Monday, June 15, 2015

Soporific "Fifty Shades of Grey" Makes BDSM Seem About As Exciting As Waiting in Traffic

Clearly one of the most iconic images in cinematic history.
Fifty Shades of Grey plays like a neutered version of 9 ½ Weeks. Well, wait, no. Although that Mickey Rourke/Kim Basinger flick has been a punching bag for the last 30 years, it does have some depth to it – interesting psychosexual exploration, discernible character arcs and, most pertinently, actual eroticism. So on reflection, neutered is probably too kind of a descriptor. It would be more apt to say “Fifty Shades of Grey plays like the castrated version of 9 ½ Weeks."

Boom! Put that on a movie poster.

In all seriousness, I’m not trying to be harsh here. Well, that’s not true, I am trying, but I don’t really want to be harsh. Although I recognize my man card would be on the line if a review of this film wasn’t a slam, I would love to be attempting to convince readers why a smutty chick flick has cinematic merit. My ringing endorsement of Magic Mike is proof of that.

But, damn this movie sucks. The dialogue is wretched, the acting is stiff and almost nothing happens. Seriously, I can’t comprehend how this film clocks in over two hours – it makes the last few Twilight films look like intricate labyrinths of dense plotting.

Speaking of Twilight, my wife tells me Fifty Shades of Grey actually started as Twilight fan fiction, and having only experienced these stories via film, I can totally see that. Take the Underworld out of Twilight and blow past the sexual tension by just getting to the sex, and you’d basically have Fifty Shades of Grey. After all, both stories have the same essential misogynistic takeaway – women are weak, male-obsessed creatures of no substance that just want to be swept up and then knocked down by a well-off, strong man. I honestly can’t believe Bella Swan and Anatasia Steele are the pop cultural heroines of our age, nor can I believe they were created by female writers and not dirty old men. Thank God that Katniss Everdeen exists and that our books and movies are offering at least one strong, positive role model for young women (and that's in addition to a way better story -- #TeamHungerGames).

All this sexism is my biggest issue with this brand of fantasy, but I might be able to look past it if Fifty Shades of Grey had a couple I could believe in. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are both fine physical specimens, but unfortunately they have no chemistry. In fact, I’d argue they somehow have negative chemistry. I wasn’t expecting Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet level heat, or even Ryan Gosling-Rachel McAdams energy, but this is a joke. I swear there’s a scene or two in this thing in which Johnson and Dornan look so bored that they might actually fall asleep. I guess, in that way, their both stand-ins for the audience.

And that’s the most unforgivable thing of all –  the movie is mind-numbingly dull. Thinking about it now, I'm reminded of a skit from a recent episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. While railing against the inequality and injustice of the American bail system, Oliver showed “Pretrial Services,” a parody segment of reality shows like Dog the Bounty Hunter that focused on humdrum and unexciting office work. I mention this because Fifty Shades of Grey is the erotic thriller equivalent of “Pretrial Services.” It has scene after scene in which the leads discuss an in-depth non-disclosure agreement, and it features the least taboo sexual fetishes imaginable – blindfolds, ice, and spanking, oh my. D-