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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


“Fifty Shades of Grey” is more like fifty shades of bad

According to "Fifty Shades of Grey" made $80 million opening weekend. It is based on E.L James' book of the same name and debuted during Valentine's Day weekend. UNIVERSAL PICTURES / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE
According to “Fifty Shades of Grey” made $80 million opening weekend. It is based on E.L James’ book of the same name and debuted during Valentine’s Day weekend. UNIVERSAL PICTURES / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

Even as a book, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bizarre project. Author E.L. James’ novel originated as “Twilight” fan-fiction and eventually spiraled into a self-published e-book before turning into the cultural phenomenon we know it as today.

Suffice to say, a “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie was inevitable. As a film, “Fifty Shades” works as a strong examination of cultural and cinema as a medium, but it is a shame the movie itself is terrible.

“Fifty Shades” follows Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a college senior who, through random circumstance, ends up interviewing young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for a school paper.

The two click during the interview and begin pursuing each other, with Christian quickly beginning to impose his dominant nature upon the young woman. Once the two have sex, Christian’s desires are revealed making the rest of the film a series of sexual activities and watching Christian trying to convince Anastasia to allow him to tie her up, whip her and simply control her.

There are almost no other incidents or plotlines beyond this. We are introduced to other characters—Christian’s family, Anastasia’s family and roommate—but they neither add nor advance any element of the film.  This is because the film’s script is absolutely awful.

The film is incredibly boring, with nothing actually happening in the last half of it.

Once the courtship begins, the movie becomes a repetitive sequence of scenes where the dominant tries to make the former-virgin his submissive.

This is done by Anastasia’s character having dialogue consisting almost entirely of questions, to which Christian explains S&M sub-culture to her.

This lack of compelling character and narrative drama would not be bad if the film actually made the sex particularly sexy.

“Fifty Shades’” sex scenes barely exist. In total we are shown three major sex scenes that barely touch upon true S&M desires, and frankly, are not very interesting. It treats sex as a taboo, trying to shy away from having to visually show the act.

Sure we see some skin and a surprising amount of pubic hair, but the film does not make any of it sexy or fun.

It simply exists.

Yet, where the sex scenes fail to stimulate any sort of sense of arousal, they do work as strong examinations of fourth-dimensional cinema.

Where the film shies away from showing any sort of sexual climax, the film creates a sense of euphoria within its audience through its structure. 

There is an audience-wide wave of release of “finally they are banging” once the deed begins. While the content between the sex scenes is awful, it structurally works as a build-up to this climax. For example, Christian shows Anastasia his “play room” early on in the film, but we do not actually use it for another hour, it is essentially being shown to tease and titillate viewers. In this sense, the film is structured to replicate the feeling of sex.

We desire it, we build up to it, we achieve it and then we climax.

Visually, the film is shot in order to reflect the dominant nature of its male lead.

Slow, controlled aerial shots give a sense of looming and power on every scene with some pretty strong use of lighting.

There is one scene in particular involving a business meeting that is beautifully shot that it seems like it belongs in a different movie. While none of the actual content we are watching on screen is interesting, director Sam Taylor-Johnson sure makes it look good.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is a bad movie, but it is a movie that knows exactly what it is—a Valentine’s Day date film.

One gets the feeling that elements like the acting, story and script were sacrificed for the sex scenes, but they are so lifeless that it simply breaks the film.

Visually and structurally strong but lacking in all other areas, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a mess of a film, but would we want it any other way?

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