Thursday, December 1, 2022


February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

In Berlin, where it had its world premiere this week at the Berlin International Film Festival — the Berlinale — billboards and one-sheets for Fifty Shades of Grey were posted everywhere, far outnumbering ads for any movie being screened in competition. Fifty was not entered in the competition, and although it was given a fancy red-carpet screening at the festival, attended by stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, there was no press conference. And a press screening for the film was accompanied by chortles and tittering — at all the wrong places. (The biggest laugh came during a scene in the film in which Dornan, as Grey, leaves his bed with Johnson, in the role of heroine Anastasia Steele, to play a Chopin piano concerto on the grand piano in his penthouse.) Like the book critics who reviewed E.L. James’s novel on which the movie is based, film critics attending the festival had few favorable comments to bestow on the movie, with most agreeing that the principal fault with it has nothing to do with illicit sex. (Quite the contrary. As Peter Bradshaw in Britain’s Guardian wrote, the movie represents “the most purely tasteful and softcore depiction of sadomasochism in cinema history.”) The movie’s real problem, they appeared to agree, is that it is often simply a drag. Jan Moir in the London Daily Mail headlined her review: “Sorry ladies, but the Fifty Shades movie is a spanking great bore!” Likewise, Justin Chang in Variety commented that the movie was a “consistent hoot until it becomes a serious drag.” A handful of reviews from Berlin, however, were indeed utterly withering. Australian TV critic Lisa Wilkinson, for example, called it “quite simply the worst film I’ve ever seen.” All in all, though, the reviews were not so scathing as many had expected. Some, in fact, were outright “pretty good.” That was also the case when North American-based critics’ comments were published in advance of Friday’s debut of the movie. While there was the odd diss (Rex Reed in the New York Observer remarked that the movie is “about as sexy as a root canal” and Peter Howell in the Toronto Star called it “an exercise in banality.” But even Howell allowed that the filmmakers “had an almost impossible task, trying to create a soft-porn romance that would arouse everyone while offending no one.” And A.O. Scott in the New York Times figured that women will head out to see Fifty Shades for the same reason they read trashy novels: for fun. “[It] might not be a good movie — O.K., it’s a terrible movie — but it might nonetheless be a movie that feels good to see, whether you squirm or giggle or roll your eyes or just sit still and take your punishment.”