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Publishing Phenomenon 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Hits The Big Screen

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

When a book sells as many copies as the publishing phenom "Fifty Shades Of Grey," a film version is just about inevitable. It is here in time for Valentine's Day. And film critic Kenneth Turan has our review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Fifty Shades Of Grey" is an R-rated fairytale, a kind of "Cinderella" with restraints. It's about as believable as "Jack And the Beanstalk," but considerably kinkier in intent.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY")

DAKOTA JOHNSON: (As Anastasia Steele) What can I help you with?

JAMIE DORNAN: (As Christian Grey) Do you stock cable ties?

JOHNSON: (As Anastasia Steele) Cable ties - yes, we do. I can show you if you want.

DORNAN: (As Christian Grey) Please lead the way.

TURAN: "Fifty Shades" sounds contemporary, but it also fits snugly into a very specific Hollywood mold - the romance between the millionaire and the shop girl with roots that go back to the silent era. Anastasia Steele, played by Dakota Johnson, is a terminally timid college senior. Christian Grey, played by Jamie Dornan, is the world's most eligible billionaire bachelor. They meet cute when she fills in for a sick journalist friend and interviews him for the college newspaper.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY")

JOHNSON: (As Anastasia Steele) Earlier you said that there are some people who know you well. Why do I get the feeling that that is not true?

RACHEL SKARSTEN: (As Andrea) Mr. Grey, your next meeting is in the conference room.

DORNAN: (As Christian Grey) Cancel please, we're not finished here.

SKARSTEN: (As Andrea) Yes, sir.

JOHNSON: (As Anastasia Steele) No, I - I'm - we - I can go. It's fine.

DORNAN: (As Christian Grey) I would like to know more about you.

JOHNSON: (As Anastasia Steele) There's really not much to know about me.

TURAN: These two can't leave each other alone. So Christian tells Anastasia about his playroom, an immaculate space filled with assorted bondage paraphernalia so tastefully arranged you expect to see it in a future issue of Architectural Digest. And he tells her his exacting parameters for a relationship.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FIFTY SHADES OF GREY")

DORNAN: (As Christian Grey) I don't do romance. My tastes are very singular. You wouldn't understand.

TURAN: Stars Johnson and Dornan banter engagingly with each other. Given how dreadful the book is, it's surprising how potable these actors make the film. But these pleasantries don't prepare us for the inevitable moments when "Fifty Shades" is forced to go over to the dark side when Christian's actions become abusive and the delicate balancing act this film has been engaged in comes crashing down. It wasn't exactly fun while it lasted, but it certainly was better than where it ended up.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.
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