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Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

It may be cold outside, but things are definitely heating up in theaters as Fifty Shades of Grey, the most anticipated guilty pleasure of the year, hits the big screen. Adapted from E.L. James’ international bestseller, Fifty Shades does not disappoint, seducing audiences into the lavish and twisted world of handsome billionaire Christian Grey.

When Anastasia ‘Ana’ Steele interviews Grey about his success for her school newspaper, she is equal parts intimidated and amazed by him, and he in turn is unable to resist her seeming innocence and beauty. Clearly a man used to going after what he wants, Grey begins aggressively pursuing the college senior with a variety of grand gestures. Ana, an admitted romantic, soon realizes that her pure intentions are not reciprocated. During a visit to his stunning Seattle bachelor pad, Ana learns that Grey is only interested in relationships on his own terms: an exclusively sexual, dominant/submissive one. As Christian walks Ana through his playroom filled with BDSM toys and gear, she is overwhelmed, but doesn’t hesitate to ask that he “enlighten” her. Which he does, on the spot.

Ana soon finds herself with a lengthy contract in hand, outlining the conditions of the unconventional relationship being proposed. The storyline is centered around her inner struggle to sign control over to a man she’s quickly fallen in love with, and Christian’s increasing frustration at Ana’s ability to throw off-balance the perfectly controlled environment he’s cultivated.

Despite initial fan disappointment in the casting, newcomers Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have the advantage of little prior film baggage, making it easy for audiences to get lost in their story. Dornan’s calculated, detached portrayal of the tormented billionaire contrasts seamlessly against his wide-eyed, virginal counterpart. The character of Grey is just complex enough to peak interest, as we slowly learn about his past and how it shaped his unique take on relationships. He walks the fine line between fantasy boyfriend and cold sadist as a tense balancing act. While Johnson’s ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ innocence does get old quickly, she redeems herself with a cheeky edge that provides some much needed comic relief and the comfort of knowing that she can hold her own.

It was evident that Christian and Ana’s sexual encounters were constructed to please the widest audience possible. They cross conventional lines but never take things far enough to truly shock and offend, as the book did to many readers. Limits were pushed tastefully, with sex scenes almost too aesthetically pleasing to convince that either participant was actually experiencing any sort of perverse pleasure. The controversy surrounding the film may have been a bit premature, as the majority of Christian and Ana’s encounters were more teasing than raunchy. Truth be told, Fifty Shades of Grey contains nothing we haven’t seen in an episode of Sex and the City.

At first glance, their courtship is extravagant, ridiculous, and essentially, a fantasy. But when you strip away the fancy cars, expensive gifts and silk blindfolds, you’re left with a simple tale of boy-meets-girl and their struggles with intimacy. It’s almost heartbreaking watching Christian offer Ana any gift or experience she could ever dream of, while all she ever wants is for him to sleep beside her. As he slowly admits that she is affecting him and changing his ways, hopeless romantics everywhere will feel a small victory. You may be surprised to find yourself secretly hoping for a happily ever after.

Whether you’re with your sweetheart or your best friends this Valentine’s Day, go indulge in the irresistible world of Mr. Grey. He will no doubt leave you begging for more.

[star v=35]

Kate White

Kate White works in PR in Toronto. She has a weakness for classic film and loves a good meet-cute. If you let her pick the movie, it will be When Harry Met Sally, every time.