2 stars (out of 4)
Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy asks girl to be his sexual submissive. That kinky love story sparked a best-selling phenomenon — but its adaptation is a limp bore. In no order, here are 50 reasons why:
1. First off, I get it. This flick isn’t intended to be a polished work of high art — you just want an escapist night out. But it’s not fun enough to be enjoyed over popcorn or emotionally charged enough to be taken seriously. It’s not even campy enough make it a future cult classic. It’s just mediocre. The most damning fate of all.
2. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a virginal, soon-to-be college grad sent to interview 27-year-old billionaire benefactor Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) in Seattle in place of her sick roommate. (Fine, this isn’t a problem. Just need to need to get the premise out of the way.)
3. As soon as Ana bites her lower lip, Mr. Grey decides to pursue her. Yet the banter is so awkward that you’re more likely to be entranced by his sleek office aesthetics.
4. Author E L James wrote her novel from Ana’s awestruck perspective. On the big screen, our leading lady can’t internalize.
5. …And though Johnson does a nice job at conveying the character’s sweet vulnerability, she’s can’t quite show the range of required emotions.
6. Christian Grey has piercing gray eyes. James noted this roughly 87 times. Dornan’s eyes are just a fine shade of blue.
7. Ana: “I wouldn’t look at me.” Christian: “I am.”
8. Christian shows up at the hardware store where Ana works, and she literally shows him the ropes. She doesn’t think this is weird.
9. He buys her a rare edition of her favorite book. She doesn’t think this is weird.
10. After Ana drunk-dials him from a club, he saunters in from Seattle and takes her back to his hotel room. She doesn’t think this is weird.
11. We’re not even at the sex yet.
12. The bland supporting actors, from her roommate to his fixer, disappear halfway through the film. Not that they’re missed.
13. Christian: “What is your thing?” Ana (whispering): “Books.”
14. Christian finally deflowers Ana in a darkly lit scene meant to be scintillating. Brace yourselves: It’s more sterile than a doctor’s office.
15. People in the audience snickered.
16. Dornan and Johnson's lack of passion is criminal, to the point where their screen test must be sent to the labs and dusted for fingerprints.
17. The actor may have a sick chiseled body, but he looks uncomfortable playing a psychologically and physically scarred alpha male.
18. Christian: “F--- the paperwork.”
19. His American accent. Sorry, don’t buy it.
20. Truth: Johnson was more flirtatious in bed with Justin Timberlake during her lone scene in The Social Network.
21. Instead of dinner dates, Christian asks Ana to contractually agree to be whipped and chained in his Red Room of Pain. This serves as the remainder of the plot.
22. She thinks this is only moderately weird.
23. Christian: “I would like to bite that lip.”
24. The stilted and cheesy dialogue.
25. Granted, the Twilight saga also featured the same hackneyed dialogue and star-crossed courtship. At least Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart brought the heat.
26. After one roll in the sack, they slow-dance to a Frank Sinatra song. This is neither the time nor place for a Nora Ephron homage.
27. Christian buys Ana a new laptop and car. She doesn’t think this is weird.
28. Would Charlie Hunnam have made a better Mr. Grey? Or perhaps Alex Pettyfer? Or Ian Somerhalder? It’s all too easy to play casting agent during the movie’s long stretches of dullsville.
29. For example, there’s no need to include Ana’s hometown visit to Georgia to see her mom.
30. Or watch Ana and Christian fly in a drone.
31. Or watch Ana’s mom give her daughter earnest relationship advice. If mama only knew!
32. Marcia Gay Harden, a bona-fide Oscar winner, is wasted in the thankless part of Christian’s mom.
33. Why is Ana using a flip phone?
34. Christian: “If you agree to be my submissive, I’ll be devoted to you.”
35. Christian’s method of wooing, from the piano playing to the aerial rides, is straight out of the Pretty Woman playbook.
36. Christian doesn’t have a trace of a sense of humor. All girls enjoy a sense of humor. It’s a fact. Look it up.
37. Ana, meanwhile, is dryly sarcastic and nurturing. She could have Tindered a guy more compatible for her, easy.
38. Does Ana ever plan on signing this contract? Get on with it, girlfriend!
39. The running time is 122 minutes. Boyhood was only 44 minutes longer. That film spanned 12 years.
40. Christian: I don’t make love. I f--- Hard.”
41. Swaths of Christian’s backstory — including details of his tragic childhood —have been discarded.
42. Because of this, he comes off more like a creepy cipher than a lost soul.
43. The most erotic scenes between our two leads are also cut from the book. Two words: silver balls.
44. The S&M piece de resistance, set to a slow-jam version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” is cut and spliced together like a music video.
45. And it’s a bigger Seattle letdown than Super Bowl 49.
46. Beyond the raunch, nothing here will convince audiences that this unlikely pair belongs together.
47. Ana’s declaration of love is overwrought and disingenuous in a sequence meant to be heart-wrenching.
48. The, er, climax. It’s not satisfying.
49. Christian: “I’m fifty shades of f---ed up!”
50. Two sequels have already been announced! So let’s shut this door and hope the ensuing outings are more…pleasurable.