Fifty Shades of Grey Blu-ray Review
There’s a fascination people have with E L James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey” that is beyond my comprehension. I actually read the first chapter of the first book in hopes to get some insight into the obsession, but the writing was so juvenile and poor that I found myself angry that it managed to sell millions of copies. So I assumed it was the sex. As a guy, I know that sex sells and my 14 year-old self checked out plenty of movies just for the sex scenes, so I assumed that was the situation here. But the movie version of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was like experiencing my own personal red room, but without the pleasure. There was plenty of sex, but none of it was tantalizing or erotic. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY managed to make sex as unsexy as any movie since SHOWGIRLS. So what is it that makes the film so enticing to so many people?
Anastasia Steele (Johnson) is a young, innocent, naïve college student that is sent to interview the young, wealthy, mysterious Christian Grey (Dornan) for her school’s newspaper. Although it wasn’t clear on screen, there was apparently a deep connection between Grey and Steele during their brief encounter, enough to set Grey to her town to
stalk surprise her at the hardware store where she works. They get coffee, then he tells her he can’t be with her, then he sends her a present, then she gets drunk, then he “rescues” her and then they discuss her signing a contract to be his sex slave. If it sounds stupid and like there’s no logic from one stage of the relationship to the other, it’s because it is and there isn’t. But eventually, Anastasia and Christian sit down and negotiate this dominant-submissive contract where she basically has to sign up to be his sex slave and agree to be abused to whatever degree he wants. A bulk of the film is them arguing over the contract and debating whether or not she’ll sign it. We even have to suffer through a montage of them sending emails and texts back and forth. Oh, and he can’t live without her for some reason, which is never explained.
In the real world, 99% of women in the world would call the police if an offer like that was made. But here, she considers it and asks for a lesson in what a submissive-dominant relationship is. That leads us to plenty of sex scenes that promise boundary-pushing sex, but give us things like Christian tickling Anastasia for a bit and then them having missionary sex, because apparently the craziest thing the director and screenwriter could think of involved mostly missionary sex and the occasional doggy style, just to mix things up. I’d estimate that there’s about 25 minutes of sex in the 2 hour and 10 minute runtime and none of it managed to be sexy. If anything, it felt awkward, mainly due to the complete lack of chemistry between Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
But bad sex is one thing, the unforgivable aspect of the film is the atrociously bad dialogue that’s delivered even worse. Dakota Johnson isn’t a bad actress, but watching her recite the poorly written lines was almost painful. Dornan was actually worse and when he wasn’t saying his lines as if someone was whispering in his ear, he was trouncing around on screen as if he didn’t know where he was supposed to go. I understand there was some backlash at his casting as Christian Grey and he didn’t do anything to prove the naysayers wrong. I don’t think either of them were fits for their roles, but in their defense, I don’t think any actor could have pulled off the roles with that script, which I assume is why so many better known stars passed on the film.
Sometimes movies are bad, but manage to find success by appealing to a specific demographic looking for a specific genre (sports movies are good examples). That’s what I chalk FIFTY SHADES OF GREY up to; it panders to a specific audience that wants to feel a little naughty without going full-on dungeon porn. And by establishing a lonely female character that needs to be rescued, it plays into a fantasy, even if I don’t fully get it. But even with those things in mind, I still think the film could have and should have done better. There’s no excuse for poor dialogue, bad acting and lazy screenwriting, but given the source material, it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone.
Video: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY looks great on Blu-ray. “Grey” is the key word in the title as most of the film is one shade of grey or another.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Behind the Shades (19:28): Sam Taylor-Johnson, E L James and cast members talk about making the film and the effort they put into it. Since Taylor-Johnson isn’t coming back for the sequel, I suspected there was trouble behind the scenes and there were rumors Taylor-Johnson and James clashed, but you wouldn’t know that from watching this.
The World of Fifty Shades of Grey-Friends and Family (12:38): Eight separate featurettes look at the supporting cast in the film.
The World of Christian Grey (19:51): This is a five part featurette covering everything you want to know about Christian Grey.
The World of Anastasia Steele (13:49): This is only a four part featurette, covering Anastasia Steele.
E L James and Fifty Shades (05:45): James shows up to talk about the novel and how it came to be. Apparently, she wrote some of it on her Blackberry, which explains a lot.
Fifty Shades: The Pleasure of Pain (08:42): A BDSM “consultant” shows up to talk about finding pleasure in pain.
Tease of Fifty Shades Darker (0:29): Nope, nothing to see here, folks. There’s hardly any new footage.