In the front garden of my house are a couple of tall, thin palm trees. Every few months they spawn a fresh pod of flowers that become a nuisance as they drop at my front door by the thousands. It was this latest flowery outbreak that occupied my thoughts for much of 50 Shades of Grey, and sure enough, as soon as I got home I climbed onto the roof and sawed the flower pod down. Then I mowed my lawn.
With this physical activity I worked up a sweat, which is more than I can say for the S & M shenanigans featured in 50-SOG.
“Pallid” would be a complimentary term to describe the carnal goings on of this bestseller adaptation from E.L. James, brought to life on the big screen by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and starring Dakota Johnson as the ridiculously named Anastasia Steele, opposite the frankly creepy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
For those few people on the planet not familiar with the story, Mr Grey is a handsome, eligible, mysterious billionaire with a fetish for whips so extreme that he has his own “Playroom” stocked with enough equipment to host his own Hellfire Club, who becomes transfixed by a virginal young woman, and offers to show her the ropes – so to speak.
The synopsis could be described as – “A young couple teach each other about boundaries” – in this case anal fisting and genital clamps are out (actual dialogue), and a submissive relationship devoid of romance is in.
Leaving the actual vanilla level of erotica to one side, what I struggle to understand is how any woman in her right mind could find this type of relationship either desirable or sexy.
Grey insists on a contract between both parties, providing conditions his new partner will abide by such as what she eats, how much she drinks, and which doctor to have her contraceptive pill prescribed by.
In a world where we strive for equality in every facet of our lives, for a young woman to surrender so completely to a man who is so clearly a troubled individual defies any sense whatsoever. Spoiler Alert – We learn during the film that Grey was a submissive himself at the age of 15 for 6 years to one of his mothers best friends, and that he is the child of a crack addict prostitute who abandoned him as a young child.
I know that female sexuality is a “mystery” in that what arouses a woman is supposedly far more complicated than what works for men, but there is little to like about this yucky story.
I walked out of The Gambler last week halfway through, and despite my inclination to get out of the cinema during 50-SOG and get home to do the pruning, I wanted to see if the story might take an unexpected turn for the better.
On a positive note, the soundtrack is worth seeking out, and Dakota Johnson (daughter of Melanie Griffith and grand-daughter of Tippi Hedren) gives everything she has to this role and, when, in the last scene of the film she finally elects to make a stand against what she’s gotten herself into, it’s too little, too late, to give a damn.
My twelve year old self would have called this ” 50 Shades of Gay”, but at 41, I could only wish for it to be as powerful as film like Blue is the Warmest Colour, or Dallas Buyers Club. Incidentally both os those films were released in Australia exactly one year ago.
1 & 1/2 Stars.