Something to be desired, Fifty Shades of Mediocrity

“More…Oh yeah…Fill me up,” I told the concession stand workers as they prepared my large popcorn and medium Diet Coke. What they didn’t know was that I would also soon be feasting upon the two large boxes of candy smuggled within my large winter coat. But it was absolutely necessary. I was about to embark on a cinematic odyssey of sexual exploration to discover the inner goddess of my feminine sensuality; I was about to see the much anticipated  Fifty Shades of Grey. Floating into Theatre 2 of Waterville’s Flagship Cinemas, my friends and I rooted ourselves in the middle row and waited for our lives to begin. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend Valentine’s Day afternoon than to be wearing an entirely grey outfit and gazing up at the exquisite jawline of the emotionally troubled Christian Grey. I was aroused before the trailers even began.

The film Fifty Shades of Grey tells of the erotic relationship between a young female college student, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), and a slightly older yet extremely successful businessman, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The two characters meet through a series of events in which they experience an undeniable, and also uncomfortable, amount of sexual tension which quickly blossoms into a relationship. Yet the mysterious personal life of Christian Grey soon reveals that he is a masochist with unique sexual preferences and a dash of psychological instability. The audience follows the experiences of Anastasia, as she falls into the emotionally and sexually complex world of Mr. Grey. Here the two characters endure emotional trials and sacrifices as both struggle to habituate themselves with the intimate needs of the other.

And that’s it—that’s the movie. The film trudged through its story at the same slow pace for the entire two hour running time, without anything significant or thrilling coming into play. It felt as though everyone in the theatre was sitting in their seats waiting for something to happen, yet nothing came. The only things that came were the characters during the sex scenes, which were not as fulfilling as in the book (and understandably so) yet showed just enough to keep the moments steamy while tastefully avoiding becoming pornography. However these slightly spicy moments were not enough to keep the burning flame of passion inside me lit for very long. Everything was just kind of average. Despite all of the hype and anticipation for the movie’s release, there was no new story told or explored beyond what was already shown in the numerous theatrical trailers doused in sexual tension.

But unfortunately, this dullness is inevitable when one removes all the thoroughly detailed and juicy sex scenes for the movie adaptation of an erotic romance novel. What makes the book stand out from others in the genre is not only its unique characters, but also its focus and detail towards strong sexual content rather than the more traditional theme of romance accompanied by indirect sexual euphemisms. The novel’s storyline is founded on the physical aspects of relationships instead of their softer and more emotional elements. By removing the book’s uniquely erotic material, the story becomes nothing more than a poorly written drama without much of a plot. In other words, you get a film adaptation.

Despite all of this, however, there were many things that went into the film which allowed for it to remain entertaining. The acting, mostly  that of Dakota Johnson, was rather impressive and definitely made the repetitive plotline far more tolerable. I personally believe that Johnson’s performance actually helped the portrayal of Anastasia, in that her acting choices made the protagonist more relatable, funny, and independent in the eyes of the audience. Moreover, by choosing to not cast a bombshell actress with the body of a voluptuous goddess, Johnson’s more average shape added to her character’s much-needed normalcy to balance the bizarreness that is Christian Grey.

In regards to aesthetics, the cinematography of the movie was consistently decent. Wide-panning shots of scenery and setting effortlessly created the eerily picturesque ambience of the film, while numerous closeups of the characters helped dramatize and add intensity to certain dialogues. The movie’s lighter color palette along with the subtle glow overlay on screen gave the film a colder and untouchable tone, distancing the audience from Christian Grey’s cool business persona. In addition, the faded palette added emphasis to the contrasting moments of overwhelming color found inside the “Red Room of Pleasure,” intensifying the audience’s interest in his secrets.

Overall, Fifty Shades of Grey was a decent movie and relatively entertaining, however it failed greatly to live up to audience’s expectations. Its inability to fill the void of explicit sexual content which made the novel a sacred item within the bedside tables of many women, resulted in the already rough plot worsening and left viewers feeling unfulfilled, especially me. I was someone who completely and full-heartedly bought into the hype: I read the book, purchased the film’s official soundtrack, bought my movie ticket a week in advance, and watched all three versions of the trailer repeatedly until my eyes crumbled into piles of sexual frustration. Yet at 4:30 p.m. on Valentine’s Day, I sat in a dark movie theatre, wearing a groutfit, ready for my goddess of feminine sensuality to finally awaken, and might as well have been left in the sticky aisleway to die with the forgotten popcorn kernels from last week’s showing of Night at the Museum. Maybe it would have been better if I had gotten a slushie.

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