Few films in American cinematic history are to justify their adaptation from, much less come within the vicinity of replicating the magic of, their literary counterparts they were born from, sans the likes of iconic masterpieces like Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind or J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series.
We’re not saying 50 Shades of Grey the movie reached the plateaus established by the book, but the film generated enough electricity across a vast cross-section of the country to create a critical mass of interest the filmmakers hope will produce a cultural phenomenon like the aforementioned book-movie duos.
The movie’s protagonists include Dakota Johnson who plays Anastasia Steele, a bland, plainly attractive and introverted college senior with expressive eyes who falls in love with an enigmatic and brash billionaire — who comes off on-screen as a cross between a brilliant business baron and undercover serial predator who had just detected his next victim.
The man for whom the book and the movie are named after, Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan, has his internal radar go off when Anastasia come’s into his penthouse office to interview him for the school’s newspaper prior to his commencement speech at her college.
Anastasia, somehow an inexperienced virgin at this point in her life, is immediately enamored and sexually obsessed with this arrogant aristocrat with a maniacal control-freak disposition about him.
After a series of awkward flirtations and courtship — including the trip by Grey into the hardware shop where Anastasia works to buy rope, industrial tape and other items of restraint, replete with a sexually-suggestive “wink” — he eventually leads her into his life of super kinky sex and to his playroom of horrors filled with all the requisite items to exert his animalistic need for sadomasochism, dominance, spanking and sexual subservience over his younger, weak and impressionable female subject. Moreover, he produces a contract to enable him to fully explore his loveless lust of Anastasia and violate every orifice on her body with any type of tool imaginable, if he will let her.
Call this Cinemax on steroids.
The movie adaptation from E.L. James’ international runaway bestseller 50 Shades of Grey, which has sold more than 100 million copies and translated into 52 languages worldwide, works from a sexual chemistry standpoint, for which Dornan and Steele have ample supply of. Despite falling short, the film moves the cultural needle. 50 Shades of Grey blows away the competition for its faithful and more realistic portrayal of sex behind closed doors than what is normally portrayed on the big and small screens.
The plot line and dialogue in 50 Shades is thinner than a sidewalk puddle, but you know you’re on to something when, just as the movie abruptly ends and the screen goes black, the theater erupts in surprise and angst. Many people in the audience sat in their seats — others argued out of the theater — to debate the merits of the couple’s relationship, where it might go and what direction the next chapter in this inevitable movie series may turn.
In this way, 50 Shades of Grey wins. Big time.