Fifty Shades of Grey marked the remarkable writing debut of TV executive-turned-romance novelist Erika Mitchell. Publishing under the pen name E.L. James, the British author has enjoyed unparalleled success, selling over 100 million copies worldwide in just a few years.
Her erotic thriller chronicles the kinky relationship of a college coed and a handsome, young billionaire with a sordid sexual appetite for sadomasochism. Unfortunately, this relatively-tame screen version, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy), teases more than it titillates, as it devotes plenty of time build up prior to petering out in terms of delivery.
At the point of departure, we meet vestal virgin Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as she’s about to drive from Vancouver to Seattle to the corporate headquarters of Grey Enterprises to interview CEO Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for her college newspaper. The English major’s only been allotted ten minutes with the busy captain of industry slated to deliver the keynote commencement address at her school’s upcoming graduation.
Upon being introduced, obviously intimidated Ana awkwardly asks “To what do you owe your success” and “Are you gay?” before her subject confesses to being a control freak. Turning the tables, Christian proceeds to pose probing personal questions to the nervous journalist, as a palpable sexual tension between the two starts to simmer just beneath the surface.
He reveals his fondness for a particular fetish, however nothing is consummated for a long stretch. Instead, the first half of the film is devoted to a frustrating Kabuki dance where foreplay invariably leads to coitus interruptus.
In lieu of the whips, chains and other staples of bondage debauchery, we’re treated to cautious exchanges during which a whimpering, wide-eyed Ana repeatedly says how scared she is of Christian while he insists she sign a non-disclosure agreement allowing him to torture her. Yes, they eventually do get around to entering his dungeon but, by then, their bland, anticlimactic sessions prove to be a classic case of too little-too late.
A monochromatic misfire featuring only one shade: blushing pink.
Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity
Running time: 125 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures