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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Movie Review: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

EONLINE "Fifty Shades of Grey" lays bare Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey's (Jamie Dornan) steamy relationship.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” lays bare Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) steamy relationship.


“Mr. Grey will see you now.” The first tagline used for the film adaptation of the worldwide best seller “Fifty Shades of Grey” creates anticipation for an epic meeting with the mysterious and brooding billionaire and oh, is it an intimate encounter.

There has been palpable anticipation for the screen adaptation of E. L. James’ first installment in her trilogy in the months leading up to its release. Having—somewhat shamefully—read the series, I had a few expectations for how the film would be presented and how certain ‘encounters’ would play out.

For the most part, the film depicts the atmosphere and dynamics of the book very well; it also gives greater depth and complexity to the arguably far-fetched characters that one meets in the series.

The film is set in Seattle, WA and centers around a college Senior (and later, graduate) Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson, and her intense and complicated relationship with the mysterious and alluring billionaire, Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan. The characters meet during what was meant to be a short interview for Steele’s college newspaper, and they quickly develop intense feelings for one another.

Grey’s dark and controlling side is soon revealed, and audiences follow Steele as she enters the intimate, yet unfamiliar and unsettling world of domination and submission. The fascinating element of this series, and undoubtedly what lies at the heart of the film is the kind of intimacy E. L. James presents: “Fifty Shades of Grey” is an unflinching exploration of the limits of pleasure and pain. With the aid of sound and visuals, the film is able to expand upon this concept and highlight the more subtle moments in this rollercoaster of a relationship.

That said, the film is by no means a cinematic masterpiece. The experience will likely be confusing and uncomfortable for the unlearned eye; just as with most book-to-film adaptations, the seamlessness of scene transitions is often sacrificed for page-to-screen accuracy.

Those die-hard “Fifty Shades” fans, however, will certainly appreciate the film’s attention to more minute details from the book. Infamous phrases from the book are present in the film, and the jaw-dropping moments that readers experience in the book are fashioned with great creativity and even humor.

In fact, this film takes a refreshingly comical approach to what was expected to be a dark and intense story. The unique Christian Grey moments are often faced with quizzical and shocked expressions from Johnson’s character. Audiences will find themselves laughing at the awkwardness and ridiculousness of the situations.

Johnson as Steele does a fantastic job at creating a realistic and likeable female lead. She responds to the absurd circumstances she is placed in with perfect, realistic reactions that make audiences relate to her—despite her other-worldly experiences. She’s sharp and quick-witted, the perfect counterpart to the brooding and confusing Grey.

Jamie Dornan does a respectable job as Christian Grey with the material he is given. Ultimately, the myriad of emotions his character displays proves just as hard to portray as they are to comprehend. Dornan, who viewers may recognize from “Once Upon A Time,” is a good physical representation of Grey, but he isn’t quite as compelling on screen as the book makes him out to be. Audiences soon resent him, despite his charms, and most viewers are probably happy with how the situation culminates between him and Steele.

The experience of “Fifty Shades of Grey” is certainly unique. Audiences are entertained, but hardly uplifted by the scenes they witness. Proceed with caution, as some scenes are fifty shades of uncomfortable, but it is bound to ignite some great discussion. It can serve as a suitable, albeit awkward, addition to a date this Valentine’s Day, but perhaps it is better to see the movie with a group of unfiltered friends.

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