Fifty Shades of Grey stays in James Spader’s shadow

About a dozen years ago I watched a movie called The Secretary. It starred James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and it was brilliant. Spader and Gyllenhaal were exceptional, and they took a tricky subject (BDSM) and brought it alive on the screen.

Fast forward to this week, and my decision to watch Fifty Shades of Grey. Two things – I have never, and will never, read the book; and I’m probably not the target audience.

But I wanted to see what the hype is all about. Maybe if I hadn’t been so intrigued by the antics of Spader and Gyllenhaal 12 years earlier, I would have been less judgmental. But Fifty Shades is a very poor imitation.

Where The Secretary opened a door into the personalities, and attempted to explore their journey, Fifty Shades kept that door firmly bolted.

Dakota Johnson is the shining light in a movie with plenty of dark clouds. Anastasia Steele is the one character the film needed to stand up, and Johnson did it to perfection. Jamie Dorman, as creepy billionaire Christian Grey, is less impressive.

Critics have claimed Fifty Shades is offensive to feminism and glorifying domestic violence. Personally I don’t think it’s either.

The final scene would seem to suggest Anastasia Steele is very capable of standing up for herself. Does that scene undo her earlier submissiveness? Maybe.

And as for domestic violence? Yes, those scenes are uncomfortable. But if they are actions between two consenting adults, who are we to judge? I’m pretty certain domestic violence does not occur between consenting adults.

So I’m going to give Fifty Shade of Grey two stars, on the strength of Johnson’s performance. My strong advice is, if you want to watch a movie about this topic, buy 2002’s The Secretary.


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