The date is February 14th, the year 2015. All across the land bored housewives and desperate singletons experience an intense frothing of the private parts as they flock to cinemas to watch a modern masterpiece that is heralded as being the epitome of romance. The Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon continues as its cinematic instalment is unapologetically unleashed upon those of us who have read more than four books in our lives, and wholeheartedly welcomed with open arms and legs by those who haven’t. You may wonder, considering my obvious distaste, why I would subject myself not just to this “book”, but also to the film adaptation? And you may wonder why I chose this special treat for my very first returning review? Well, I haven’t Spewed in a while, and if Fifty Shades of Grey can’t tempt me into a vitriolic spew-filled rage, then nothing can.
“As for the SEX? Well, I can only speak for myself, but not a single tingle or twinge was had that day. By far the sexiest scene in that film was the tense contract negotiation, wherein neither of them removed any items of clothing.”
So the story goes that when Anastasia Steele, a student of literature, turns up to interview business mogul and Most Eligible Bachelor in all of Seattle, Christian Grey, she falls epically in lust with him. He, too, is quite enamoured with her innocent naivete and general hotness, and begins to pursue her with a “singular” single-mindedness. The catch though, the fly in this sexy ointment, is that Christian Grey doesn’t do love. He likes his women submissive, tied up in his Red Room of Pain and totally under his thrall. Christian buys Anastasia cars and laptops and fancy first edition books, and in return she lets him smack her around a little. But here’s where the romance comes in, because Anastasia Steele is going to change her man. She’s going to help him get over his abusive childhood, put a band-aid on all of those bad feelings and make him love her. You know, like normal people.
Okay, I’ll preface this review by stating that it’s my intention to try, as hard as I can, to separate this film from the “book”, which was originally a Twilight fanfiction “written” by E.L. James.* This very same “book” would prove to half of the frustrated writers everywhere that you only need a minimal grasp of the written English language to get published, and had the other half kicking themselves for not thinking of the idea first. I hope this makes you feel a little better, or perhaps restore a little faith in your world, but the film adaptation was actually vastly superior to the source material.
While the dialogue was painfully cringe in places, on the whole the writing was a massive improvement. There’s no pesky “inner goddess” or other such melodramatic narrative from Ana. Christian’s abusive nature, while still evident, was played down a little, making him somewhat less of an irredeemable douchenugget. Many scenes were omitted, including the infamous “tampon” scene, which kind of disappointed me because I was so morbidly curious. At least, I have it on good authority that there was no tampon scene – for a while there I’d thought I’d missed it when I was out in the lobby bar enjoying Intermission Shots.
Truthfully, there was no intermission, I just left for ten minutes.
So, a resounding well done, “you’ve exceeded all of my (not very) many expectations”, to director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel. And a huge congratulations to Dakota Johnson, playing the virginal Anastasia Steele, who made one of the worst female protagonists I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting in a book, actually likeable. I couldn’t believe it. She was charming and engaging, one might even go so far as to call her performance relatable. It just goes to show you that people who have legitimate talent will shine through even the most absurd and horrifically written story.
Now, for Jamie Dornan. Dornan, having convincingly played a sadistic, emotionally troubled serial killer in The Fall, initially seemed perfect to play the controlling, abusive Christian Grey. And to a certain extent he did what he was supposed to do. He was stiff, awkward and devoid of any emotion. His facial expressions ranged from distaste (which just looked curiously like constipation) to shock. I get that the latter is supposed to portray his preoccupation with Anastasia, and that it basically represents his inner battle with all of these new feels her careful love is bringing to the fore inside of him, but his constant boggle-eyed look of perpetual surprise had really started to get on my nerves by the third encounter.
To sum up, on the whole, it really wasn’t that bad. Predominantly, I felt one consistent emotion while watching Fifty Shades of Grey: utter boredom. This story is nowhere near good enough to fill over two hours, nor the characters interesting enough to devote same two hours to. The supporting cast were unnecessary, they added absolutely nothing, to anything, and in all honestly I think they should have just locked the main pair into that giant, red, leathery playroom for the entire duration.
As for the SEX? Well, I can only speak for myself, but not a single tingle or twinge was had that day. By far the sexiest scene in that film was the tense contract negotiation, wherein neither of them removed any items of clothing.
Seriously ladies, if it’s some decent literotica you’re looking for, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Drop me a line. I’ll hook a sister up. Concordantly, if you’d like to watch a film that explores the subtleties of a Dominant/Submissive relationship, and get an inkling of an idea for what real S&M is in the process, then dive back down into the vaults of 2002 and procure yourselves a copy of Secretary.
IMDB Rating: 4.1
Do I agree?: With music from Danny Elfman lending the feature some credibility, and a pretty solid soundtrack featuring the likes of Annie Lennox, Beyonce, Sia and even Frank Sinatra, and taking into account the uphill battle the director had with the “author”, as well as Dakota’s surprisingly charming performance, I’ve decided to be generous and give it a 3.5. Make the most of this though, as Variety reports that E.L. James is now insisting on penning the screenplays for the two remaining movies herself. This could be catastrophic for the careers of those involved, but I’d take a punt that we, the discerning viewers, will absolutely love this train-wreck as the 50 Shades phenomenon choo-choos itself right into the unintentionally hilarious, so-bad-it’s-good realm of The Room fame.
I’ll leave you with this clip of an Irish audience member at The Graham Norton Show telling it like it is last week:
* I said I’d try to separate the “book” from the film – I failed.