So, first of all, when I watched this movie, I didn't realize it is ten years old. Not that it changes a whole lot, other than making the whole "We don't use computers here." a teeny, tiny bit less ridiculous. That makes Mr. Gray's character more eccentric and less full on crazy, I suppose. I doubt you could even run a paralegal office without a computer these days.
So anyway, the fact she has to type everything up on a typewriter is kind of essential to the plot, so I had to just suspend my disbelief on that and move on.
Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, Lee: Well, she played her well, but it took me a long time to warm up to her. She was a very washed-out, bland, weak woman, which was totally the point of her, and I can appreciate that Gyllenhaal played that aspect of her very well. I felt she stayed that way a little too long, though. When she finally stepped up, though, I was pleased to see she didn't for a moment hide what she wanted or hesitate to accept it. I liked that a lot. She grew from a frightened woman, full of fear and shame, into a strong submissive not even a bit uncertain about what she wanted or needed in her lover.
Mr. Gray was a dick. I wanted to slap him. Sure, okay, he was conflicted and uncertain and he had a hard time accepting that he wasn't actually a perverted predator, but it took him so bloody long and Lee had to go through so much torture at his hands (or, more to the point, torture from him keeping his hands to himself) that I just got mad at him and was actually pleased when she made up her mind to find someone else. That shouldn't happen in a romance story, no matter how kinky it gets. I shouldn't want the heroine to find someone other than the hero to be with. At the point I found myself hoping that Lee really did move on and find herself a man worthy of her surrender, I realized the story had become about her and her growth, and not about the romantic relationship. So I wanted her to find a man worthy of her who could keep her safe and happy.
She fought for the man she loved and eventually convinced him that she wanted what he had to offer and that she not only accepted him and loved him, but needed him to be what he was. So yes, she manned up and convince him. But he didn't deserve her. At least I wasn't convinced he did, and that's bad in a romance story and worse in a Dom/sub romance.
If you can't convince me the Dom deserves every once of that sub's surrender, I you're not doing it right. In the end, Mr Gray left me cold, and that was sad.
A few of the scenes I really loved?
The scene in the park when Lee is walking home form work for the first time, after Mr' Gray has told her she won't cut herself any more and she can walk home on her own. She talks about how she can't remember ever walking home alone, and how she doesn't feel alone because it feels like he is holding her as she goes. It might seem like a simple thing to agree to do what he told her to do, but for Lee, it was a very big deal to let him dictate those terms. That one scene showed the essence of the relationship, and I just wish he had lived up to her faith in him. He almost didn't, step up, and that would have been a tragedy.