The poster for Fifty Shades of Grey, the film adaptation of E.L. James’ erotic novel, asks moviegoers, “Are you curious?” Of course we are. The novel, which tells the story of a college student that enters into a BDSM relationship with tech billionaire, has sold 100 million copies worldwide and this past Valentine’s Day weekend broke several box-office records. Both the film and the novel it is based on have been the subject of rampant controversy. This, by the way, tends to be the case when women en masse use their purchasing power to elevate a property to household-name status. The diehard fans are deafening; the detractors match their decibel level. Amid all that noise, of course you’re curious. Of course you’re asking yourself, “Is this a film worth seeing?” And the answer is, “Yes, absolutely.”
For the uninitiated, the basic premise is, after a chance meeting, Seattle telecommunications mogul Christian Grey becomes obsessed with the idea of virginal college student Anastasia Steele becoming the “submissive” to his “dominant.” He seduces her with his wealth, his power, his six-pack, but Steele resists signing his BDSM contract. As electric as the chemistry is between the two, their desires are fundamentally opposed. He wants control in the bedroom. She wants control of his heart.
The film knows where it gets silly, and its heroine isn’t afraid to crack jokes and laugh right in the face of the story’s pornographic absurdity. At the same time, this is a film about sex, and though the BDSM presented here skews vanilla, the bedroom scenes still manage to steam up the joint. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson tells a stylish and campy tale of a woman seduced by a man’s power, a woman unsettled by the thought that she might have to give up her own power in order to make the relationship work. Leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan start out the film rough — Johnson reads forced, Dornan comes across wooden — but it doesn’t take long for them to settle into their roles, and once they’re locked in, they fire on all cylinders.
Fifty Shades is often dismissed as fodder for sexually frustrated housewives. I haven’t read the books, but I can assure you, the film is for any adult who likes their movies a little bit silly and more than a little bit sexy.