‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Stars: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dorman
3 (out of 5) Globes
It didn’t have to be good, and the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie perhaps isn’t: It’s a deeply, probably unavoidably mixed bag, with flaccid sex, one weak lead and a fair amount of insta-camp clunk. It also has one lead who’s terrific, truly sexy banter (if not sexy bonking) and a near 100 percent lack of the source’s major liability: its hilariously underarticulate prose (written from the POV of a lit major). E.L. James seemed to only know 30 words, and two of them were “genital clamps.” That term does make it to the screen version, which otherwise stays generically faithful while teasing out the book’s lurking humanity. It’s no Clint Eastwood’s superheroic saving of “The Bridges of Madison County,” but it’ll do.
Granted, it still has to stick to the romance novel boilerplate setup. Dakota Johnson — the lead who’s excellent — is the mouthful-named Anastasia Steele, a mousy collegiate who winds up stirring the loins of alpha shark billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman, the lead who’s not excellent but does have a certain boyishness). He can’t help but be drawn to this meek wallflower who works in a hardware store, even as he warns her that he has a secret — a secret that will send her fleeing if she ever learned it. But he really, really can’t help himself — no, this isn’t naked fantasy at all — and soon enough Anastasia is actually asking, out loud, if his “playroom” is where he stores his Xbox.
On page this is ludicrous — page-turningly, read-on-the-3-train-while-it's-concealed-in-the-NYT-Magazine ludicrous. (It’s so poorly written that one can plow through 100 of its far too many pages without even trying or noticing.) As played it’s only moderately silly — in fact, only silly at all because if it skipped certain bits the record number of advance ticket buyers would demand blood. There are parts, right from the book, that will entice giggles and audience shouting; no one, and especially not Dorman, can legitimize Christian’s mope line, “I’m 50 shades of f—ed up.”