If you have not heard of Fifty Shades of Grey yet, then you must have been living under a rock, in which case I envy you.
Fifty Shades of Grey (or F-SOG) is the latest set of novels to become a phenomenon, and subsequently be given the Hollywood treatment. F-SOG is basically Twilight for bored, sexually unfulfilled women in their 30’s.
The novels by E.L. James did not become a worldwide phenomenon for their literary merits. They did because they are, well, dirty. They are well dirty as a matter of fact. It is the eternal story of love and friendship told through the medium of vaginal penetration and handcuffs. It’s well established how terrible the books are, but it was debatable as to whether that awfulness would translate from the page to screen.
Christian Grey is portrayed as a handsome brooding stranger who is intense, mysterious, confident and self assured. Unfortunately he comes across more like Patrick Bateman, Christian Bale’s character from American Psycho. In many ways, Grey is a typical psychopath. He is charismatic, powerful and self-centred. He doesn’t have any friends and is unable to form lasting relationships. He gets sexual gratification by inflicting pain on others, and sees people as tools and objects. Now would you want that person tying you up in order to hurt you?
Which brings me to the other main character, Anastasia Steele. A woman so innocent it’s annoying. A woman so naive it borders on mental retardation. Ana is an English Lit graduate, yet in the novel she can’t seem to write properly. It must have been a really shit university. This doesn’t really translate across to the movie, as she spends most of her time biting her lip, looking confused/worried/bored, or doing an excellent impression of someone having an asthma attack.
The movie begins with student Ana interviewing young billionaire Christian Grey for a friend. She bumbles her way through the interview whilst Grey gives vague and pretentious answers, while mentally sizing her up for a full body leather gimp suit. She soon warms to his charms, that is, she doesn’t tell him to fuck off. She asks questions such as “What motivates you?” and “Are you gay?”. It clearly never occurred to her to ask “You’re a bit of a dick, aren’t you?”
The next time they meet he rocks up in the DIY store she works in, looking for innocent things like zip ties, electricians tape and rope. The only thing missing from Dexter’s shopping list is plastic sheeting. “I’m not a psychopath” Christian lies. “Hahaha” Ana laughs. And so the story continues.
Unfortunately there is a portion of the movie which I missed, as sadly I fell asleep and had to be nudged awake by my wife. I’ve never fallen asleep in a movie before, and I consider this to be quite a bad indication.
Ultimately Grey wants Ana to sign a contract, stating that she will be his “submissive”, giving him (the “dominant”) permission to subject her to sexual punishment. She protracts her decision to sign it, whilst having lots of sex with him and being tied up/whipped. This really makes you wonder why he bothered destroying a small chunk of the rainforest for the paperwork required.
One of the key gripes for Ana is that Christian is unwilling to have a conventional relationship with her. She spends most of the movie complaining about how they don’t go anywhere nice for a date, and how he never cuddles her after sex. Sounds like a conventional relationship to me.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about F-SOG is how truly tame it is. All the dirtiest parts which made the novel so famous had to be removed, so it’s more about titillation rather than fulfillment. A more appropriate name would be Carry On Fifty Shades (or COFS). “A contract? Ohhh maaatron!!!!”
Rather than Hollywood blockbuster, it gives the impression of one of those late night kinky TV movies Channel 5 used to broadcast. In the interests of fairness, the cinematography is very well done, and the sweeping shots of the Seattle and Portland cityscapes add a level of beauty to the movie.
In summation, the main things we can learn from F-SOG is; that kinky sex can be good, but not with psychopaths, terrible books often make terrible movies, and if you get the chance, try to be a billionaire based in the Seattle area (something which has been on my to do list for a while now).
Perhaps the following transcript from the screenplay sums up the entire movie perfectly;
Christian: I wanna knock the shit out of you, but in a dead sexy way. You can stay at weekends and I’ll buy you a new car ‘n junk. Just don’t try to understand me, cos I’m like, mega mysterious.
Ana: OMG you’re weird, but that sounds totes amazeballz. What kind of new car?
Christian: A grey one.