Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson. With Dakota Johnson and  Jamie Dornan.


Sam Taylor-Johnson bravely takes the directors chair for the much-anticipated film adaptation of author E.L James’ erotic fiction novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Brave, because as popular as the book has been, much of that enthusiasm has been tempered by a backlash of criticism regarding its overall absence of quality. My favourite criticism thus far has been – “It’s a book so bad, that it makes you regret learning how to read” . 

The screenplay, which is adapted by Kelly Marcel, aims to eradicate the truly ripe portions of the book; there’s no talk of ‘inner goddesses’ here. Even still, you can’t polish a turd. I have to commend the Taylor-Johnson and Marcel for attempting to piece something resonant together from the scraps of E.L James’ novel. Sadly, it’s mission impossible.

Much of the problem is that it’s boring and nothing really happens. It’s like going to see a band that can only play one chord. The film looks sleek and expensive, and is well lit and shot, but it’s a complete character vacuum. From the very first scene in which the two central characters meet, there is a strong sense of a fundamental problem with the way they interact. Not a problem inherent to the story (there’s supposed to be awkwardness) but one that exists of the performances and the dialogue. It just doesn’t feel right. From there onwards, things never improve.

As Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan performs like a lamp post with a broken bulb. Not only that, but his portrayal appears to lack confidence and the outright conviction required to convey both Grey’s supposed inner torment, and his position as someone of considerable power. As Anastasia Steele, Dakota Johnson isn’t great either, but as she’s following Dornan’s lead for much of the film, her performance suffers badly as a result. Of course, the awfully stilted dialogue doesn’t help.

Each time the pop soundtrack intervenes for a few moments, be it a chipmunkified Ellie Goulding or The Weeknd, there’s a welcome respite from the cringe-inducing drama. Don’t be surprised find yourself shaking your head with disbelief at some of the exchanges between the pair, not only because of what they’re saying, but how woefully unconvincing the delivery is. When it comes to the crunch of the ‘passion’, our lack of belief in the characters damages the effect to the degree that it feels about as sexy as the back of a radiator.

Dreadful’ is an apt word to describe Fifty Shades of Grey, a film that can’t escape its contrived origins. I have a degree of sympathy for Sam Taylor-Johnson, who has created the right look and tone, but is let down by the fundamental failings of the script. For best results – see the far superior 2002 film Sectretary, a film that confronts similar subject matter with an infinitely more evolved sense of wit and artistry. 1.5/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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22 Responses to Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Dude the cleaner says:

    I agree with that one. Nice review.

  2. Writergurlny says:

    Love this review. I had no want or need to read the book. Forget the movie.

  3. filmfunkel says:

    Secretary – thanks for the tip. 😀

  4. Caz says:

    I’d unfortunately read the books (well gave up by the last one) but have to admit that the film wasn’t as bad as I first expected it to be. I mean yes it was still bad but I was expecting it to be so much worse!

  5. I suppose the income wil pay Taylor-Johnson’s mortgage for a few years. From all the articles I’ve read online, the fundamental issue with 50 Shades is that the author knew nothing at all about the BDSM scene.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I like Sam Taylor-Johnson, and I can’t fault her for grasping the opportunity – I hear she really toiled over it. It’s a shame it’s so flat and uneventful. I was hoping for at least a few flashes of humour, but it’s so up its own backside (or is that the sex toys!?) 😜

  6. filmsoclock says:

    I was thinking of watching the film only for the hype. But not anymore.
    ps. love your metaphors!

    • garethrhodes says:

      I had moderate expectations; UK film critic Mark Kermode wasn’t TOO down on it, and I never trust the IMDb rating. On this occasion though, it’s right. 😕

    • garethrhodes says:

      Given that Dornan is so weak, I think there was room for improvement in that particular performance. My mind wandered toward the likes of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman – it needed a little more of that kind of edge to it, I think. Still, the script is an absolute stinker.

  7. Chris Evans says:

    Can’t say I’ll ever plan to check this out but great review non-the-less!

  8. Michelle says:

    Good review. I read the first chapter of book 1. And have wiped it from my mind. I don’t plan on seeing the movie. I just couldn’t see how they could create a plot with that book worthy of a movie.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you. The dialogue is ear-scrapingly bad – aside from sleek and expensive looking production design, they didn’t manage to make anything out of the book. It’s not sexy, witty or in any way engaging.

  9. Easily the worst movie I’ve seen this year. The cinematography is good, but that’s all the positive comments I have for this movie. I try to watch as many movies as I can (good or bad) but in this case I’m strictly avoiding the next two movies of the franchise. Especially when considering the rumours that the author of the novel has more script control going forwards. God no! Though if you go, I’ll be interested to read your review 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      More control!? You wouldn’t think the quality could dip much more, but with that in mind, I fear the possibility. I certainly won’t be falling over myself to see the next instalment. Thank you for commenting.

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