First Hit: Only at the very end did I sense/feel an actual connection between Anastasia and Christian, which told me that this film does not work.
There is a distance between Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) which might be reflective of “steel gray” or “gray steel”; they go together but one doesn’t necessarily mean the other and they aren’t necessarily connected.
Anyway, the set up of Grey isn't strong enough to make him realistic or believable. I didn't buy any of this characters strengths (smart and rich) and flaws (can’t touch his chest). This isn’t how one would act with his issues – it is too fabricated. However, the story wants us to believe that the superiorly damaged rich boy can’t have a relationship without out being sadist (his words not mine – “I’m not a dominate, I’m a sadist”).
One would think that this rich smart aware boy (and he’s more like a boy than a man) would seek out additional help to have him work through his maladjustment relationships with women. However, to make the film work, we are back for more of Steele’s naked body along with some submissive stuff and we're suppose to believe that she wants him, and wants to be the girl that saves him from himself.
This, of course, pisses off the woman who “taught him to fuck”, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger) and past submissive Leila (Bella Heathcote). In fact, the scenes with these two characters are supposed to be very telling, but that don’t really add up to much. When Leila gets on her knees when ordered by Grey, like a dog, it is pathetic for both. When Steele has one-on-ones with Lincoln, they don’t work and I never felt the feeling or intensity of a deep desire or love as required by the script. Both characters, mostly Grey, were lifeless.
Lastly, there isn’t enough information or interest about each of the characters to care much. There are attempts to flesh-out Steele, but they mostly fall flat as there isn’t enough depth to her. The only scene that was really strong was her confrontation with her boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson – no relation to Dakota) who is seen at the end of the film signaling at least one more “Shades” film to come.
Johnson was the best part of this overall very weak film. She didn’t add much depth, but any and all the depth in this film comes from her. Dornan is lifeless for the most part. He’s not believable and lands on me the same way that Robert Pattinson lands on me; blank, with little emotion, and little projection of a real fully fleshed character. Basinger is horrible in this film. It is like the producers are using her sexuality from the long past 9 ½ weeks film to validate Grey’s weirdness. Heathcote is OK as the spurned sexual dilettante. Eric Johnson is OK as the jerk boss who uses his authority to get his way with staff at the publishing company. Niall Leonard wrote an OK screenplay but it was director James Foley and the actors’ execution that made this film lifeless and hard to watch, until the last 10 minutes, which was actually fairly good.
Overall: Don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach the next one in this series.