Moreover, the film version is much softer than the book. That was the whole issue of this movie: how can you effectively transcript an erotic novel onto a screen without being too pornographic? Staying true to the novel to please fans of the book but making something watchable to the cinemagoer produced a ‘“Downton Abbey” of bondage, designed neither to menace nor to offend but purely to cosset the fatigued imagination’ (The New Yorker). This in-between result is not at all satisfactory.  A last note is that the film lasts more than two hours, so if you cannot stand cheesiness or the fact that you must wait for the very end for proper sex scenes, you may have to show great patience.

Although Fifty Shades of Grey deserves a certain amount of criticism, I have to admit that it is quite relaxing if you approach it in the appropriate attitude- that is to say pretty light-heartily.  What’s more, it stimulates heated discussions because it develops the controversial idea that acknowledging and even appreciating female submission should not be a cause of guilt. Here are two topics prone to debate that the film addresses:

-While Anastasia wants a “normal” relationship with Christian where they would go to the restaurant and sleep side by side, Christian wants to avoid romance and conventional sex, by drawing Anastasia into a dominant/submissive BDSM relationship. Anastasia may have the innocent virginal role, but she is more human than Christian, who is certainly a sex expert in feminine pleasure but who resists his inner feelings of love (let’s be honest, Fifty Shades of Grey is a pornography for girls, i.e. a disguised love story involving high physical attraction between two people). Then, are love and sex separable in any circumstances? Isn’t it dangerous to believe that having sex regularly with one person will not result in any arising feelings?

-At first Anastasia is repulsed by the unusual tastes of Christian for BDSM but eventually, she finds it enjoyable, to the point that the sex scenes move away too rapidly from gentle BDSM to true torture. She, apparently the most innocent girl in the world, ends up finding pleasure in being enslaved by the powerful, magnetic Christian Grey. However, would she bow to Christian’s sadistic wishes if he were not a talented and educated man? Would some of Christian’s actions that are considered attractive – like tracing Anastasia’s phone to get to her at the club – be labelled the same way if he was just the average guy, or would they fall in the category of stalking?

The discussion remains open!

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