Photo by Katherine Rountree
In case you forgot what kind of movie you walked into, “50 Shades of Grey” wastes no time in reminding you with visual innuendos so overt, you can’t help but laugh. Following Anastasia Steele’s (Dakota Johnson) awkward first meeting with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), she chews on a pencil taken from his office with his name printed on the side. Don’t worry if you missed it at first; there are several painfully close-up shots of each of these moments.
Add in Christian’s cringe-worthy lines — strange enough in the book, but hilariously uncomfortable when spoken aloud — and Ana’s utterly lost response of “What?” to his advances, and the first half hour is surprisingly endearing. The idea of signing a contract to be a billionaire’s submissive in a BDSM relationship completely lacking romance is laughably hard to take seriously at first. But Christian makes an effort to give her “more” and we kind of hope it’s enough to make Ana happy.
Sadly, Christian’s courtship comes off as stalking and near abuse, undermining whatever shred of sympathy we felt. Omitting the scenes from the book in which Ana asks Christian to stay with her changes the story completely. After her poor attempt at a joke earns her a surprise visit from Christian and a spanking, his sudden departure leaves tears in Ana’s eyes and some angry expletives from audience members. Had the filmmakers adapted the full scene from the book, Christian would have returned and we wouldn’t have hated him so much.
In direct contrast with the book, Christian spends a lot of time shirtless. It was one of his defining characteristics, never allowing Ana any contact with his chest unless he had a shirt on. Instead, the filmmakers went with a gratuitous display of flesh that brings inconsistency to the character. Not that it was necessary; there’s no shortage of close-ups on naked pelvises thrusting against each other. Too bad there’s nothing sexy about the sex, making it as erotic as a Cialis commercial.
Strangely enough, the only thing that gets the blood pumping is Danny Elfman’s score. Without his simple and refined music — different than what you’d expect given what he usually composes for Tim Burton films — there wouldn’t be enough tension to keep us interested past the first hour. Even then, it’s easy to get bored by the last half hour. It took an audience member in the front row screaming out Ana’s safewords to make seeing the movie worthwhile.