Movies

Here's the verdict on Fifty Shades of Grey: More pleasure than pain?

Our movie reviewers Jason Johnson and Jeanmarie Tan get first looks at the highly-anticipated erotic film Fifty Shades of Grey, which opens here today, ahead of the Feb 14 US release date. It may not be your conventional Valentine’s Day date movie, but it looks set to give audiences more pleasure than pain.

STARRING: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford

DIRECTOR: Sam Taylor-Johnson

THE SKINNY: Literature undergrad Anastasia Steele (Johnson) is swept off her feet by handsome billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan). She soon learns that her dashing beau has a secret obsession that will require her to submit completely to his whims. Can she find true love with such a demanding paramour? Can he learn to accept her independent streak? Just what are they getting up to?


JASON JOHNSON says: 'It's basically Twilight but with lots of kinky sex'

There’s one thing and one thing only that matters in a movie like this.

Chemistry.

Hear me now and believe me later, Johnson and Dornan have huge scientific-type beakers full of it. He’s Hydrogen Sulfide, she’s Nitric Acid, and when you mix them together, they explode off the screen.

The only recent on-screen couple that compares is Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart from The Twilight Saga flicks.

Basically, Fifty Shades Of Grey is a sort of companion piece to the Twilight movies. As you may or may not know, the author of the Fifty Shades books, EL James, started off writing Twilight fan fiction.

As a huge Twilight fan, I was tickled to see all the ways this story of a dumb little chick in lust with a billionaire mirrored the story of Bella and her sparkly vampire boyfriend Edward.

For starters, Johnson and Dornan look a lot like Stewart and Pattinson. Beyond that, the development of Anastasia’s and Christian’s relationship is almost comically similar to Bella’s and Edward’s.


PHOTOS: UIP

The rainy, woodsy, Pacific Northwest setting is the same.

Christian’s large family comprising adoptive members is very Cullen-esque.

It’s basically Twilight, but with lots of kinky sex.

Which reminds me — this movie has kinky sex. Not having read the books, I was expecting Fifty Shades to be tawdry, exploitative and dumb, but it’s anything but.

We become so invested in the characters that the sex is more emotional than erotic.

This probably has something to do with the fact that it was directed by a woman.

It also helps that this is one of the most beautifully-shot films I’ve seen in a while — it’s shot like one giant commercial for itself.

I can imagine Ridley Scott giving cinematographer Seamus McGarvey a slow clap.

This dude has shot everything from Atonement to The Avengers, and the flick is worth seeing just to bask in the beautiful images he has created.

A lot of critics are going to tell you this movie is rubbish, and that’s fine. Not everyone knows how to have fun.

All I can tell you is that Fifty Shades resonated with me like some dark fairy tale.

Christian is the pervert prince, Anastasia is the randy damsel in distress.

It’s not politically correct, but it mines a deeper sort of truth. Women do fall for men like Christian — rich, handsome and wicked. How could anyone possibly deny it?

I love the fact that Fifty Shades has the courage of its convictions, dubious and dodgy as they may be.

Leave the kids at home and have a ball with your partner or your pals. I went with my date Jeanmarie, and we giggled the whole way through.


JEANMARIE TAN says: 'It's raunchy but also a swoon-worthy romance'

When it came out in July last year, the movie’s first trailer was akin to foreplay.

Set to an achingly sensuous remix of Beyonce’s Crazy In Love, it revealed such a brief yet seductive taste of the Fifty Shades universe I was instantly fearful the actual movie wouldn’t be able to match up.

I’m relieved to report I left the two-hour session satisfied.

And if you happen to be a Twihard, you’ll get extra pleasure out of it.

While devouring the book trilogy before the movie was cast, I was imagining Robert Pattinson and Emma Roberts — who were both rumoured to be involved — in the lead roles.

However, Johnson and Dornan came out of nowhere and proved beyond a doubt they are more than just pretty (empty) vessels.

Johnson gives an especially beguiling performance — the camera loves every inch of her face and body, and those blue-green eyes are everything.

As for Dornan, somebody just give him the 2015 Sexiest Man Alive title already! Here’s the funny thing about this pairing.

On all the occasions they’ve had to appear together to promote the movie, they have looked like they’d rather be anywhere but standing next to each other.

Yet, on screen, the sexual tension is off the charts.

Either these two boast Oscar-worthy acting chops, or they had a “thing” in real life which ended badly.

Whatever the case, Johnson and Dornan committed where it mattered.

She’s totally nude when it’s called for, while he’s almost there.

Even though an arsenal of apparatus like floggers, ropes, handcuffs and belts from Christian’s “red room of pain” make cameos, the supposedly controversial sex scenes are thankfully far from graphic (which explains why the film was passed uncut), and deliver the right amount of eroticism.

If anyone wants to complain about sexual violence and the glamorising of domestic abuse, Hollywood has churned out more hardcore trash than this.

Essentially, this is an adult movie with adult themes.

It explores and unravels a complicated, disturbing dominant-submissive relationship involving issues of control, trust, rewards and punishments, where there is no black and white, only — you guessed it — shades of grey.

Most women can’t possibly relate to the BDSM aspect, but I suspect we can identify with the desire to fix dark, dangerous, damaged men.

Yet, a big part of Fifty Shades is also pure hearts-and-flowers female fantasy, the swoon-worthy romance just as palpable as the heat.

Taylor-Johnson has likened this gig to “walking a knife edge”, but she nailed it.

The abrupt ending may come across as anticlimactic, but it will whet fans’ appetites for the sequels to come. The only torture here is in the waiting.

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