Diana Vaccarelli Sees 50 SHADES OF GREY


by Diana Vaccarelli

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a fan of the Fifty Shades of Grey Novels written by E.L James. So when Hollywood announced that it was adapting these novels into film I was excited. I was intrigued to see how the story would translate to the big screen.

The story follows Anastasia Steele as she meets and begins a relationship with the mysterious Billionaire Christian Grey.  They first meet when Anna interviews him for an upcoming issue of her college magazine. After this encounter Christian becomes intrigued with her and pursues a less than conventional relationship.

This film has its surprising moments.  The biggest one is when she is introduced to the world of BDSM. This is a shock to the naive Anna.  Christian then hands her a contract about this relationship and the expectations.  Anna doesn’t sign right away and wants to do research. She does the necessary research and they have an affair of an epic nature.

I have to quote the late but still lamented Siskel and Ebert on this one. “I give the film one thumb up.”  There are things I liked and things that made me go, “Really, come on!”

Let’s start with what I enjoyed:

The music.  Legendary composer Danny Elfman scored the film. Elfman uses music to get into the heart of the characters, much like he did in Edward Scissorhands.  I mainly loved Elle Gouldings’ theme song “Love me like you do.” This song truly brings you to the story.

The cinema photography was equally great.  I like how each shot was lit differently.  In my opinion, the lighting displays how the characters feel. One scene in particular is when Anna and Christian are discussing the terms of the agreement the room has a red tint to it which means to me that their hearts are filling with desire for one another.

The performances. Joining the cast at the last minute was Jamie Dornan, who does a great job portraying Christian Grey. He gives Christian mystery, with a hint of sensitivity as well. Dornan presents the character’s emotions. As Christian, he is a man filled with contradictions, presenting them visually and believably – not an easy task.

Now for the brutal stuff. What I didn’t like:

In two words: Dakota Johnson. Anna is the emotional center for both the character of Christian and the story, and she just doesn’t deliver. Nothing about her rings true. Every time Johnson speaks she sounds like she’s reading a cue card. She even screws up the pivotal scene at the end, letting it lie flat because of her flat performance.

Seven words this time: Director Sam Taylor Johnson and writer Kelly Marcel. They just don’t do the material justice. The books are about more than sex. When I read the books I saw a relationship building through sex, one that changed both of the people involved, with Christian opening up and Anna becoming stronger. Here in the film all that is lost. This director and her writer do the story and its viewers a huge disservice by ignoring the relationship as they do.

Hopefully this will be changing, as neither Sam Taylor Johnson nor Kelly Marcel will be around for the next two installments.  Interestingly to me, E.L. James’ husband, Niall Leonard, is writing the next screenplay. Far from the house husband the relationship may suggest, Leonard is a highly respected TV and film writer in the U.K. known for his work on AIR FORCE ONE IS DOWN, WIRE IN THE BLOOD, BALLYKISSANGEL, and many other series. I believe that if anyone can flesh out the gray areas, he’s the one.


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