Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver, once mused that people didn't want to see sex in Hollywood films: they wanted to almost see it. Sure enough, that's wisdom which plays on a loop during the longueurs of Fifty Shades, a film with far too much in common with the grey in the title.
For all the speculation and hype that have bulldozed their way into the minds of punters over the past few months about what we would or wouldn't see on screen, the most shocking things here turn out to be the lack of drama and connection with the characters. So much for that quote early on when Christian Grey (Dornan) tells Anastasia Steele (Johnson) about identifying talented people and harnessing their efforts.
For others intending to view with virgin status (the book, smartass), Christian is a multi-millionaire who, like many a fabulously wealthy person before him, appears to have it all; except, that is, for something approaching a real life. Enter Anastasia, the ever-so-slightly dowdy and awkward college student who arrives to interview him for her college paper and makes a complete hames of it. Christian's heart, to borrow from that classic death metal lyric, is like a graveyard - they are dying to get in - but something in the honesty and innocence of Anastasia gets to him. And so begins a corkscrew romance where each gets a lot more than they originally bargained for.
There was a fair whiff of the aftershave ad off the Fifty Shades trailer and the snatches of dialogue sounded like hammers would be falling on the floor in every scene. Now, it's not that bad or hilariously, must-see awful, but the whole thing is all a bit 80s and only marginally edgier than those Red Shoe Diaries that satellite channels used to roll out late at night all those years ago.
From steels and greys in the palette to action it all feels very repetitive - there's as much about signing a contract here as there was in the general election campaign of 2007 - and while dominant-yet-lost Christian has more whips than the Cartwright lads in Bonanza, take away that equipment and this story is the he's-scared-she's-scared dynamic that has powered screen love and longing down the decades. If you're looking for real emotional involvement in those departments, spend your time with Secretary, Shopgirl or Atomised for starters.
There's no doubting (to novice eyes, anyway) that Dornan and Johnson look physically right together on screen, but there's so little of substance for them to work with here that the only lasting thing their characters may leave in the minds of most viewers is a fair old whack of body dysmorphia. And let's face it: you should be holding your breath inside, rather than outside, the cinema.
In the Ireland of 30 years ago, Fifty Shades of Grey would, of course, have been banned, with the queues to see it stretching from Dingle right up to the Border. Crowds-wise, nothing has changed between then and now, but for all the things that have, there's the feeling that viewers in both eras would also come to the exact same conclusion after watching: that you'd need to be some kind of masochist to sit through two sequels.