After much anticipation, “Fifty Shades of Grey” will arrive in theatres on February 13.
The reviews have started pouring in, and critics are saying the adaptation of E.L. James’ hotly-anticipated BDSM tale of romance, sex, and floggers will not get you as hot and bothered as the book might.
For those who have avoided the phenomenon which has been dubbed “mummy porn,” the movie follows college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) who gets swept up in the allure of mysterious billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) after she interviews him for the school newspaper.
The two have an undeniable mutual attraction and the young, naive Ms. Steele ends up signing a contract to engage in a BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sadism, and Masochism) relationship with Grey, and that’s where things start to get spicy … in the book series.
While many critics are praising Johnson’s acting, the movie has left a lot of critics searching for all the sex they were promised and teased in trailers.
The first book has 130 instances of the word sex (we checked). After you hit page 58, you’re hard pressed to find a 10-page gap where the word isn’t used again. This includes variations such as “sexual,” “sexy,” and one use of the word sexiest. According to critics, the film has about 15-20 minutes of sex in it out of its more than two-hour running time.
Here’s what the critics are saying:
Those looking for hot, kinky sex will be disappointed. Fewer than 15 of the movie’s 125 minutes feature sex scenes. Discussion of contracts and objections over line items outweigh erotica. Even the graphic nudity grows numbing …
The production is also oddly sedate — the most polite aspirational romance between a screwed-up prince and girlish princess ever to include loving close-ups of dominance-and-submission sex toys. Presumably the look-but-don’t-pant tone of the storytelling was negotiated among the book’s author, director Sam (as in Samantha) Taylor-Johnson, screenwriter Kelly Marcel, and various producers and studio types; the movie version appears to be aimed at a younger consumer crowd than -the readers (albeit a crowd qualified for R-rated entertainment). In any event, the result is confounding, leaving both those coming to the Fifty Shades phenomenon for the first time as well as those who have read the book to wonder, for different reasons, Where’s the beef?
I’m shocked — shocked, do you hear me?!? — that the film version of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is such a dull, decorous affair, about as erotic as an ad for Pottery Barn.
Their first use of his playroom is packaged in a montage-y way that feels nonthreatening and more than a little generic, complete with intrusive pop-track accompaniment. A few dom-sub contract details and a couple of online photos notwithstanding, the movie maintains an artful restraint even as it talks dirty; the sex scenes suggest more than those of the standard Hollywood drama without quite going there.
The celebrated kinky elements in “Fifty Shades” are so used as a tease in this considerably less explicit film (rated no more than R for, among other things, “some unusual behaviour”) that when the worst does take place — it’s a painful and distinctly unpleasant whipping, if you must know — it feels so out of place it seems to have come from a different film altogether.
Neither of the actors are ever out of handcuffs long enough to develop anything close to a real character, and despite the overheated, heavy-breathing publicity blitz surrounding the movie, there is no full-frontal nudity. Still, if word of mouth doesn’t kill Fifty Shades of Grey, the door is open at the end for more to come. Maybe in future installments there will even be something that resembles a plot. For now, the entire movie is about as sexy as a root canal.
A watered-down adaptation that hides coyly under the sheets, “Fifty Shades of Grey” is full of all sorts of sex, but it’s still a hopelessly softcore erotic drama that fails to be even a fraction as titillating as the EL James books that inspired it. And yet, strangely, that’s exactly why it works.
With all that irresistible anticipation, how could a movie about BDSM be so run of the mill? The short answer: fear and money. It’s one thing to read about the bondage-enabled sexual awakening of a virgin. It’s quite another to see it depicted on screen.
At the end of the day, the reviews won’t matter.
The adaptation of E.L. James’ famed BDSM tale of romance, sex, and floggers is set to have a huge weekend at the box office. Pre-sales have been through the roof. According to Fandango, “Fifty Shades” is both the top February ticket pre-seller and the biggest R-rated ticket-seller in the company’s history. It’s also one of Fandango’s top advance ticket sellers of all time.
Essentially, every woman is dragging her boyfriend and/or a gaggle of girls to go out and see this film.
On the plus side, the overall consensus is that the adaptation, while not high art, will certainly please fans of the book, as it’s “considerably better written” than its source material, as Lisa Schwarzbaum puts it in Entertainment Weekly.
Watch the trailer for the film below:
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