Friday’s Film Reviews: Fifty Shades of Grey and Love Is Strange

Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson shed their inhibitions in the eagerly-anticipated film version of Fifty Shades of Grey, Alfred Molina and John Lithgow play men struggling to keep their relationship together in Love Is Strange.

Friday’s Film Reviews: Fifty Shades of Grey and Love Is Strange

Fifty Shades of Grey

With its simplistic storyline about a naive heroine drawn to a dark, brooding hunk, who conceals monstrous desires, Fifty Shades Of Grey is Twilight with riding crops and plush furnishings.

Sam Taylor-Johnson’s flaccid film version of the EL James literary sensation preaches to the perverted in soft-core whimpers and sighs.

Editor Lisa Gunning gently caresses each glossy sequence of writhing appendages to the strains of Danny Elfman’s score or a soaring ballad from Annie Lennox and Sia.

“Got me looking so crazy in love,” purrs Beyonce beneath the picture’s first impeccably lit montage of gym-toned flesh on flesh.

Sadly the carnal abandon in her lyrics fails to translate as lustful hanky-spanky on the big screen.

The plot is handcuffed tightly to the book.

I was more aroused by the immaculate shine on Christian’s piano than anything in his boudoir of bondage: a set designer must have spent hours buffing those ivories.

When Dornan and Johnson are fully clothed and enjoying comical scenes of flirtation, they kindle smouldering screen chemistry.

As soon as one of them disrobes, those embers are extinguished.

Kelly Marcel’s script fails to flesh out the protagonists: Christian remains an enigma and Dornan gamely keeps a straight face as he barks lines like, “If you were mine, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.”

The usual sexual inequality about on-screen nudity applies.

While Johnson is depicted full frontal, Dornan’s modesty remains artfully protected by his co-star’s thighs or high thread-count bed sheets.

In an early scene, Ana’s roommate excitedly demands the lowdown on Christian and the heroine coolly responds that he was nice, courteous and clean.

That’s a fair summation of the film: two hours of polite, functional, beautifully shot foreplay that fails to locate the G-spot.

Star Rating: Rating: 45%

Love Is Strange

Strange, enervating, toxic, miraculous, unrequited, redemptive: love exerts an irresistible hold on the human heart.

Greek philosopher Plato professed love to be a serious mental disease, while Martin Luther King Jr believed it to be the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.

Shakespeare poetically described love as a smoke made with the fume of sighs and as for songwriters Lennon and McCartney, it is the flower you’ve got to let grow or, most simply, all you need.

For filmmaker Ira Sachs and co-writer Mauricio Zacharias, love is a long-term relationship between two gay men set against the bustling backdrop of modern-day Manhattan.

Underscored predominantly by Chopin, Love Is Strange is an elegant character study, which sketches these middle-aged soul-mates with tenderness and heart-breaking intimacy.

Sachs’ film is illuminated by two exquisite performances from John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a married couple who are wary of relying on the kindness of family and friends because “sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to”.

Familiarity breeds not just contempt but also disillusionment, suspicion and, ultimately, aching loneliness.

Love Is Strange treats all of the flawed characters with a delicate and even hand although our hearts invariably belong to the leads.

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina perform as if they have been sharing the same space for decades, trading gentle touches or longing glances as their carefully ordered world unravels.

Marisa Tomei, Cheyenne Jackson, Manny Perez et al offer strong support, enriching their own dysfunctional yet equally loving relationships.

Love is a drug and regardless of the withdrawal symptoms, we all want to be addicts.

Star Rating: 4/5 Rating: 94%

In selected cinemas…

Fairytale of the Seven Dwarves

More than 75 years after Walt Disney immortalised the Brothers Grimm fairytale in his first hand-drawn feature-length animation, Harald Siepermann and Boris Aljinovic direct this computer-animated adventure, which continues the misadventures of Snow White’s plucky pals.

As a baby, Princess Rose (Christa Clahane) is cursed by the evil witch Dellamorta (Nina Hagen) to prick her finger on her 18th birthday.

The entire castle will fall into a 100-year sleep unless a handsome prince kisses Rose and breaks the spell.

On the eve of Rose’s 18th birthday, her boyfriend, Jack the kitchen boy (James Frantowski), heads into the mountains to hide with the seven dwarves so he can return the following day, kiss Rose and lift the curse.

Alas, Dellamorta’s dragon Burner (Daniel Welbat) captures Jack and the entire kingdom falls into deep slumber without its saviour.

Luckily, the seven dwarves are immune to Dellamorta’s sorcery and they set out to rescue Jack so the lad can bestow true love’s kiss. Rating: N/A

Grease (sing-a-long)

Cineworld hosts this classic musical which allows audiences to follow the words on screen and deafen fellow cinema-goers with impromptu renditions of toe-tapping tunes like You’re The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You and the infectious Greased Lightnin’.

The soundtrack is – of course – a treat from beginning to end so script and dialogue take a back seat, but John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are both appealing in their key roles as Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson, the bad boy and the good girl who fall in love one long, hot summer.

Meanwhile Stockard Channing steals the film as the irrepressible Rizzo. Rating: 79% (Classic version).

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up