I don’t even really know where to begin. As a movie, it’s watchable. It’s basically just the most expensive porno ever made: terrible acting, terrible plot, but that’s not really the point. If you go in expecting any of that, you will very obviously be disappointed—the two leads are terrible actors and have no chemistry together. The writing is so bad it’s laughable. The script—famously based off of Twilight fan fiction—embodies every cliché ever of the “boy-meets-girl” narrative. For a while, I thought it was the most unintentionally hilarious movie I’ve ever seen, until it stopped being funny.
The problem with this movie isn’t how bad it is—everyone knows it’s bad (except, apparently, the filmmakers, who actually strove to make it serious). The problem is everything this film embodies: naïve girl falls for rich, powerful man; innocent girl loses her virginity to more experienced man; man wins girl over by buying her expensive things; girl is submissive and completely controlled by man; girl is possession of man.
None of these tropes or stereotypes are good to uphold. You can read it that the main character, Anastasia, has control over the relationship and that it is consensual the whole time. You can also read it that she is manipulated into a harmful relationship and raped by him. I can’t say if either of these readings is “right” and the other is “wrong,” but either way—if you need an extensive written contract in order to maintain a relationship, you’re doing it wrong.
Also, as I said above, the film tries to take itself seriously, which is honestly just cringe-worthy. If it wants to be some sort of BDSM, sexual empowerment movie, I didn’t get it. Anastasia goes along with Christian Grey’s excessive relationship requirements because “that’s just the way he is,” which is honestly the poorest excuse possible for “I have emotional scars left over from my childhood.” The thing is, nobody ever tries to fix his problems or suggest therapy—they just go along with it and submit to him, which I didn’t find realistic and, again, makes Anastasia look weak.
So I honestly just walked away really annoyed. If you want to watch a film that actually tackles sadomasochism, watch Secretary (2002) with the fantastic Maggie Gyllenhaal or David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (2011) with Viggo Mortenson as Sigmund Freud. Also—instead of spending money on movie tickets—if you want to donate money to helping out women in abusive relationships (and watch “Fifty Shades of Buscemi, which I can promise you is much better), click here.
Overall: I can’t give it too low of a score just because I know how much effort goes into making a film which was, at times, unintentionally amusing. I’d say 2 out of 10.