Can ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Star Go From Sexy to Funny?

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

After starring and stripping in the box office record-breaker Fifty Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson will face the much more formidable challenge of convincing people that she’s actually a good actress. Similarly to the book it’s based on, that movie might’ve drawn in audiences to sell huge volumes of tickets, but it was completely panned by critics who blasted almost every aspect of the film. With her next few projects, Johnson will have to convince people she can actually act rather than just be the lucky girl chosen to star in a big-budget franchise with built-in fans from the book.

Fifty Shades was panned for a wide variety of reasons including the film’s writing, its overall message on relationships, and its poor portrayal of S&M, as well as both lead actors’ performances. The film only has a 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though so far it has made over $500 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo. Those figures are impressive, but Johnson’s career will now need to overcome those bad reviews.

Deadline reports that one of Johnson’s upcoming projects includes another book that is being adapted specifically as a starring vehicle for her. Tricia McAlpin, who has written episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and is also working on the spin-off to Paul Feig’s The Heat, will pen the adaptation of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel Forever, Interrupted. The book is about a woman who falls into a whirlwind romance with a man and quickly elopes with him. When he suddenly dies, she grieves his loss while also forming a friendship with his mother, who didn’t even know she existed. Given the scribe and the subject matter, it sounds like the makings of a solid feel-good comedy with pathos.

That seems to be the type of thing Johnson is going for right now, as her upcoming indie Chloe and Theo falls into a similar vein. That film, due out later this year, sees Johnson playing a homeless woman who has her life changed by an Inuit man who walks to New York City from the far north to deliver a message to the world. She helps him spread his message to the world, with more and more people slowly taking notice of Theo’s incredibly prophecy. It looks so saccharine it could’ve been produced by a dentist’s union, but she might end up proving charming enough to save the movie and boost her career.

While the reviews for Fifty Shades were bad, Johnson’s appearance on Saturday Night Live received some positive notices amid the uproar over her ISIS skit. The AV Club called her stint hosting SNLher best impression yet.” Hosting SNL is far from carrying a feature-length comedy, but Johnson did prove on the show that she has the potential to be funny and to distance herself from the multimillion dollar franchise that has made her a household name.

Once Chloe and Theo comes out, we’ll know a little bit more about Johnson’s comedic timing. But in case that doesn’t pan out, the actress does have a few dramas on her plate as well. She will star alongside a stellar cast including Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton in the upcoming romantic crime drama A Bigger Splash, which is about a couple vacationing in Italy who end up mired in jealousy and dangerous sexual scenarios when the wife invites a former lover and his teenage daughter to visit them. She will also appear in the upcoming all-star mob movie Black Mass starring Johnny Depp as famed Irish mobster Whitey Bulger. The actress is likely hoping these projects will prove she can actually act before she heads back to the red room of pain for next year’s sequel to Fifty Shades.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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