Thursday Night Movie Club
Fifty Shades of Grey
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Release Date: 13 February 2015

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Dakota Johnson
Jamie Dornan
Jennifer Ehle
Eloise Mumford
Victor Rasuk
Luke Grimes
Marcia Gay Harden
Rita Ora
Max Martini
Callum Keith Rennie
Andrew Airlie
Dylan Neal
Elliat Albrecht
Rachel Skarsten
Emily Fonda
Anastasia Steele
Christian Grey
Elliot Grey
Mrs. Grey
Mia Grey
Mr. Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey movie poster Fifty Shades of Grey movie poster Fifty Shades of Grey movie poster
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Grey is a complex, challenging, difficult, and complicated film for the viewer to watch. This is not due to the subject matter of the film which includes sequences of bondage and domination.

The film is difficult because the character development and the dawning relationship are very subtly presented. The story develops over a long period of time. As part of a trilogy, more questions arise than are answered.

Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is a young, extremely rich businessman. Grey is driven, ambitious, dominating, intimidating. These are all the qualities needed to be successful on the world business stage. Grey is all business, all the time.

Out of the blue, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) falls, quite literally, into Grey's life. Steele has driven up to Seattle to interview Grey instead of her roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford), who is sick with the flu. Steele immediately feels unbridled attraction towards Grey. Grey is smitten by the very sexy and erotic way Steele bites her lip. She isn't even aware she does this. Steele's lip bite drives Grey to distraction.

Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of GreyLife for Anastasia Steele gets even more complicated when Christian Grey turns up at the hardware store where she works. Christian is in town visiting his brother. She pleasantly helps him with his purchases which appear a little odd: cable ties, duct tape and some rope. Christian does not appear to be the handyman type. A rich man can certainly hire someone else to make repairs.

Anastasia and Christian meet again when Kate suggests a photo shoot with Christian to go with the article Kate is writing. Christian invites Anastasia for coffee after the shoot. Kate senses Christian's attention towards Anastasia. Everyone in the room notices except Anastasia. After coffee, Christian warns Anastasia to stay away from him. He isn't the right man for her. However, Christian does not take his own advice. He keeps finding ways to see Anastasia.

Jaime Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyChristian wants to have sexual relations with Anastasia in the worst way. She wants sex with him in the worst way. Christian's idea of sex is just about the worst way. He does not do romance. He is in it for the physical release and the pleasure it brings him. But, does Christian care about what his partner is feeling during the physical coupling? Does he care about Anastasia as a person or as his personal sex toy?

Barely thirty minutes into the film, very little is revealed outright about Anastasia and Christian. Lurking just beneath the surface, questions about Anastasia and Christian begin rising in the viewer's mind. Nagging intuitions that just cannot be adequately formulated. Throughout the remainder of the film, elements of each personality is revealed through subtle verbal hints, gestures and facial expressions.

Anastasia is physically and emotionally immature. Christian's birth mother was a drug addict who died when he was four. He is adopted into the loving, caring, nurturing Grey family. His life should be great. Instead, his teenage years are spent as a slave to a very good friend of the Grey family. Christian is "trained" to be emotionless, to feel nothing.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of GreyAnastasia stirs feelings in Christian that he doesn't understand. No matter how hard he tries, he cannot keep away from her. After Anastasia passes out after celebrating her last ever final exam, she wakes up in a strange bed in a strange room. Christian enters nonchalantly. Anastasia is shocked to learn Christian slept with her in the same bed, although they did not have sex. Christian is amazed with himself. Quite literally, Christian has never slept, actually slept in the same bed with a woman. He prefers to love 'em and leave 'em. There are no unforeseen complications this way. This is the first time he has ever done this. Christian's life is changing in a way he cannot fathom.

Christian flies Anastasia to Seattle in his helicopter. He has never been photographed with a woman. At Anastasia's graduation when he is asked to pose for a photo, Christian pulls Anastasia into the photo. He takes her up in his glider plane telling the pilot of the tow plane that Anastasia is his girlfriend. These are all firsts for Christian. Anastasia is changing Christian as he is changing her.

Jaime Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyAs their relationship grows, Christian blatantly tells Anastasia he wants to make love to her. She is ready, willing and able. Christian has exacting standards for sexual relations that he "needs" Anastasia to follow completely. He needs her submission in order to get off.

