Berlin 2015 Review – Fifty Shades Of Grey (2015)


On Wednesday February 11th, Fifty Shades of Grey had its world premiere at the Berlinale, ahead of its worldwide release on Friday. The wildly popular book by E L James was the fastest selling paperback of all time in the UK, and has been adapted for the big screen by Sam Taylor-Johnson. The film already gained considerable notoriety, with its rather disastrous press campaign highlighting the awkward chemistry between leads Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. Thankfully the film was slightly more enjoyable than this awkward moment, if not purely for its farcical elements.

The film follows college senior Anastasia Steele (Johnson) as she meets the moody billionaire, Christian Grey (Dornan). Fascinated by Anastasia, Grey woos her with his dark and mysterious ways. However, it appears he has a certain set of rules for any potential partner, and that involves his “red room of pain”, among other things.

The film plays out pretty much how you’d expect after reading the source material: cheesy, predictable, and with unrealistic characters. However the infamous sex scenes – i.e. 80% of the book – are surprisingly chaste. Despite its 18 rating, we are mainly treated to boobs, bums, and a bit of bondage. It seems that the sex has been toned down in order for wider appeal, so instead of the kinky romance fans were hoping for, Fifty Shades is more like a titillating melodrama.

However, Taylor-Johnson makes up for the reduced amount of sex by highlighting the chemistry between the two leads. Despite the negative press campaign, you actually believe Johnson and Dornan are attracted to one another: Johnson is particularly believable as the naive, virginal Anastasia, giggling and eye-rolling at every ludicrous request Christian proposes. For his part, Dornan is as cold and detached as Grey should be, however I couldn’t help being left with the feeling that he didn’t really want to be there.

The action outside of the bedroom (or red room) is so po-faced in places it’s downright funny. There are plenty of double entendres, and even more unintentional laughs to be had at the terrible dialogue. One particular scene that had critics laughing sees the half-naked Christian playing the piano at night, whilst Anastasia walks down the stairs draped in a duvet. The scene is so cliché it’s hard to believe its inclusion is unintentional.

Another thing to note, the soundtrack is incredibly distracting and irritating, and appears only to have been included in order to sell tie-in albums for Valentine’s Day.

Overall, the film is actually quite enjoyable, as long as you are willing to go along for the ride. The leads are entertaining and have good chemistry, and the unintentional laughs more than make up for the reserved love scenes. It’s not the unconventional love story it’s selling itself to be; what you’re getting is a normal movie romance, just with a few extra kinks.

Hannah Newton

Genre: Drama, Romance Distributor: Paramount Pictures Release Date: 13th February 2015 (UK) Rating: 18 Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden