‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ – movie version of erotic book lacks heat

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

When I bought my ticket for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” I fully expected to be the Submissive in the theatre.

Alas, I was a reluctant Dominan6t because the movie itself is such a mousey, uninvolving little thing that somebody had to step up.

Basically, I kept myself interested by making little jokes in my head. An example:

In the movie, Sadistic Title Character says to Virginal Innocent: “You’re biting your lip.”

Me (as Mr. Grey) “Let me bite that for you…”

And so on. And so forth.

Another distraction, sometimes welcome, sometimes not: the squealing toddler in the row behind.  She was there with her parents and an older sibling who looked to be about 7 or 8. Odd family outing, but who am I to judge?  I once made a boyfriend take me to see “How The West Was Won” on Valentine’s Day.

fifty shades

Movie poster of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Anyway, if you’re one of the few who doesn’t know about “Fifty Shades,” it’s based on an erotic best-seller (which subsequently spawned two sequels) about a…well, see a few paragraphs above.

Her name notwithstanding, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a pliant young woman who meets mysterious zillionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) when she subs for her flu-stricken roomie who was supposed to interview him for the school paper.

Or something like that.  It hardly matters.  What does matter is that the two enter into a sexual relationship that involves literal ties that bind (among other things). As this sort of thing goes (in movies), I think Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger and the contents of a well-stocked fridge had a lot more heat in “9 1/2 Weeks.”

Poor Dornan was a last-minute replacement, and he plays Grey well – as a last-minute replacement. He’s a powder-puff pretending to be a wrecking ball. Perhaps his next career movie will be a turn in “The Bachelor.” Something about him suggests that.

Doe-eyed heroines — non-animated version — don’t come much doe-ier-eyed than Johnson.  Dressed in the 21st-century equivalent of librarian-chic, her huge eyes hidden by an introvert’s bangs, she’s just fine.

What’s important is that she understands completely how the character must function, and she embraces—rather than condescends to  — the role.  Harder to do than you might think.

Lineage could be the key. Though best-known as the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, Johnson has more steel in her veins than you may realize. She is also the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, the woman who survived Alfred Hitchcock not once, but twice.  A little bondage in the bedroom is not likely to do her — or her career — in.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

1 reply
  1. Greystoked says:

    “Harder to do than you might think.”  Hilarious.  I suppose sooner or later every actor finds themselves in a role that begs to be condescended to, and must resist that temptation.  A little like the old joke about the dialogue between a masochist and a true sadist:  “Hurt me!” “I refuse!”Report

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