Movie review: Another take on Fifty Shades Of Grey - would it make men feel small?

Jamie Dorman and Dakota Johnson star in Fifty Shades Of Grey. -- PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES 
Jamie Dorman and Dakota Johnson star in Fifty Shades Of Grey. -- PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES 

For men, the question of "porn for women" is like that for space aliens: The idea is tantalising, but scary.

If it appeared on men's doorsteps, would it resemble something they know and like? Or would those fleshy fantasies be terrifying - or worse, make them feel small, in all senses of the word?

Student journalist Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews enigmatic billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). They are sexually attracted to each other but he speaks of his dark secret coming between them. Eventually he opens up, telling her that unless she becomes his submissive in a sado-masochistic relationship, they cannot have a relationship.

Grey (Jamie Dornan) of Grey Enterprise Holdings is a billionaire industrialist, pilot, pianist and philanthropist, your everyday Batman-Elon Musk combination, but much, much more better-looking.

So, put a check mark next to the box marked "intimidatingly outsized". The amount of luxury porn on display here (aircraft, servants, gliders, limos, apartments the size of Olympic villages) makes rap videos look pauperish.

Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy, 2009) and writer Kelly Marcel make clear that Steele (Dakota Johnson) is not too feminist soak up the pampering. The way into Steele's heart (and elsewhere on her body) is by sweeping her off her feet, literally, with a helicopter ride over the city.

Judge her for her shallow wants, but the film's visual style states that this is a fantasy, as much a fairy tale as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Butlers and chauffeurs hover invisibly. They couple sweatlessly. His fingers are magical sex-wands.

The bedroom scenes are not cheesy - no soft-focus, candlelight-drenched, tasteful blurriness here. They are as explicit as they need to be.

These scenes, left unmarred by the Media Development Authority (thank you, MDA), are long, and by Singapore cinema standards, boundary-pushing. They are vital to the story. Without them, this film would be about 30 minutes shorter and make much less sense.

Like its source material (the novel of the same title, and its inspiration, the Twilight series), the movie draws on very old stories about innocent girls, dark forests and big bad wolves with sharp teeth.

So there is an awful lot of rose-tinted nostalgia here for a time when women sat passively while powerful men threw wealth at them, but the interesting difference here is that the power dynamic between Red Riding Hood and the Wolf shifts.

Steele knows her own sexual power. She negotiates. She questions Grey's assumptions that his pleasure comes first, and hers will flow naturally from it. That back-and-forth (depicted somewhat literally as a dance) is sexualised, and director Taylor makes it work.


126 minutes/Now showing/3 stars

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