What saved this otherwise trashy Lifetime movie from failing utterly was how gorgeously the film is photographed. It was a very good looking picture. I loved the warm oranges and reds you got in certain scenes, and the cold blues and grays in others. The framing was pretty excellent at times. There were shots of the film that really stuck with me, such as Anastasia pressing the pencil between her lips.
I was also impressed with how the soundtrack was woven into the film. Though I didn’t care for most of the actual songs, they merged with the scenes naturally. The same can be said of the sound design. It was noticeably good.
But the film’s best quality stems from the casting of Dakota Johnson. Though she isn’t given a lot to work with here, she shines throughout the film and gives her character a levity that wasn’t present in the book. She also has excellent comedic timing. I would love to see her in a comedy.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian with all the charisma of a Vulcan. He also has the unusual quality of having douche hair. It’s not so much the hair cut. No, it’s more the way his hair just falls on his head.
But, even with the film’s few saving graces, it was always destined to be a film beyond saving. The story is just so misogynistic and perpetuates an abusive relationship. I’m not referring to the bedroom scenes. People can have all kinds of the sexy, funky fun they want in the bedroom. What is unacceptable is the control he tries to put her under. It is psychologically abusive.
I will say that the film handles this better than the book, though. Christian is softened for the film, and likewise Anastasia voices herself more. She is much less complacent, and the film ends with a really good scene.
The other profound flaw is that the film is shot through the male gaze. It is a film that is predominantly catered to women, and yet it is only Anastasia that is photographed in the nude. Christian has one butt shot and shows off a thatch of pubic hair, yet she is filmed full frontal multiple times. There definitely should have been a far more equal balance in the nudity, especially considering the audience it was shooting for.
The last flaw the film makes, and arguably the hardest one to look past, is that the sex scenes aren’t sexy. Though shot well, they aren’t arousing. In any way. In a film that basically amounts to artistic soft-core, that is pretty damning.
(Image courtesy of Opi.com)