Fifty Shades of Grey


There are two quotes from this film that sum it up perfectly. The first is “Odd doesn’t even cover it” and the second I will share with you later.

I was never intending to catch this one at the cinema but now that it’s out on disc I thought I’d give it a go. Like it or not it is a movie of some cinematic significance and I thought my responsibilities to my blog demanded that I form an opinion on it. Look, back off okay! I don’t have to justify myself to you! I’ll watch what I want!

Tetchy defensiveness aside I was genuinely quite curious about whether this film had any value. Everyone I know that has read the book said it was terrible (although they still read it). The premise sounded hideous and the trailer made this adaptation look awful but it is the fourth highest grossing film of the year so far having made half a billion dollars at the box office. It really couldn’t be that lousy could it? Even if it were, sometimes it is fun to watch a bad movie. 

Well, you know what? Initially I quite enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey. Sure it is incredibly cheesy and the dialogue stinks but viewed as a subtle comedy it is quite amusing. If you go into this expecting it to be a parody like This is Spinal Tap, Machete or Pearl Harbour then there are laughs to be had.

Some of the imagery is so corny I quickly got the impression that respected director Sam Taylor-Johnson was approaching the material in a very knowing manner and I was happy to go with her on it. Take Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey’s first meeting. She arrives at his high rise office building and stands there for a brief moment, staring up at the giant edifice. Metaphor much? Then on leaving his company after ten minutes of extreme flirting she steps out into the rain, throwing her head back and getting wet. (Sorry to be indelicate but you know what this film is about right?)

Also when Ellie Goulding’s famous love theme, Love Me Like You Do, plays it isn’t over a intimate scene, it accompanies Anastasia riding in Christian’s helicopter, or his chopper as it were.

Unfortunately the humour, intentional or otherwise, can’t sustain the whole film and the point at which this gets old is around the same time things start to get really really creepy. I’d happily laughed along when kinky Christian visited the hardware store where Anastasia works and asked her if she stocked cable ties but by the time he shows her his murder room, sorry, his ‘red room’ things have started to become a little disturbing.

I can’t see why anyone would swoon over this dude, he is undoubtably the most sinister protagonist this side of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Seriously, I am not sure how the story pans out in the novels but in real life it would only be a matter of time before this sicko kills someone. With all that money and sexual tension he is like a deeply twisted Thomas Crown, they even rip off the glider scene from that movie. The moment at which he delivers the least romantic line ever spoken; ‘I’m not going to touch you, not until I have your written consent.’ and then seduces her with the sweet addendum ‘#*€k the paperwork.’ should have been the signal for her to run away, as fast and as far away as she could.

She doesn’t flee though and what follows is a series of totally untitillating and increasingly discomforting sex scenes. It isn’t so much the sadomasochism that bothered me, it’s the power relationship that plays out between the two participants and the disproportionate nudity.

Peter Strickland’s film The Duke of Bergundy dealt with similar sexual games earlier on this year but managed to do so in a way that was ultimately quite sweet and romantic. Strickland also managed to balance the bizarreness in the whole set up well and did not see the need to strip his actors naked at any point.

There is no affection between Christian and Ana though and the way he treats her is demeaning and abusive. He enjoys the power he feels over her and both he and the camera seem to take pleasure in lingering on her naked form. The Duke of Burgundy centred around two women as well which allowed it to side step the undertones of gender dominance and sexism. Ana might be consenting to these acts but the inherent chauvinism in the activities is off the chart. We are told that Christian himself was a submissive at one point but this does not address the inequality, it only serves to strengthen the idea of him seeking power over women.

Ultimately Fifty Shades of Grey is a poorly written, grimy and discriminatory little sex film and clearly me expecting it to be anything else was overly optimistic and naive. Its origins as seedy Twilight fan fiction are impossible to hide even in its adapted form and I hope the troubled sequel never sees the light of day. 

That other quote that encapsulates the film I mentioned at the start is spoken when the male lead describes himself with an approximation of the title. He says he is ‘fifty shades of       #*€ked up’. Again, it’s blunt and coarse but the sentiment fits the film.

One of the last words spoken in the movie is when Ana finally turns to Christian and says ‘No!’ and that’s exactly what the publishers, the readership, the film companies, the writers, the director, the actors and the audience should all have said as well. 

3 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey

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