The Films of Sam Taylor-Johnson
Fifty Shades of Grey (February 13/15)
Based, of course, on the best-selling book, Fifty Shades of Grey follows virginal college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as she falls for an enigmatic and charming billionaire named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) - with complications ensuing as it becomes increasingly clear that Christian's idea of romance is very different from Anastasia's. Filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, along with screenwriter Kelly Marcel, offers up an adaptation that does, for the most part, hew remarkably close to the source material, as the narrative's deliberate and uneventful feel certainly echoes the novel's less-than-blistering pace. It is, as such, not terribly surprising to note that Fifty Shades of Grey suffers from an exceedingly erratic atmosphere (ie there seem to be almost any many lulls as compelling stretches), with the movie's palpably overlong running time compounded by Taylor-Johnson's oddly (and needlessly) grim handling of the material (ie the movie could've used a more lively, almost campy approach). Having said that, Fifty Shades of Grey remains entirely watchable for the duration of its 125 minute running time - with the film benefiting substantially from Johnson's completely captivating and consistently engaging turn as the affable central character. (Dornan doesn't fare quite as well, admittedly, and it's worth noting that the chemistry between the two performers isn't nearly as electric as one might've hoped). Taylor-Johnson's artful sensibilities ensure that the film's various sex scenes, of which there are many, come off as surprisingly flat and unerotic, which is disappointing, certainly, given author E.L. James' decidedly steamy treatment of such moments in her much-maligned (yet rather readable) novel. Fifty Shades of Grey ultimately reveals itself to be a passable adaptation that could (and should) have been much better, with the series hopefully taking an upward tick as it progresses into its second and third installment (along the lines of the Twilight movies).