Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Review: Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan & Jennifer Ehle

After years of going back and forth between studios, casting drop-outs and rumored feuding between the author and director during production, one of the year’s most anticipated films is finally here. Based on the wildly popular erotic novel by E. L. James, that originally started off as Twilight fan fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey aims to please fans of the book, even if it may not be able to draw in new fans that aren’t quite as familiar with the story.

English literature major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) meets young billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) when she goes to interview him for her school’s paper. What starts off as an awkward and unprepared interview, as Ana is doing this as a favor for her best friend Kate (Eloise Mumford), turns into an interesting game of cat-and-mouse as Christian starts to become more interested in Ana herself.

When Christian shows up at Ana’s workplace and a few days later invites her out for coffee, Ana realizes his interest in her and starts to develop feelings for him. As Ana and Christian become closer, she discovers his fetish for BDSM and is given a choice to partake in this lifestyle with him. The question though, is Ana willing to explore her sexual awakening with a man who has a deeply tortured soul, someone she begins to fall in love with, without getting hurt or wanting more?

Dakota Johnson is exceptional as the virginal Anastasia Steele. Ana is likable in the book, but Johnson gives her more personality and characteristics in the film. Johnson’s Ana is sassy, headstrong, opinionated and a bit funny! She truly impresses as Ana, putting all of the arguments about her casting to shame after her fantastic performance.

fifty shades dakota johnson

Jamie Dornan really satisfies as the beautiful yet tormented Christian Grey. After watching him as the sultry Mr. Grey, it’s hard to picture Charlie Hunnam in the role at all. In the beginning parts of the film, Dornan’s Irish accent slides through a bit but near the middle he seems to have mastered the American accent which is kind of interesting. Dornan is intimidating, multi-layered and obviously gorgeous as Mr. Grey. His mysterious qualities, upbringing and why he is the way he is stay secret throughout the film, like they do in the book. It’s not until the sequels where we start to learn more about this character, but Kelly Marcel’s adapted screenplay gives the right amount of information, leaving the viewer wanting more.

Fans of the book will adore the romantics and chemistry between Dornan and Johnson, but newcomers to the story may find certain scenes of the film repetitive. But putting this into perspective of Anastasia; this is a repetitive yet sensual process for her and her sexual awakening. As she’s going through the motions with Mr. Grey, we are moving along with her.

fifty shades of grey jamie dornan

In terms of the sex scenes, they are extremely graphic and steamy, but it seems Taylor-Johnson is cutting them off and using them as fade-ins into the next scenes. These scenes are what make the book so erotic and famous and Taylor-Johnson is depriving both fans and people who are interested in seeing this story unfold by cutting those scenes short. There’s 20 minutes of sex scenes in the film but it really doesn’t feel like it. The film has an R-rating, but there have been sexier scenes on HBO and even AMC than in Fifty Shades of Grey. Taylor-Johnson could have utilized her R-rating so much more than what she did.

Screenwriter Kelly Marcel also cut several lines of dialogue before and during those sex scenes. Dialogue that is important to the character of Christian Grey to show how much he is falling for Ana, letting his past romantic life fade away. Because of this Mr. Grey tends to come off not as charming or as involved in these scenes as Ana is; it’s different in the book.

Fifty Shades of Grey

The music and cinematography in Fifty Shades is gorgeous. Danny Elfman’s enticing and tensely beautiful score magnifies the interactions between the two characters while the soundtrack is on point with the course of the story. From Annie Lennox’s “I Put A Spell On You” in the opening credits to Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft” playing in the background while Christian and Ana are dancing in his apartment, to Beyoncé’s incredible “Haunted” during one of the couple’s intimate scenes is truly memorable. Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey (2012’s Anna Karenina) captures the beauty of the rainy and grey Seattle backdrop while also photographing close-ups of Ana’s lip biting and Christian’s Red Room of Pain perfectly.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have fiery hot chemistry and fans of the books will be swooning when they leave the theatre, but despite how steamy and sexy this story is Sam Taylor-Johnson played it a little too tame. By the end of Fifty Shades of Grey, I couldn’t help from feeling similar to Anastasia Steele; I wanted more.

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