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Fifty Shades of Grey
Genre Drama

Fifty Shades of Grey is the film adaptation of the bestselling erotic novel of the same name by E.L. James. The novel's wildfire popularity, despite mixed reviews, created a readership and audience in wait. Now that the eagerly anticipated Fifty Shades of Grey has arrived, ironically over Valentine's weekend, we're forced to make sense of this provocative and subversive female fantasy about the rigours of a modern sadomasochistic relationship.

The idea for the novel originally spawned as erotic Twilight fan-fiction, which is understandable when you consider one of the Twilight saga's main themes was abstinence. Exploring the what-if possibilities of one tortured soul's affect over another in terms of a real-life equivalent, played out as a sexual conquest, is a curious progression. Yet, the dalliance with S&M has gone mainstream and seems like a step back for social consciousness and culture as we know it.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a pop culture anomaly. We're constantly campaigning against the abuse of women and for gender equality, yet the widespread silent endorsement of this material seeks to undermine all the groundwork. Christian Grey may offer his "submissive" every opportunity to escape the cage and fly away, yet Anastasia Steele knowingly and willingly becomes his rag doll in the hopes of getting him to love her back.

The moral degradation is frightening, portraying a modern relationship as a contractual obligation by which both parties consent to an abuse of emotional, sexual and political power. This twisted view of love is a slow immersion for audiences, who watch as an innocent young woman falls prey to the trappings of wealth, fame, power and materialism. You wonder if Anastasia would be willing to do anything for love as Meatloaf put it, if Grey wasn't handsome or a billionaire.

Perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey is a much bolder reinvention of Dracula, maybe the notion of a "Trophy Wife" isn't actually that far removed? Whichever way you look at it, the dangerous excesses of this modern fantasy are harmful to culture in blurring the line between the concept of a fairer sex and sex slave.

Sam Taylor-Johnson directs a stylish drama that is all about appearances and moods. She's taken a trashy novel and given it an air of class. Unfortunately, it's so preoccupied with anticipation and gratification that we never really get to know the co-lead characters. They're dark, empty gender vessels swaying and crashing into each other on a torrid sea of shattered glass.

The recognisable Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele in a role that will probably be her calling card for many years to come. While unassumingly beautiful and completely invested in the performance, Anastasia is a feather in the wind and we're never quite convinced of her character's real motivations. Jamie Dornan is an attractive actor, yet we're on the outside and his inner turmoil simply comes across as cold and bossy, making you wonder how an intelligent modern woman could fall for his offer.

If the film was ever going to be taken seriously, it needed a team with the finesse of Steve McQueen, Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan from Shame. Unfortunately, or fortunately in this case, we're distanced by the vapid characters and cut off from the performances, making this sensual drama a rather dull affair. After the novelty of a sexual "makeover" wears thin, Fifty Shades of Grey relies quite heavily on its descension into soft core porn to keep audiences titillated and stagger towards a non-ending.

While justified, the "kinky" sex and nudity games become a regular occurrence with Anastasia running through a series of red traffic lights like a victim in a slasher movie. Her reluctance to sign on as an unofficial sex slave becomes the only real point of tension as our wild card billionaire tries to convince her she'll get used to sadomasochism with a few trial runs to give her the idea.

Fifty Shades of Grey tries to steep itself in class and style, but becomes so contemptible in its attempt to convert us into believing it's a sexual preference, that we zone out. The film grazes moments of unintentional comedy as the ludicrous nature of the relationship becomes too ridiculous to ignore. The extremity creates comical scenarios to the point the film could have starred Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson from the TV series, How I Met Your Mother.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a perversion of love, which glorifies and intertwines pain and pleasure in a way that makes them seem codependent. The curiousity surrounding the film's twisted subject matter is worrying and presents a gateway where one never existed. It's failure to warn against engaging in this kind of relationship, make it dangerous, sickly and subversive. Watch this one at your own risk.

The bottom line: Twisted

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