Fifty Shades of Grey (USA, 2015)
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson
Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle
It's hard to think of another film in recent times which has caused more headaches for film fans than Fifty Shades of Grey. Long before its release, cruelly and cynically timed for Valentine's Day, the internet was flooded with more casting rumours, whingeing fans and craven speculation about how raunchy it would be than you would get at a decade's worth of ComicCons. In a frighteningly short space of time, E. L. James' trilogy has become all-pervasive in our culture: it's been embraced, over-indulged, parodied and run into the ground in everything from greetings cards to books about sheds.
Basic Instinct or even Goldeneye are steamier than anything here, and in most cases they are better written too. there is nothing that James attempts here that wasn't handled a hundred times better years earlier by the likes of D. H. Lawrence and Anais Nin.
The Look of Love, I said "it is possible to make a film which will arouse an audience in more ways than one, provided that said arousal is supported by a discussion of the issues that surround it." But instead of using its reputation or characters as a means to discuss sexual issues, the film just sits there, giving us more of the same for an hour and a half without a clear sense of direction to its action. This is to The Look of Love what The Da Vinci Code was to The Ninth Gate: well-meaning incompetence, rather than active contempt.
Saving Mr. Banks. But while it's interesting from an industrial standpoint, the film doesn't consciously reflect the talent behind it; it still feels like a film made by a committee who were both afraid of hurting the fans and coy about the subject matter.
Tess of the d'Urbervilles uses a similar dynamic of the rich, cynical, urban man having his wicked way with the simple, rural woman in both a literal and metaphorical rape of the countryside. Suffice to say, Taylor-Johnson doesn't attempt any detailed analysis of this, and the film lacks the political depth that Paul Morrissey achieved on Andy Warhol's Dracula.
NEXT REVIEW: The Day After Tomorrow (2004)