Director Samantha Taylor Johnson’s adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey revolves around a BDSM relationship between university student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and billionaire bachelor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
But besides that, it has no discernible plot. The film follows the pair’s burgeoning relationship, as Grey “woos” Steele through a mix of stalking, manipulation and coercion.
Johnson tries her hardest to breathe life into the vapid dialogue and poor characterisation. And while Dornan’s Grey is supposed to be detached but desirable, he simply comes across as slightly unsettled.
The film amounts to nothing more than a string of awkward sex scenes and tedious arguments.
Steele completely lacks any kind of characterisation that would make her likeable—or even a fully rounded human being. Meanwhile Grey, the supposed object of the audience’s affection, is distant, boring and often cruel.
Their relationship is totally unequal. As the richer, more experienced man, he plies her with expensive gifts and also calls all the shots.
Watching this possessive behaviour unfold, it’s difficult to distinguish this romance from an abusive relationship. If it hadn’t been for the BDSM, Fifty Shades of Grey would probably have remained an obscure self-published novel.
And the main characters’ relationship is not healthy on any level. That’s not because of the nature of the sex, but because Steele is repeatedly coerced into performing sexual acts she’s uncomfortable with.
The film is an incredibly poor depiction of any kind of healthy relationship, let alone one where consent and communication are paramountly important. But its worst aspect is its general depiction of sexuality. Steele has absolutely no autonomy and heeds to Grey’s every request.
This is taken to ridiculous levels, as he drafts a contract determining almost every aspect of her life. For a film that’s “ground breaking”, it’s filled with cliche after cliche. The most dynamic part was the audience reaction, as the trite dialogue was unintentionally hilarious.
But it does nothing to challenge ideas about sex and sexuality, and perpetrates dangerous ideas about relationships.