Because he is such a rich and powerful man, Christian's lawyers insist every partner he has relations with sign a Non-disclosure Agreement. She signs the agreement without hesitation.

Next comes the sticking point that permeates the rest of the film. Christian insists Anastasia sign a slave contract which stipulates in great detail what each person will and will not do. The contract is loaded with references to bondage and various implements of pain. She is free to read over the contract and make any changes. Negotiations are now open.

Jaime Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyNegotiations reach a stand-still when Anastasia reveals that she is a virgin. Christian is angry. Not at her but at himself for not realizing that fact. He is shocked because Anastasia is so beautiful and sexy. Her situation is easily remedied. Christian takes her to bed and has sex with her like "normal" people. Another first for Christian. She is more than satisfied and wants more.

Despite not signing the contract, Christian slowly shows Anastasia his world. One night, he simply binds her wrists with one of his expensive neck ties and tells her to not move. Next he ties her wrists to the bed frame before finally taking her into his "Red Room of Pain" for some "serious fun".

Jaime Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of GreyThe sex scenes are erotic, filmed well with excellent cinematography. But the film is rated R as compared with NC17 or an X rating so there are limits on just how explicit the scenes are filmed. The sex scenes are not the most important elements of the film. Character development is.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have the unenviable jobs playing emotionally immature adults in a way that makes the audience care about them. They are people, not robots. They carry the film for two hours. Both actors are excellently cast and perform wonderfully. These are two characters who should be very boring and yet the performances humanize them. The performances are subdued, understated and yet mesmerizing. Too much emoting would have ruined the effect of the film.

Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyThe only emotional outbursts happen at the very end of the film. Anastasia almost begs Christian to show her his worst side. She wants to understand him fully, the good and the bad. Christian takes her to the Red Room of Pain. Naked, she bends over a glass table. Christian severely lashes her ass with a leather strap.

The beating is brutal. The sound of each whack "echoes" throughout the theater. The only words spoken are Anastasia counting each blow. She asked for this. He honored her offer. Each person is shaken by this encounter. Anastasia now knows how cruel Christian can be. Christian can and has been cruel before. But for this brief moment, he is shaken by his own cruelty. Anastasia has done nothing wrong to deserve his brutality. Clearly Christian does not want this. All of this is conveyed through expressions and gestures. The scene packs more of an emotional wallop than physical.

The film ends with Anastasia asserting herself for the first time in her young life. She rebukes Christian, stopping him dead in his tracks. The result is both surprising and shocking.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson has filmed a beautiful yet quiet film. He reins in the actors keeping their portrayals subdued yet still subtly depicting the various complexities of each character. The editing keeps the pace slow just like how real life unfolds.

Jaime Dornan and Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyThe film is about Anastasia and Christian. Taylor-Johnson keeps the focus almost exclusively focused on the two characters. Christian has many people working for him. Aside from his driver/body guard Taylor (Max Martini), none of his other employees have screen time. Christian must have servants to wash the dishes and his laundry. Like Christian's personality, they are there somewhere lurking in the shadows. Does he have friends?

Christian meets Anastasia's family. Anastasia meets his family. These brief encounters reveal nothing about the main characters. Frustrating for the audience? Maybe. Reality none-the-less? Yes. Taylor-Johnson forces the audience to "read between the lines" to learn about these two. The film must play out to reveal how the puzzle pieces fit.

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey shot a beautiful film. Seattle looks fantastic in the daytime, nighttime, or raining. The glider sequence is fantastic. The audience is right up in the plane with Anastasia feeling the freedom and sheer joy gliding brings her.

Danny Elfman's music score is as subdued as the pace. The music sets the mood but does not interfere with the characters interactions. Like Anastasia and Christian, the music plays just under the surface.

Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of GreyMany viewers may be bored to tears watching Fifty Shades of Grey. The film is understated and yet fascinating. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan performances are mesmerizing, if only one is willing to let them capture the essence of two very complicated, unemotional, unloving people begin to learn about their emotions and what is really involved in loving another person.

Once the "Fifty Shades" trilogy is complete, the films "should" be looked at as a single film telling one story. It is refreshing to see a film based entirely on characters' interactions and their growing emotions without a silly "McGuffin" to ruin the film.

Allow Fifty Shades of Grey to be what it is without prejudice. You may be surprised!