Everyone is entitled to their opinion. This is just mine. If you loved it, I’m glad you enjoyed it. For me it was pretty meh. Which would be a huge disappointment if I’d set my expectations high. I thoroughly enjoyed the books, found them pretty much page-turners. E.L. James did a great job with the characters and it really pulled me in from the start. When I first heard they were doing a movie, I had my doubts even then. While a truly engaging sexy book, it wasn’t one I could see playing out on screen easily.
I knew casting would be a huge key. Someone with sex appeal, a captivating line delivery, and a distinct screen presence was needed to play the dashing but enigmatic Christian—an actor able to handle a range of emotions that often flip on a dime in order to capture that mercurial nature of Mr. Grey. I’ll be truly honest, I was hoping for Alexander Skarsgard or even his younger brother, Bill. A viewer of True Blood and Hemlock Grove I felt either could have pulled off Christian Grey and his complex nature. I’m sure there were other actors that would have done a compelling job too. But I wasn’t impressed with Jamie Dornon right off the bat. He frankly didn’t look like how I pictured Christian, and they didn’t do anything to his appearance to make him resemble the character described in the book. Once I saw the trailers and a few clips, I lowered my expectations even more. So I knew 50 Shades was going to be a Netflix watch. It takes a lot to compel me to the theaters these days and this one wasn’t an exception. So here's my breakdown, four months post premiere.
What worked for me:
· Ana and Christian’s meeting to discuss the terms of the contract: Since their page-turning email exchange in the book wouldn’t work in a movie, this was a nice concise way to handle their negotiations and it might have been the only place in the movie I actually laughed as Ana crossed out deal-breakers.
· Dakota Johnson seemed like she mainly got Anna’s character: She carried the whole timid voice and shy mannerisms well along with the occasional times she stood her ground and challenged Christian. For what she had to work with in terms of the script and the choppy plot, she did a decent job.
· Ana's roommate: Eloise Mumford was cute and likeable as Kate.
What didn’t work for me:
· The opening sequence: Ana looks like she’s leaving the halls of a high school, not college and why are we even seeing Christian at this stage? In the book, the reader meets him along with Ana at the interview and that should be the defining moment of our first look at the notorious Christian Grey, our anticipation right there with Ana. Seeing a glimpse into his closet only made him seem creepier.
· Jamie Dornon’s entire portrayal of Christian: Book Christian was alluring, mesmerizing, a bit of a mystery, and a hot alpha male who turned heads wherever he went. He was demanding and controlling, but he was cool, collected, and suave as well. Movie Christian was pouty, brooding, and at times downright creepy. He didn't assert confidence or control, despite what his lines might have said. In the book, I felt Ana’s dilemma of “should I stay or should I go?” In the movie, I wanted to scream “Run Ana, Run!” Jamie did nothing to make Christian seem like a guy that any woman would want to put up with the occasional whips and chains for.
· The pacing: The early scenes, needed to establish the characters and their chemistry, felt rushed; the ending dragged. Many scenes (including the sex scenes) were choppy and if you hadn’t read the book I can’t imagine they’d make much sense. Having read the book, it was clear parts were missing and some scenes were edited down to the point that they lost their reason for being there.
· Jamie and Dakota’s chemistry: What chemistry you might ask. My hubs and I certainly did. All the fun and flirty banter from the book was missing. Many scenes of dialogue significantly cut down.
· Line delivery: Jamie Dornon bombed many of his. Those hot, sexy, dirty things that Christian said to Ana in the book…well they either weren’t there or Jamie made them sound like a guy you should be getting a restraining order from, not your potential dom lover. There are fourteen year old boys in the real world that can sound smoother when trying to impress the opposite sex than Jamie did with Dakota. Even the iconic “Mr. Grey will see you now” line that served as their tagline and graced all the posters felt lost when it was actually delivered in the scene where Ana is practically rushed into his office.
· Ana’s style: Or lack thereof. We get that she was a college student living on a budget but was there a reason that she was dressed and styled to resemble Shelley Duval from The Shining, circa 1980?
· The supporting cast: Why did they even bother to cast some of them? Blink and you’ll miss Ana’s father or Christian’s sister. Even Taylor is forgettable, or perhaps he’s just underused. Either way there were guest stars who played the victim on Murder She Wrote who lasted longer on screen and were better developed than this supporting cast.
· The watered down emotions and lack of drama: I’m not sure how much this rests on the actors, the directors, or the script. I suspect it’s a mix of all three. It felt like a very edited version of the book where all the times Ana encountered angry Christian were omitted and in its place were dry, boring, and brooding Christian. Ana’s spunk was also clearly missing.
Yes, I get there was the constraints of time and ratings, but a better screenwriter, director, and actors could have done so much more. What the movie did do was made me long for the book version of Ana & Christian so perhaps even disappointed fans will find consolation in a re-read. Might I recommend the “It was nice knowing you” scene. Just a perusal of my copy reminded me how much the movie (and the actors) dropped the ball on this scene that they choose to include.
All in all, the movie was a let-down…boring…yawn. At the end of the book I was gutted by Ana’s decision and was reaching for book two in a hurry. By the end of this movie I was glad the end was finally here, and I didn’t feel bad at all that there wasn’t an HEA. Readers of this blog will know that’s a must for me so that should tell you how much I didn’t connect with the movie characters. In fact, flipping through the pages of my 50 Shades of Grey copy, they almost don’t seem like the same characters at all. So before I list anymore “thumbs down” aspects of the movie (trust me I could list more), I think I’ll settle in with the book boyfriend version of Grey. Ya know, the confident one with long fingers, intense eyes, and copper hair who knew how to unnerve Ana...not the other way around. ;-)