Not Pornographic, Not Erotic, Not Interesting

Not Pornographic, Not Erotic, Not Interesting

I have a separate life reviewing real movies — the kind that play in theaters. And while I can’t get away with the same sort of thing I can here, I manage to get my point across.

From The Lakeville (Conn.) Journal, Feb.26, 2015

I slithered into the afternoon showing of Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “50 Shades of Grey” at the Moviehouse in Millerton, NY, last week, hoping nobody would see me.

Alas, anonymity proved elusive. The theater held several solid citizens known to me. I mention this in case they feel inclined to blab.

Down in front were three middle-aged ladies. They were giggling nervously, and cracking jokes along the lines of “Carla wanted to come . . . but she was tied up!”


There were two men, besides me, in the audience of perhaps 25, both part of a couple.

One had his cap clamped firmly down on his head. The other looked like it might have been his idea to see this flick — the eagerly-anticipated film adaptation of E.L. James’s stunningly unreadable and successful novel.

A glutton for punishment, I read the book, too. I thought it wasn’t dirty enough to be pornographic, and too clumsy to be erotic.

Mostly it was long.

The flick is, too. If you take the naughty stuff out you still have a solid 100 minutes of some of the most insipid dialogue since . . . . Since never.

This is the worst.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is about to graduate from college. She pinch-hits for her roommate, Kate (Eloise Mumford), who is supposed to interview young, handsome bazillionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) for the school newspaper.

In the single best thing that has ever happened to anybody, Kate got the flu. So Ana has to go interview the boy wonder. Who takes a shine to her, in his charming, handsome, wealthy way (that masks a dark secret).

Apparently being a young bazillionaire means you still can’t find a decent suit.

Christian’s jacket collar pulls away from his neck as if it’s afraid he’s going to tie it up and beat it.

Hey, wait — maybe it’s not bad tailoring. Maybe it’s foreshadowing!

So one thing leads to another and pretty soon Ana and Christian are on the verge of becoming an item — except Christian’s got this contract she needs to review first.

See, Christian’s a dominant, and he doesn’t have girlfriends — he has submissives. And they have to sign a contract that specifies, in great detail, just how funky he can get.

In a film that requires an unusually robust suspension of disbelief from those in the audience, the contract- review scene offers a much-needed laugh.

And it is here that we get the absolute best line of the flick:

“What’s a butt plug?”

We’re talking about a fairly complete look at the nekkid body of Dakota Johnson. (And of Jamie Dornan, for the ladies.)

And there’s a “playroom,” with many interesting devices and accessories that you probably don’t have at home.

Gray suits, gray cars, an endless parade of blonde women in gray suits, gray neckties (see accessories, above).  However, I was keeping track, and I counted, at most, 18 shades of actual gray things.

Then there’s dramatic foreshadowing in a hardware store. A barf scene. Heroic gesture by Christian in fending off a drunken photographer pal of Ana’s. Text messages of tremendous dramatic import, shared with the audience. Helicopter and glider rides.

Variations on spanking, flogging, and restraint — and the always popular Ice Cube Special you may remember from “9 ½ Weeks.”

There are several groanitatious moments — when Christian confesses that his real mother was a crack addict, when Christian takes Ana home to meet the family, and when Christian plays the piano.

Ana observes that his playing is sad. (The word she is looking for is “bad,” but never mind.)

Yes, it is sad. Because Christian is sad. Because he cannot love. He can only dominate. But Ana is changing him.

You see where this is going?

Finally, things go too far in the playroom. This is the most dramatic part of the film. It made the man in the audience who looked like it was his idea say “Whoops” out loud, lending credence to my theory.

And then the film ends — suddenly, like a love affair with a deranged rich pervert who just happens to be the most boring person on the planet.

And that’s the big problem with “50 Shades of Grey.” It is the film that proves that, in the right hands, even the adventures of a psycho pervert with rock-hard abs and an unlimited budget can be about as exciting as a PBS documentary about sea turtles and penguins.

There are racier movies. There are weirder movies. But offhand, I can’t think of a duller movie. Therefore, I heartily urge everybody to see “50 Shades of Grey.” Why? Because I had to.

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