‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Fails to Impress Ahead of Opening

Hotly-anticipated erotic drama Fifty Shades Of Grey has met with a slew of negative reviews ahead of its release in cinemas this week (ends15Feb15).

The movie was screened at the Berlin Film Festival in Germany on Wednesday night (11Feb15) but many critics were less than impressed with director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s adaption of the E.L. James novel.

It has been branded “gloomy”, “ludicrous”, “downright creepy”, and a “terrible movie”, with several commentators singling out male lead Jamie Dornan for particular criticism. Actress Dakota Johnson received some praise for her portrayal as a student seduced by a bondage-loving businessman, but the movie left many reviewers cold.

Kate Muir, of British newspaper The Times, gave it just two stars out of five and branded it “painful to watch”, adding, “(It) starts out hilarious, becomes ludicrous and is finally dubious… (The actors) make a decent stab at thinly-written characters…. (and the script and direction) take the… mickey out of the source material… (The film goes) swiftly from ridiculous to downright creepy.”

Kaleem Aftab, of the U.K.’s The Independent, wrote, “(It) plays like the opening of a porn movie in which a washing machine repairman will turn up at a house and be met by a bored housewife”, and Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian added, “There are no glimpses of a penis in this film, not in any state. It’s primly off-camera. Or maybe the smoulderingly sado-obsessed hero does not have a penis.”

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Philippa Hawker noted, “Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have turned E.L. James’ overheated, annoying first-person narrative (the first novel of a trilogy) into a somewhat gloomy vision of expectations and desires, the story of a man’s will for control and a woman’s resistance.”

A.O. Scott, for the New York Times, wrote, “Mr. Dornan has the bland affect of a model, by which I mean a figure made of balsa wood or Lego. What vitality Fifty Shades of Grey possesses belongs to Ms. Johnson, who is a champion lip-biter and no slouch at blushing, eye-rolling and trembling on the verge of tears… Fifty Shades of Grey might not be a good movie – O.K., it’s a terrible movie – but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment.”

New York Magazine critic David Edelstein was among those who praised the film, writing, “It’s elegantly made, and Dakota Johnson is so good at navigating the heroine’s emotional zigs and zags that you want to buy into the whole cobwebbed premise.” However, he also found room to slam Dornan’s performance, adding, “(He) cuts a less commanding figure than you’d hope… With his fluffed-up hair and pert, pretty little face, Dornan’s (Christian) Grey looks more like a natural bottom than a top. He’s a bantamweight. Although I did grow to appreciate his modest, unshowy acting, it’s clear he’s not sending much heat her way and that she’s having to work herself up in a vacuum.”