Fifty Shades of Grey movie posterOh, where to begin…
I’m somewhat conflicted writing this review because the movie is actually better than I expected. Yet I am extremely bothered by the fact that it’s been promoted so heavily – with such reckless abandon – that a whole bunch of teens want to see it. And they shouldn’t. It’s an adult movie. Granted, the first 45 minutes are quite tame as the twisted romance between virginal college senior Anastasia Steele and the hunky but tormented young billionaire Christian Grey starts to simmer. But when the relationship boils over into Christian Grey’s “play room” filled with assorted whips, chains and handcuffs, then whoa Nelly. This ‘R’ rated film sets sail for what should be considered ‘NC-17’ territory.

The “Fifty Shades of Grey” books (yes, books people – it’s a trilogy!) by E.L. James have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. That means for all the critics and naysayers who’ve slammed the narrative as some sort of glorification of a sadistic ‘dominant/submissive’ lifestyle… there are millions of people who feel otherwise and will want to see this movie – if not in the theater, than eventually, in the privacy of their own homes. Fifty Shades of Grey is what it is… a hyper-sexed Twilight-esque romance novel adapted for the big screen. Soft porn wrapped in a romantic fantasy drama.

Okay, so what works and what doesn’t? The casting. It took me a while to warm up to Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson (aka the daughter of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) as Christian and Anastasia. The dark-eyed Dornan never quite measures up to my vision of “Mr. Grey”, though Johnson transforms into a somewhat believable Ana. The biggest problem is their chemistry, which is lacking more sorely than Ana’s flogged bottom. The book does a far better job building an emotional connection to the characters, and their pain, as they struggle to define the boundaries of their relationship. The film stays surprisingly faithful to the book – though it would drag on for hours if all the sex scenes were fully… um… ‘played’ out.

The movie ends just as the (first) book does – at a turning point. In the interest of due diligence, I re-read the last ten pages to double-check. No spoilers for those who haven’t read it, just a warning – or reminder – that there’s Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades Darker… and Fifty Shades Freed. I vote for one Darker/Freed combo rather than two additional flicks. Anything more than that is pure overkill – though the box office numbers will surely dictate what happens next.

Bottom line: The books are not literary masterpieces. The movies won’t be vying for an Oscar. They are what they are. So if you didn’t like the books or wouldn’t be caught dead reading them, then don’t see the movie. If you’ve read the books and liked them, or are simply dying of curiosity after all the hype, then have a glass of wine and mull it over. As with Anastasia, the ‘choice’ is ultimately yours to make. Assuming you’re over 18.

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