Worldwide phenomenon, several weeks at the top of the bestseller charts, more copies sold than the bible, blah, blah, blah… Before we get to the filming, one thing right away: The “Shades of Grey” novel trilogy by E.L. James is and remains poorly written garbage, which has been berated in the critics with the ugly term “housewife porn”. But as we recently stated in a special, there are movies that surpass the literary original – and the blockbuster “Fifty Shades of Grey” is fortunately one of them: director Sam Taylor-Johnson (“Nowhere Boy”) and her screenwriter Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”) have turned this trashy novel into a convincing S&M romance with a lot of smart humor and a grandiose Dakota Johnson as the wallflower to billionaire slave protagonist. Only “Fifty Shades of Grey” is not really suitable for a scandalous film, the sexual taboo breaks are much too calculated for that. There may be a bit of embarrassed giggling in the movie theater here and there, but no one really needs to get excited. The perfect Valentine’s Day movie, even if not necessarily for the first date.
Because her roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) is down with the flu, literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) fills in for her at short notice and interviews billionaire bachelor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the student newspaper. The interview itself goes completely in the pants, but the gallant businessman seems to have taken a fancy to the shy, flower-dressed student: The next few days are for Anastasia as if she would experience the fairy tale “Cinderella” first-hand – expensive cars and nightly helicopter flights included. But then Mr. Grey tells her that he is not available for a romantic relationship, instead he is into rather unusual practices. And so you won’t find an Xbox in his game room, but a high-quality furnished SM studio. However, the whips can only be used when Anastasia signs a contract in which the rules and limits of her S&M relationship are laid down…
Jamie Dornan (“Once Upon a Time”) has a deeply sexy voice and his suit suits suit him just as well as no clothes at all – so he’s really okay as Christian Grey. An absolute stroke of luck, however, is Dakota Johnson (“Ben and Kate”), who, despite her submissive part in the playroom, never lets Anastasia degenerate into a victim, but gives her role an amazing self-confidence and a healthy dose of chutzpah despite all her vulnerability. In addition, the newcomer always gives a certain wink in particularly silly moments, which only makes her and her character even more likeable. With this Johnson is, by the way, completely in line with her director, who also flirts with the kitsch of the original again and again, without ever making fun of her own story so much that it doesn’t work anymore: From comparing a matching tape with the choice of the right wine to the line “Fuck the paperwork!” in the long legendary elevator kissing scene – Sam Taylor-Johnson and her author Kelly Marcel have chosen exactly the right absurd lines from the template to now punch them out as smart dry gags. This way, several of the sayings in the film should have a good chance of a place in the list of the best cinema quotes of the year.
By the way, the most amusing and insinuating part is the SM contract negotiations. Handcuffs yes. Anal fisting no. And what is a butt plug anyway? When it actually comes to the point later, you quickly realize that somehow talking it over was more fun. One year after Lars von Trier’s really provocative “Nymphomaniac”, the exquisitely filmed glossy sex scenes in “Fifty Shades of Grey” turn out to be tame, with one exception the S&M practices don’t go beyond a pat on the butt (and potentially shocking things like the tampon scene were immediately dropped altogether). The harder the sex becomes, the more serious the film becomes – and that doesn’t necessarily do it any good. As Christian says so beautifully about himself: “I’m fifty shades of fucked up! But unfortunately each of these 50 facets is a kitchen psychological cliché and its chewing through on the screen is not very exciting. Despite the weak final third, the film ends slightly different than in the book, with exactly the right scene at exactly the right moment. Our desire for the second part of “Fifty Shades Darker”, which was announced for 2016, is definitely aroused.