When it comes to Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s no shortage of criticism. Just like the books, the film has sparked controversy everywhere. However, it does lack good and supportive responses – this is where I feel the need to step in and become one of its limited defenders.
I originally had no desire to read E.L. James’s books. But, as a fond reader, I couldn’t contain my curiosity for the book that was continually increasing in popularity; engrossing hundreds of women – and some men – into reading not one book, but a whole trilogy. I found myself the same. Before I knew it, a week had gone by and I was the owner and consumer of all the Fifty Shades trilogy.
When I heard about the film, my expectations were low. I wasn’t sure how they could successfully transform the pages of the book onto the screen; I was afraid the casting wouldn’t be realistic, and the chemistry wouldn’t be convincing. I hadn’t seen much of Dakota Johnson or Jamie Dornan prior to Fifty Shades, so had no point of reference for their acting. However, this didn’t matter, as both performed the characters with passion: Jamie Dornan’s eyes showed the dark nature of his character and his insane desire for Anastasia Steele, even though his adorable Irish accent couldn’t help but slip out in the film. Johnson received a lot of criticism prior to the film’s release; many magazines and people I spoke to expressed a united concern with Ana’s casting choice. By emphasising the characters strength, giving her sass and making her comical, she has proved us all wrong.
The film has been heavily criticised as ‘glorified sexual abuse’ – but this is not the case. The film follows the story of two polar opposites – a pair that on paper shouldn’t work. The premise that Christian Grey is abusive, to me, is an excessive response. His desire to control her is always with her best intentions in mind. Now I do not believe a man should ever control a woman, but it is too far to describe his behaviour as abusive. His attitude towards relationships is dysfunctional and he is overprotective, however, considering his shady past – which is only explored briefly in the first film – we can understand why Ana’s safety is his prime focus. Again, this does not give him the right to control Ana, but it does show why he is so overprotective. His desire to control her is a sign of his overwhelming and uncontrollable love for her, as it is such a new and scary emotion for him.
The way Johnson plays Ana also supports my view that this film doesn’t glorify sexual abuse. She plays Ana as courageous: Ana often says no to Christian – the contract-discussion scene is a prime example of this, as she holds all control and even teases him in the process. If anything, she changes his character and controls him by not signing the contract; she almost manipulates him into a type of relationship he didn’t want. All sexual acts are consented to, safe words are implemented, he informs her of what he’s going to do, and reassures her constantly.
The ending of the film is acted fantastically. Jamie Dornan shows Christian’s pain and pleasure in punishing Ana, as her response to his BDSM lifestyle leaves him truly broken: the pain in his eyes is so convincing.
The ending is criticised as disappointing, however, this is a critique of the novel than of the film.
The director, Sam Taylor Johnson, has handled the book’s content and pacing well, and has successfully portrayed the story of the innocent student and the sexy billionaire-with-a-past. My only criticism of the direction would be that she tries to fit so much of the book in: the scenes lack depth and miss out details that are vital to the storyline. The scenes don’t flow and are constantly changing which doesn’t allow them to retain detail. With that said, she has created a pretty apt version of the novel, and added a lot more humour to appease the dark nature of Christian’s world.
Lastly, the soundtrack can’t go unmentioned: even the harshest critics have praised the Fifty Shades of Grey album. The music is sexy and so in tune with the film – for me, it’s the icing on top of the cake.
This film was never going to please everyone, and critics were always going to watch it in order to unfairly and heavily criticise it. For me however, the film was a brilliant version of the book. It may have left out a fair few scenes, but I’m sure book fans would agree that some of them weren’t meant for the big screen.