As someone who has read Fifty Shades of Grey, I believe that the reported on-set arguments between writer EL James and director Sam Taylor-Johnson were worth the fight. There are green shoots of an engaging love story in Fifty Shades of Grey, thanks to the efforts of the Nowhere Boy helmer. Unfortunately, what holds the film back is the jarring use of original dialogue from the book, which originated from Twilight fan-fiction, and the disturbing plot mood swings that follow.
Seeing as the trailers were amongst the most-watched of 2014 and with over 100 million copies of the book series sold, the story is familiar to many: young multi-millionaire businessman Christian Grey falls for younger, naive soon-to-be graduate Anastasia Steele. Trouble unfolds when he reveals his unusual desires.
Two Northern Irish men are responsible for the best the film has to offer. Jamie Dornan has silenced the speculation over whether he could fill the designer shoes of the title character. Aside from uncool hair, he is the ideal candidate for the role: handsome, mysterious, clever, playful, austere, intimidating, vulnerable and sexy.
The second is Oscar-nominated Atonement and Anna Karenina cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey. He has created a beautiful looking film where the cold, clean, minimalist world of Grey is contrasted with Anastasia's warm, earthy, homely one. The result is one rich, vibrant, welcoming, stylish scene after another. It's a far cry from the seedy, disturbing world that is created by some of the script, which is at times clunky and delivers such mixed messages that the overall one is disturbing. Just as this couple are beginning their relationship, as Grey opens up about his sexual desires and Ana tries to understand them, vile lines explode, which prevent any chance of caring about what happens next. Lines such as his response to her question over whether they are going to make love: "I don't make love, I f***, hard." Indeed.
The soundtrack is amazing, with tunes from The Rolling Stones, Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, Frank Sinatra, Sia and Annie Lennox all in there. There are little moments of humour, which don't come across in the book, such as the shock seen on Anastasia's face at various moments when she uncovers Grey's secrets. Dakota Johnson plays the role well, allowing us to see his world through her unworldly yet quietly self-confident eyes.
Overall, the film is surprisingly both boring and disturbing. The boredom comes from the fact that there is so much going on - so many 'roads' open up that none stands out and things begin to dull. Having read the book, this wasn't something I expected but as has been previously flagged, the film is a lot less explicit than the novels. Both leads are naked often, (no full frontals, which has caused some controversy of its own) but the lack of sex scenes in comparison puts more focus on the story and the dialogue, which can't handle the strain. At least with the book you could put it down and escape the escapism, whereas on the screen you are faced with the ugly reality that Grey is a sexual predator whose behaviour is, at the very least, questionable.
The sex that does happen also raises more questions than it answers, leaving abuse and boundary-crossing inappropriate behaviour hanging uncomfortably on screen.
As Grey says: "I'm fifty shades of f***** up", but the overriding one for the film is a stylish yet sad shade of grey.