Movie review: Light bondage aside, Fifty Shades of Grey's real lust is for corporate power | Arts
Arts
INDY Week's arts blog

Archives | RSS | Follow on

Friday, February 13, 2015

Movie review: Light bondage aside, Fifty Shades of Grey's real lust is for corporate power

Posted by on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 1:50 PM

click to enlarge fifty-shades-of-grey-fsg_elevator1sht_1110_2_rgb.jpg
Fifty Shades of Grey

Now playing


Fifty Shades of Grey is a slick commercial for the eponymous Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his cult of work. In director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaptation of the hit erotica series, work and love are almost indistinguishable.

The much-remarked retrograde sexual politics of E.L. James’ franchise is definitely present, but what is most curious about the film is its insistence that Grey’s sexiness resides almost entirely in his corporate brand, rather than in his person. Grey-branded personal helicopters, buildings and lobbies populate the mise-en-scène. After first meeting Grey, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is presented in extreme close-up with a Grey-monogrammed pencil pressed to her lips.

This is just one of the ways that Fifty Shades suggests corporate fellatio.

The first in a trilogy, the film tells the plodding story of Steele, a wallflower college student, meeting Grey, a young entrepreneur. The plot moves through tiny developments in whether Anastasia will or won’t accept Grey’s contract, becoming his submissive in an S&M relationship.

Yet the film deals very little with the erotics of sexual transgression that it positions at its center. Johnson and Dornan have all the sexual charisma of a broomstick with bangs emoting in front of a well-formed cleft of Silly Putty. It’s really about the more banal, but also more insidious, relationships that women in their 20s tend to enter into with mysterious, often toxic men. It’s a film about the erotics of emotional control, whether at work, in love, or both.

In fact, the pair’s forays into light BDSM constitute the most consensual and reciprocal moments of the story. Grey blankly warns Anastasia that he cannot love while stalking her around the country in his private helicopter. Still, both in and out of the bedroom, Steele strives for Grey’s love like it’s her job. Johnson pulls a serviceable performance out of Kelly Marcel’s very limited script, while Dornan’s expression alternates between inertly squishy and constipated. Steele striving to find herself, reflected and recognized in the monolith that is Grey, constitutes some of the only watchable moments.

Director Taylor-Johnson emerged from the Young British Artists group that rose to prominence in the art world of the ’90s, which also produced conceptual artist turned Hollywood director Steve McQueen. But unlike McQueen, Taylor-Johnson does not bring a flair for concepts or feelings to filmmaking. Rather, her directorial work exhibits the worst aspects of the contemporary art world’s merger with the broader entertainment-industrial complex: celebrity worship and blank irony that never seems to take off as critique, institutional or otherwise.

Fifty Shades makes a few stabs at humor, but they remain just stabs. What’s more, Taylor-Johnson displays no apparent knack for image-making. The slickness of the art direction and soundtrack (featuring a remix of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and various songs by The Weeknd) only add to the film’s ambient vagueness.

The wager on big franchises like this is that they will not be a critically adored, but that they will capitalize on an existing fan culture. But those not versed in the Fifty Shades universe are given no reason to buy into Grey’s brand. The most disappointing thing about the film, which makes it barely suitable for a hate-watch, is simply how boring it is. 

Tags: , , ,

Pin It

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Arts



Twitter Activity

Comments

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

Most Recent Comments

In the last 5 years, 11 of the 15 musicals NRACT produced were premieres in the region. I commend them …

by James Ilsley on Theater Review: Dogfight's Regional Premiere at NRACT Is Rich in Emotion But Meager in Staging (Arts)

Instead of luxury apartments(AHEM Carborro) and new restaurants, build more parking?!(Just one parking garage would help a lot, cover it …

by ammi on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

WELCOME TO THE GREAT BROTHERHOOD.
Do you want to be a member of Illuminati as a brotherhood that will make …

by peter bello on Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose Rolls Over and Plays Dead Under Its Own Heart-Tugging Weight (Arts)

The last thing Chapel Hill needs is another damn restaurant.

by Chrysser on The Bookshop Brought Many Rare and First Editions—and Two Famous Cats—to Franklin Street for Thirty-Two Years (Arts)

Wow. I guess you can't recognize brilliant satire when you see it. This was an amazing performance that if you …

by Sam Bayer on ADF Review: Hillel Kogan's We Love Arabs Lags Behind a Cultural Conversation Already Well Underway in Our Region's Performing Arts Scene (Arts)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation