* out of ****
Fifty Shades of Grey is one of those awful soft-core sexual “romance” dramas like Nine ½ Weeks (1986) or Wild Orchid (1989). Based of the bestseller by E.L. James, Fifty Shades has bookish-but-hot college student,...Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), becoming smitten with dour, uptight turd of a billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who happens to be into whips, chains and who knows what else, but to each his own. Anyway, Christian wants Anastasia to submit to him and even sign a contract stating that she will do so. The supposed tension of the story is whether or not she will surrender to his sadomasochistic ways.
I found this all incredibly stupid, wrong-headed and far from erotic. It fact, it is rather degrading and, at times, unintentionally funny. The deadly serious spanking scene late in the movie is the comedy highlight.
The ultimate sin here is that there is absolutely zero chemistry between the two leads. Johnson (daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith) isn't bad. She has personality and it comes through, giving the film some sorely needed life and humor. I can definitely see her killing it in a good romantic comedy. As for Dornan, he is pretty terrible, delivering a constipated performance.
Top all this off with a cliffhanger ending. That's right, it's not even a complete movie!
A better movie of this ilk is 2002's Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. In that movie the sexual relationship, as warped as it is, made sense, the actors are very good in their roles, and it is all done with a playful sense of humor.
The big mystery about Fifty Shades is how a movie scripted by a woman (Kelly Marcell), directed by a woman (Sam Taylor-Johnson) and based on a book written by a woman (James) is so sexist towards women. I don't get that. In fact, I don't get any of the appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey. Some will say it is because I am a guy. Maybe so. All I know is that I am glad I don't get it.