Fifty Shades of Grey: Critic-proof and cringingly bad?
The R-rated tale of a virgin and her billionaire continues to rake in record numbers at the box office, standing as the highest-grossing film ever released in February.
Even though the general public has embraced the film, reviewers by and large, have hated it. A quick skim of the write-ups and It becomes painfully clear that the film critics of America have been needing, itching, yearning to exercise their usually restrained libidos and show off their limber use of bad puns. Rotten Tomatoes’ “Critics Consensus”, for example, which grants the film a measly 25 percent approval rating, reads:
“While creatively better endowed than its print counterpart, Fifty Shades of Grey is a less than satisfying experience on the big screen.”
Some critics were dignified in their disappointment, such as The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane: “Think of it as the Downton Abbey of bondage… ” he wrote.
USA Today‘s Claudia Puig proved brevity is a virtue:
“Sitting through the turgid and tedious S&M melodrama that is Fifty Shades of Grey may feel like its own form of torture.”
Katie Rife of the A.V. Club makes a satirical comparison that sounds more interesting than the movie itself:
“Director Sam Taylor-Johnson…makes Fifty Shades Of Grey occasionally resemble the American Psycho of mommy porn.”
A.O. Scott of The New York Times filled his review with refined references to sex- leave it to the Grey Lady to make Christian Grey’s bondage appeal to the upper crust:
“Sex is a knotty business, perhaps all the more so when actual knots are involved…You know the routine: an arched neck, some curled toes, a buttock here, a breast there, a wisp of pubic hair, a muffled moan, another Beyoncé song. Maybe a riding crop for variety.”
Slate’s Meghan Daum, ironically one of the few female critics to review the film (and one of the few female movie critics at major publications, period), was let down by its emphasis on sex toys over actual sex:
“If you come to Fifty Shades of Grey looking for true kink, you will have come to the wrong place. You’ll get peacock feathers and satiny blindfolds, horsehair whips better for tickling than flogging and, of course, many expensive silk ties.”
On the left coast, the Los Angeles Times‘ Kenneth Turan used a personal anecdote to show his displeasure:
“More years ago than I want to remember, I was wandering down a disreputable street near New York’s once-seedy Times Square when I spied a hand-lettered sign in front of a storefront theater. “At Last!” the poster read. “A Bondage Film With a Believable Story Line!” I don’t remember what film was playing, but it certainly wasn’t Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Other critics, however, did not obscure their feelings with flowery language. Wesley Morris of Grantland made his hatred clear:
“The fifty shades might be grey, but your balls are also blue… Episodes of Friends have been more explicit.”
And of course, honorable mention must go to the Observer’s own Rex Reed, who sums up the film nicely — and also seems to have some experience with porn:
“….In his lavish penthouse, he beckons her to his decadent “playroom” filled with walls of assorted chains, whips and a collector’s gallery of other favorite “floggers.” Appalled, she flees. But naturally, she returns, even after he presents her with a detailed contract promising her unspeakable luxuries in exchange for total dominance if she becomes his coveted “submissive.” Intrigued, she says she’s O.K. with bondage, but anal torture is a no-no and she draws the line at vaginal clamps. We’re off and running.”
He concludes: “The movie dead ends just like the book, and for anyone who has ever seen a real porno film, it’s tame as tapioca…The entire movie is about as sexy as a root canal.”
Worse yet, it’s just the first installment of a trilogy.