Monday, March 2, 2015

Shane Vaughn takes on 50 Shades of Grey

Two words can sum up what kept me on this film's side throughout: Dakota Johnson. Daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, she's definitely a star. She brings quiet strength and slyness to a rather blandly written character. Anastasia Steele is much like Bella from 'Twilight'- a stand-in character for a variety of audience members to place themselves in that character's shoes. I'm not even saying that as a bad thing. I liked Kristen Stewart in those films and I like Johnson here too. I haven't read the literary smash book for which it's based. What I have heard regarding the books has been nothing but negative. I can't say whether what I took from the movie was what the book was actually trying to say or not. Is this a tale of a domineering man being taken to task by a meek, virginal woman?

That's what I see, and would explain the book's phenomenal success with it's target audience. But the sex scenes felt tame and held back, lacking the danger I felt the story needed. Johnson brings that in with her facial expressions and performance. Underwear model Jamie Dornan doesn't deliver on her level and does bring the film down. I can imagine a different, more experienced actor really making something of this character. Bringing more to it than the script and story lays out for him. See James Spader in 'Secretary'- the original "Fifty Shades of Grey".

 I enjoyed the direction by newcomer Sam Taylor-Johnson. She doesn't fluff the film visually or sonically, giving the film some ice-cold cinematography and well chosen music cuts. That icy look and slow burn nature does a disservice to the burning sexual tension, which never really takes off, but adds to my view of Grey being someone really capable of hurting Anna. Once again, Dornan doesn't deliver that danger, but I felt it through the direction and Dakota Johnson. I heard Taylor-Johnson and E.L. James butted heads on the ending, which really drove home my impression of the film overall and I felt was worth debating. Apparently the book ends with Anna telling Grey "Red!" to get him to stop and Johnson wanted to end the film with her saying "No". To me it fit more with the story to not have her playing HIS game saying the "code word" for stop but legit "Stop, No!". I think it plays well at the end, drives home the ultimate message I feel is being addressed that women (and men) around the world need to hear.

 So I guess I'm coming down in favor of the film overall. I don't like to hear that E.L. James wants to fully write the sequels, I'd say let the story tell itself rather than force it into arbitrary and lame corners. I expect "Fifty Shades Darker" to indeed be darker and more dangerous, push the limits more!

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