‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Film Review

Bondage stakes its claim on the multiplex as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele transition steamily from best-seller to the big screen.

As the tens of millions of readers of Fifty Shades of Grey know, Christian Grey doesn’t do hearts and flowers. The long-fingered antihero of E L James’ 2011 novel is a sexual dominant, practiced and resolute, determined to make Anastasia Steele his submissive without giving her the dreaded “more” — i.e., the dinner-date trappings of conventional romance. Both on the page and in the glossy, compellingly acted screen adaptation, one of the more perverse aspects of their zeitgeist-harnessing story is the breathless way it melds the erotic kink known as BDSM with female wish-fulfillment fantasy of a decidedly retro slant. Hearts and flowers are barely concealed beneath the pornographic surface, and as with most mainstream love stories, an infatuated but commitment-averse male is in need of rehabilitation.

Arriving on Valentine’s weekend with record-setting ticket presales, the first in a planned trilogy of movies will stoke the ardor of James’ fans, entice curious newbies, and in every way live up to the “phenomenon” hype. Although the book’s soft-X explicitness has been toned down to a hard R, this is the first studio film in many years to gaze directly at the Medusa of sex — and unlike such male-leer predecessors as 9½ Weeks, it does so from a woman’s perspective. Aiming to please, the filmmakers submit without hesitation to the bold yet hokey source material, with leads Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson breathing a crucial third dimension into cutout characters.

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