By Michael Roddy
BERLIN (Reuters) - Despite the studio's best efforts to stop reviews of the film adaptation of E.L. James's bestseller "Fifty Shades of Grey" being published before Wednesday's premiere, a few have surfaced and defy predictions the critics would find it a stinker.
The general take is that the movie, to premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival, is not as flawed as the books, widely criticized for clumsy writing and awkward plotting.
With advance sales of millions of tickets, the movie may anyway be the most review-proof ever made.
James's trilogy, with this the first book to be filmed, is about university literature graduate Anastasia Steele and the man she literally stumbles into a relationship with, high-powered industrialist Christian Grey.
His sexual tastes, enshrined in his "Red Room of Pain", veer deeply toward bondage, domination and sadomasochism, all of which are described graphically in the novels.
"Credit goes to director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, who've stripped the first book of its biggest flaws, while still honoring its essence," Elizabeth Weitzman wrote in the New York Daily News, one of the first publications to break the studio-imposed embargo.
Both of the influential trade publications, Variety and Hollywood Reporter, found merit in the film directed by Britain's Taylor-Johnson, making her first big-budget feature, although neither review could be called anything like rave.
"Arriving on Valentine’s weekend with record-setting ticket pre-sales, the first in a planned trilogy of movies will stoke the ardor of James' fans, entice curious newbies, and in every way live up to the 'phenomenon' hype," the Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden wrote.
The trade papers mostly heap praise on the two young stars, Northern Ireland's Jamie Dornan as Grey and more so Dakota Johnson, who is actress Melanie Griffith's daughter, as Steele.
"With a loose-limbed naturalness, she conveys naivete, intellectual curiosity and romantic yearning," Linden writes of Johnson.
Variety's Justin Chang said the film gets a lift from the "performances of two appealing, fresh-faced leads" but warns: "The final half-hour or so is punishing in more than just a literal sense, bringing us to a less-than-scintillating cliffhanger in the now de rigueur manner of book-based, fan-driven franchise fare."
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)