The film was a box office hit but critics and viewers have few kind words for it
The adaptation of E.L. James' erotic bestseller stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson
“Fifty Shades of Grey” might have been a box office hit by some measures, but was it any good?
The critics have weighed in and the first wave of moviegoers has paid the price of a ticket. It seems that no one was taken with the eagerly awaited film – or, at least, no one is willing to admit it.
Based on the highly successful novel by E.L. James, the film tells the steamy story of young, attractive billionaire Christian Grey (played by “The Fall” star Jamie Dornan) and the young woman he sexually dominates, Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson, who appeared in “The Social Network”).
Moviegoers gave “Shades” a C+ Cinemascore rating, putting it in mixed company. Anything below a “B” is considered poor but both the box office bomb “Mortdecai” and the high-grossing “Lucy” received a C+.
Here’s what the critics had to say:
Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s a slow build to the smutty bits, and one that’s disappointingly devoid of tension. Even so, the movie is, by definition, a stronger proposition than the book because it strips away the oodles of cringe-inducing descriptions and internal monologue that tip the text heavily toward self-parody.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Though it has its charms, including pleasing and well-matched actors Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as the star-crossed couple, these pleasures have little to do with the bondage-themed sexual encounters that enabled E.L. James’ badly written, unapologetically graphic trilogy of novels to sell a whopping 100 million copies in 52 languages worldwide.”
Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly: “The movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is considerably better written than the book. It is also sort of classy-looking, in a generic, TV-ad-for-bath-oil way. Dakota Johnson, who plays the virgin English-literature major Anastasia Steele, and Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey, the wildly rich and sexually … particular business titan who wants Miss Steele in his playroom, are exceedingly attractive actors with enviably supple bodies well suited to nakedness. And really, under the circumstances, movable parts matter more than acting skills.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times: “It dabbles in romantic comedy and splashes around in melodrama, but the one thing it can’t be – the thing the novel so trashily and triumphantly is – is pornography.”
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “Going in, I expected either a camp hoot or a complete, slavishly faithful submissive of a film, playing opposite the Dominant novel. Instead, ‘Fifty Shades’ turns out to be roughly as pretty good as the first ‘Twilight’ – appropriate, since James wrote ‘Fifty Shades’ as sexed-up, loinzapoppin’ fan fiction paying tribute to the ‘Twilight’ bestsellers.”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: “Fifty Shades of Grey is not the lame, hot-and-bothered fantasy romance many, including myself, thought it would be. It’s got wit and humor and a modest intelligence about human behavior that, say, the Twilight movies never had.”
Alynda Wheat, People: “What the film gets spot-on is the essence of E.L. James’s wildly successful stab at Twilight fan fiction: the frisson of excitement when naïve college senior Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) embarks on an affair with wealthy CEO Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). It’s too bad the movie also imports James’s atrociously written prose and bizarre sexual politics, but then, no one buys a Fifty Shades ticket for the dialogue.”
Justin Chang, Variety: “If the problem with too many literary adaptations is a failure to capture the author’s voice, then that shortcoming turns out to be the single greatest virtue of Fifty Shades of Grey. … Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel have brought out a welcome element of cheeky, knowing humor that gradually recedes as the action plunges into darker, kinkier territory.”
Reviews on social media were not positive either, with viewers complaining that the film was too boring or failed to capture the, um, excitement of the books.
“As a fan of the book, #50ShadesOfGrey the movie was so disappointing,” actor Joyce Giraud said.
“#50ShadesOfGrey was legitimately awful. Like actually very, very bad,” songwriter Madison McFerrin said.
CNN’s Henry Hanks contributed to this story.