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February 13, 2015

Movie Review || Fifty Shades of Grey

promo-fifty-shades-movie
Yes, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are going to rush to the theatres on Friday the 13th to catch the film rendition of the bestselling erotic, BDSM novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. I was lucky enough to catch the preview screening on Thursday, and by the amount of people who laughed during the film, it's clear many people are watching it because of the hype surrounding the story rather than because they have read the novel.

I said in an earlier post that the film was going to be popular because of the hype, but that it would be 'safe'. And that it is. In my official review of the film for a publication, I found that the film maintains a balance between the taboo world of BDSM and the straight-and-narrow, and it is definitely the love story I thought it would be (SPOILER: Though it's ending is not stereotypical - it left many an audience member either giggling or gasping, and shocked).

I've been doing some thinking in between that post and this, and I've come to the conclusion that the reason Fifty Shades is so popular is because it's a good story. Yes, perhaps it's not a good book, but it is a good story: how is two people falling in love and finding security in each other bad? It is a novel that makes people feel that love and sexual chemistry is possible, that change is possible, that sacrifice is rewarded, that love is real in a world of broken hearts.



Nowhere is this good story more clear than in the film. In fact, the story could be considered the film's saving grace, since many people will be disappointed upon leaving the cinema at the dearth of racy and raunchy sexual ravishings. The first sex scene only takes place 40 minutes into the film, and other reports indicate that there are actually only 11 minutes of sex in total. What the filmmakers have done with 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is enriched it with great cinematography and good actors.

I know other critics have expressed disappointment in Jamie Dornan's representation of Christian Grey, calling him cold and bemoaning the apparent lack of pull he has towards Anastasia. I did not feel this way about him: Christian Grey is a tormented and damaged man; he cannot feel the way normal people feel; his emotions are not normal; he needs to be in control at all times, and to me this would translate into a stiff demeanour for most of his relations with people, Ana included. When his character does lose control, however, you can feel the charge between them. I think this is exactly how Christian Grey is - his emotions are frustratingly invisible to Ana and to us, and that is one of the reasons he is so intriguing. And the fact that he loses control around Ana is what creates the sexual tension required.


Dakota Johnson's portrayal of Ana was spot-on, and she actually made the character more likeable. In fact, the film has improved the character of Ana immensely: she no longer has that annoying 'Inner Goddess' that all readers want to slap interrupting the flow of the story, and her best characteristics have been highlighted. She also seems more decisive and pushy, and her power over Christian Grey is laid bare - there are no distractions made by poor writing.

I also did not see the supposed hatred the two stars have of one another in the film. Besides, I believe this was all based on the fact that the pair were perhaps not properly trained to deal with the press in such an intimate way. Johnson's claim to fame? Erm, a role in a film with her mom and sister and several other non-entities. Dornan's? Relatively low-PR television series.



I was disappointed, though, that the range of music in the book was not included in the soundtrack, bar one song. Grey is a music lover, so I was sad to see that the songs have been watered down to popular culture stars.



The nudity aspect annoyed me though. Yes, I understand that the sexual organs must stay prudishly offscreen so the film doesn't get a rating that limits viewership, but the number of times we are treated to simply a glimpse of Grey's chiselled body is heavily outnumbered by the number of times we see a fully nude, objectified Ana. Why the imbalance? Well, woman as object of course. So despite the film being targeted mainly at women (and many older women will watch the film, too, if the five ladies at the preview were anything to gauge by), we are reminded that we are still objects, girls! Even if we are the main character. Even if it is ostensibly our pleasure, it is, after all, all about his pleasure.

Oh, and I don't believe the film passes the Bechdel Test either. Although there are several other female characters, they really have nothing to talk to about each other except Christian Grey.

I'm not really party to the BDSM culture, so cannot comment from an experienced point of view, but I do believe the film does not represent it properly. If it were presented properly, it would not be a mainstream, blockbuster hit, right?

And as far as advocating domestic abuse... I'm not so sure about this. There was no moment - aside from the end of the film - when Ana said 'No' or asked Christian to stop. In fact, Ana even asks him why he needs to hurt her to get off. Her defiance is not something existent in an abusive relationship. I can see where the notion comes from, since Ana is punished for her mistakes physically, but I believe consent is a very important part of the relationship on screen. Christian did not touch her to punish her until she agreed to the relationship in the first place. Please do enlighten me if you disagree, as I'm certainly no expert.

I did enjoy the film though, more than the book. The audience did become bored eventually, because all the hype around the sex scenes and the sex and the BDSM and the sex built up everyone's expectations. I knew this is what would happen though. It is the entertainment industry after all.

If you do go watch it, don't expect sex scene after sex scene - expect the love story that 'Fifty Shades of Grey' really is behind all the hype.

{Image credit: Facebook\FiftyShadesSouthAfrica}

Want to read more about 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?

MsMagazine.com: I watched Fifty Shades of Grey so You Don't Have to
Upworthy: 6 real quotes from 'Fifty Shades' that could make you rethink how you feel about it
Real life on The Mary Sue: I Dated Christian Grey: How Women Are Groomed For Abuse
The Mary Sue: We Need to Talk About Female Submission in Film
Relevant Magazine: Fifty Shades of Grey and Abuse
The New York Times: In 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Movie, Sex is a Knotty Business
The Independent: Fifty Shades of Grey Movie Shows First Sex Scene 'After 40 Minutes'
Vulture: Fifty Shades Review: Dakota Johnson Is Superb; Jamie Dornan, Not So Much