As a token of sisterly love, I went to see Fifty Shades of Grey last night. I had not read the books but had an idea that there was kinky sex and although the writing was bad, it was an interesting story and Christian Grey an object of female fantasy. The premise is pretty simple, girl next door preppy virgin type Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) interviews billionaire hotty Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), she falls on the floor on the way in and as soon as their eyes lock they fall in love. He pursues her because she is just so adorable and fairly quickly tries to get her to sign a disclaimer so he can whip her in his dungeon in exchange for a room, a car and as he puts it, “me”. They fall in love in between semi-erotic romps in the dungeon involving leather cuffs, feathers, ice cubes and horse riding crops. He whips her too hard and she leaves. Oh and he may or may not have some dark secrets that she may or may not unravel in future films which will also involve spanking and sexy cars on country roads.
Evidently, E. L. James has done exactly what they tell you to do and has written the kind of book she wanted to read. Fifty Shades of Grey is a romantic fantasy for women with origins in fan fiction (Twilight). Happily for James, it turns out millions of women also wanted to read it and will flock to the cinema to see it.
In all honesty, I was actually a little disappointed. It didn’t offend me as much as I was expecting and it wasn’t the submissive aspect of the love making that offended me but the constant story girls are fed that they can tame the bad boy in the end. It is no more offensive in that sense than the majority of chick flicks with the same formula. In order for subliminal messages to be damaging, they have to be well … subliminal and the one thing Fifty Shades of Grey is not it is subtle (except in terms of the S & M).
This film has no more basis in reality than a film about vampires. The character of Christian Grey who is apparently “Fifty shades of fucked up” actually has about three layers to him none of which resemble a real man never mind a man with serious psychological issues. Men don’t make broad statements about their character and then do the complete opposite, “I don’t make love, I fuck. Hard” Christian tells Anastasia before proceeding to gently make love to her. This is something that only women could dream up. I was disappointed in Grey, instead of being dangerous, psychotic and insufferably arrogant he pretty much seemed to be full of shit and likely to cry at any minute. Mr Darcy is more badass. Dornan is too gently spoken and innocent looking and fans don’t seem to have been too impressed with the choice either. I am however not going to lay blame on him or make any comment about his acting when the lines he has to say are so awful I am not sure anyone could pull them off. Clearly the film has softened the edges of Christian Grey as expected, but from what I understand even in the books he is still gentle and loving towards Anastasia when he’s not smacking her with a bridle and that does not fit his supposed character profile.
The similarities with Twilight are amusing: pensive shots of Johnson in a classroom, every eligible bachelor falling at her feet including the token black dude, her clumsiness and the overwhelming attraction between the two characters. The script with such lines as, “You should stay away from me I’m not the man for you” and “You’re here because I am incapable of leaving you alone” seem to have been lifted straight from the Twilight Saga. This is melodrama in its least subtle form and there is nothing original about it.
I laughed throughout this movie, and sometimes I was supposed to. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) showed a sense of humour throughout the first half and even the actors’ execution was slightly tongue in cheek. There are some cracking lines,“If you were mine you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week” and the negotiation over the disclaimer felt a bit like a Tinder exchange before a hook up. It is often ridiculous, at one point Christian takes off Anastasia’s panties and sniffs them. These were some of the moments people laughed with me. Moments when I was the only one laughing were when she faints after drinking too much (seriously?), when Christian gets up in the middle of the night to play something melancholic on the piano and when they dance in the living room before going out. It was so clichéd it was laughable.
Johnson is very pretty, but I was very quickly bored of the numerous close-ups of her sparkly blue eyes and fluttering lashes. I liked the fact that her body actually looked like a real person’s instead of a plastic mannequins but felt there were too many shots of her naked ass and not enough of Dornan’s (feel free to discuss who has the nicer ass). Having said that there were a few of his torso and the first shot of Dornan’s naked ass was one of the few things that received a vocal response from the audience. Again, it’s difficult to comment on her acting ability other than she seemed giggly, innocent, looked good naked and bit her lip a lot, but maybe the husbands dragged a long would be into that.
The second half gets more serious and that is when it becomes uncomfortable. Personally I don’t think what is wrong with Christian Grey really mattered to James. She is clearly not interested in analysing the behaviour of damaged victims of abuse, to her Grey is simply a troubled bad boy who just needs the love of a good woman to fix him. Perhaps the lack of care here with such a complex issue does deserve some criticism.
It is what it is: a melodrama with some kinky sex. It’s the love story from Twilight with spanking minus vampires. It is basically a porno for women with as much basis in reality as pornos for guys the difference being women need a bad boy and a love story and guys just need chicks to be naked having sex. The sex was nowhere near as offensive as the script or the numerous car adverts. I have no real interest in what happens next, the characters or watching it again. I don’t even care if it really is anti-feminist but I seriously doubt there will be an influx of women desperate to enter into submissive relationships or that men will suddenly think it’s acceptable to abuse women – that really doesn’t give much credit to the intelligence or motivations of either sex.