As we already know, critics were not too kind to our beloved Fifty Shades of Grey. But while Dakota Johnson's performance as wide-eyed Anastasia Steele was almost universally praised, poor Jamie Dornan was, across the board, dragged through the mud. Called everything from "Hobbit-faced" (unnecessary! and untrue!) to a "young Colin Firth on tranquilizers," here's the worst of the worst when it comes to Mr. Grey's reviews:
"[Dakota Johnson's] performance is particularly impressive because she has to act opposite an inanimate block of wood. I'm told Jamie Dornan isn't bad in the BBC Gillian Anderson series The Fall, so perhaps it's not fair to blame him for being unable to breathe much life into the deflated balloon of his own character, but regardless, this is the sort of situation where you feel like congratulating the guy simply for not stumbling over furniture or breaking any of the props on set."
"With his fluffed-up hair and pert, pretty little face, Dornan's Grey looks more like a natural bottom than a top. He's a bantamweight. Although I did grow to appreciate his modest, unshowy acting, it's clear he's not sending much heat her way and that she's having to work herself up in a vacuum—at a cost to her psyche, judging from her glassy, PTSD demeanor in television interviews."
"Mr. Dornan, given the job of inspiring lust, fascination and also maybe a tiny, thrilling frisson of fear, succeeds mainly in eliciting pity. In print, Christian is a blur and a blank—a screen onto which any given reader can project a customized masculine ideal. On the screen, he risks becoming just some guy, which is how Mr. Dornan plays him, without mischief or mystery. "
Dakota Johnson plays the virginal Anastasia Steele, an innocent student sent to interview Hobbit-faced billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who winds up being lured into his purpose-built dungeon of love.
A number of other scenes are equally funny but played straight-faced, more by Johnson, who spends most of the film gnawing her lower lip, than by Dornan, whose "dominant" couldn't be any more self-conscious or malleable; he seems to be forever apologizing for his fetish.
I know he was down a list of about a billion young actors who wisely ran in the other direction when offered this role, but Jamie Dornan does himself no favours playing much-fantasied Mr. Grey. Maybe I'm just not hip to what makes a romantic lead these days, but past that first awkward meeting with Ana, this fellow had all the charisma and magnetism of oatmeal.
But Dornan, despite his exemplary turn in The Fall, is utterly lacking in the fierce intensity this role requires. It doesn't help that the Irish actor can manage only an intermittent approximation of an American accent. His native brogue is evident in the very first scene, and try as he might to choke it down, it keeps coming back up, like an elocutionary hairball.
As the titular anti-hero, Dornan is stiff and as unappealing as a preposterously good-looking, half-clad man could possibly be.
Dornan's performance is so one-note the question hardly presents itself. Maybe he's a sociopath, but he comes off like a well-tailored cipher, a chiseled marionette.
Dornan has one of those faces that makes you think you might have face blindness. Every time he appears in a scene, there's a split second of wondering if it's him or someone else. Needless to say that doesn't bode well for presence in the boudoir.
Dornan has all the charisma of a hologram.
Dornan isn't unlikable, but his Christian comes off as an angry geek as opposed to a cool guy. His discomfort—and constant constipation face—doesn't help with chemistry...
Irish actor Jamie Dornan portrays the wounded moneymaker with such restraint that he never channels anything more than his own good looks (which are indeed very good).
Dornan appears to have mistaken lack of affect for mystery, and despite his assertion that he's "50 shades of fucked up," he has about three shades, four at best.
But the likably coy Johnson has no chemistry with the dreary, self-serious Dornan. He's a casting disaster, and no amount of backstory trauma can explain his character's obsession with a mousy student whose only personality attribute is a lack thereof.
For anyone who's managed to steer clear of this phenomenon (lucky you), "Fifty Shades of Grey," based on the extremely dull erotic best-seller by E.L. James, is about new college grad Anastasia Steele (Johnson) and 27-year-old Seattle tech gazillionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, sort of like a young Colin Firth on tranquilizers).
Johnson brings a welcome sauciness to her submissive role (particularly in the never-ending contractual negotiation scene) and she does her best to gild the twisted high jinks with lust and yearning but Dornan doesn't give her much to work with.
Those peepers prove to be all too fathomable, as Dornan fails to convey real depth to his character. His Christian is just your regular mixed-up rich kid with life issues, who doesn't yet realize the sting he feels upon his derrière when he gazes at Ana comes from Cupid's arrow, not a riding crop.
Dornan plays Christian as a blank, a cipher with a big wallet, soulless apartment, spiffy helicopter and larger-than-average collection of S&M toys. For all his money and his hang-ups, there's nothing interesting about the guy.
Luckily, Johnson suggests her mother's pert, Working Girl mischief and gives Ana a core of feisty intelligence the book never hinted at. Sadly, costar Dornan, an Irish model-turned actor (he's quite good being bad on the BBC series The Fall), gives her a brick wall to act with. Either pulverized with fear or embarrassment, Dornan seems to have no idea who or what he is playing.
Grey is physically perfect, unfathomably rich and inexplicably obsessed with the guileless Steele, who, per rom-com tradition, first greets him while literally tripping over her own feet. Dornan plays him deadpan, his eyes as cold and appraising as those of a shark debating the fleshiest part to bite. Early on, asked about his hobbies, he replies, "I enjoy various physical pursuits." He never laughs, even at his own double entendres, but we're allowed to laugh at him—even though Dornan seems so uncomfortable that it's unclear if he's in on the joke.
For the record, Cosmopolitan.com's Editor Amy Odell and Cosmo.ph EIC Jillian Gatcheco had very different takes on Dornan's performance. Their reviews:
Fifty Shades of Grey Review by Amy Odell:
Jamie Dornan is really hot and I enjoyed looking at him for two hours. FOUR STARS. ~the end~
Fifty Shades of Grey Review by Jillian Gatcheco:
Jamie Dornan stayed in character and looked like sex on legs—and all is right in the world.
And those, my friends, are the only reviews that matter.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.