Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey

Heather Inglis and Matthew Merchant

She said:

‘Fifty Shades’ of No: How one girl left the racy new film showing fifty shades of red

Before I delve into my thoughts on this “movie” (if that’s what you can call it), I need to clarify three things.

One, I’m sorry if this ruins the movie or book for anyone. I’ll keep my spoilers to a minimum.

Two, I’ve read all three “Fifty Shades” novels. The concept of exploring the idea of BDSM appealed to me as much as it appealed to any other hormone-filled, female 20-something and the average housewife alike. And I will be the first one to admit it: The books were outrageously hot. However, the “Twilight” fan-fiction aspect of it, a.k.a. having the exact same plot line, wasn’t exactly something I was crazy about. Had E. L. James given her novels a different storyline maybe I would have appreciated reading all three cover-to-cover more.

Three, I’m a pretty direct, open person. With that being said, I’m comfortable discussing or dealing with just about anything, including the subject of sex. It’s a natural thing our bodies were made to do, either for procreation or pleasure, depending on who you’re talking to. So why would I let that make me feel weird?

As someone who can easily discuss the logistics of BDSM with just about anyone, I was uncomfortable watching this movie for a couple of reasons.

“I cannot.”

To be completely honest nothing about me wants to watch other people having sex. Whether it’s missionary and vanilla, or it’s kinky and lubed-up, I don’t really want to watch other people getting it on, especially with complete strangers in a movie theater. A significant other, maybe… But even then, I’ll probably politely decline.

Either way I found myself mouthing “My word,” “Oh my God” and, the most common, “I cannot” every time the act or subject of sex was brought up throughout the duration of the movie.

Psychology will tell you that men are visual creatures while women are all about words. Porn and skimpy lingerie appeal to men because they have a visual sexual drive. Women, on the other hand, prefer to read or hear erotica, which is why Danielle Steel is still publishing racy paperbacks and E. L. James has such a popular franchise going for her. Not to say men don’t like reading something sexually explicit or women didn’t appreciate a shirtless Jamie Dornan, but this movie definitely defined this simple male and female psychology. Basically, it proved I would much rather read about Anastasia Steele being deflowered than actually witnessing it.

Also, I was almost shocked at how much nudity was present and how long the sex scenes were allowed to be for it to only be an R-rated movie. I obviously knew that contributed to the plot line of the novels, but I saw way more of Dakota Johnson’s breasts than I really had anticipated.

As for the sex scenes, I didn’t time them or anything, but I felt as if they were unnecessarily long. Shocker, but “Fifty Shades” actually has a plot, and watching the movie only made me feel like it was made to help everyone envision being tied to a bed. But that leads me to my next discrepancy with this film.

Quality counts

The cinematic quality of this movie, and the overall plot adapted from the novel, was by far awful, at least from my standpoint.

The acting was very awkward, and the only person that it worked for was Johnson seeing as her character, Anastasia, is supposed to be awkward. But it seemed as though the actors didn’t mesh well, and the various long pauses between statements didn’t add any depth or suspense for me — it just felt weird. Couple that with how choppy the scenes were in general and it made “Fifty Shades” all that more awkward to endure.

The plot was also very rushed. In the novel, Christian Grey and Anastasia’s relationship definitely moves at a fast pace, but it was still slightly drawn out. To me, drawing out their relationship added to the tension and really built up the sex appeal of the whole novel, like the concept of foreplay, if you will.

Watching the movie, however, it felt as if she met him, and then before I knew it, he had her tied up in her new apartment. Where did the “foreplay” of this story go?

As if the awkwardness and poor acting weren’t enough, Hollywood only briefly touched on a MAJOR aspect of the plot: Christian’s scars and how his past relates to how he is today.

Until it was pointed out, I couldn’t even see any scars on Dornan when he took his shirt off. Ana’s pitiful, “Why won’t you let me touch you?!” was the only part that eluded to the fact Christian had a past, which he later explained for only a hot minute.

This aspect of the book is crucial for Universal to continue the film adaptation of this series. Christian’s past defines his whole character, which in turn defines the whole story. It seems as though Hollywood was too focused on Ana’s character being relatable and the sex scenes being provocative enough to fill a theater that they had forgotten to develop Christian’s side of things.

If I give away any more details, I’ll ruin the book, but I will say this: The other two (or maybe three) films produced in this series probably won’t make much sense to viewers who haven’t read the book if Universal doesn’t further develop Christian as a character and not just as a Dominant.

I also imagined Christian’s red room to look a little more sexy and a lot less like a Medieval torture chamber, but again, I don’t want to ruin anything.

Now that my negative thoughts are out there, I will admit “Fifty Shades” had its good points. Some of the sex/foreplay scenes were enticing to a female audience, and the looks of the cast were perfect. I found myself easily relating to Ana in her everyday habits and mannerisms, especially when it comes to being faced with such an intimidatingly attractive man. Johnson’s portrayal of Ana really made the movie for me.

Nonetheless, I left the film feeling at odds about having just watched two people “bang” for almost two hours (allotting time for the few conversations had). But to quote a good friend of mine after her viewing of the film,

“Hey, at least he was hot.”

He said: 

‘That’s not really my thing:’ Two hours of possibly sexy, possibly horrifying one-liners…and plenty of nipples and ass.

Yes, I really did watch “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It happened. And I’ll let you know my opinion about the whole thing. But first, some background.

I love movies, and I love books. I love the experience of reading through a story and then seeing it translated onto the big screen. I love seeing the characters that have only lived through my mind’s eye appearing before me. I love that feeling as if you could change the world when the last page is flipped or the screen goes blank. You know the one.

When I was in high school, I read through “Twilight.” Yep, I did. I wasn’t a Twi-hard by any means, but when you’re in high school, and that’s what everyone else is doing, you read the freaking book — creepy teen vampire or not. And when the movie came out? Yeah, I went to see it. And you know what? It was horrible. But then again, I always compared myself to the characters I read about: I wanted to have their positive qualities fighting evil, going on adventures and driving fancy cars or motorcycles.

Whipping up a film from a book bound in chains

As any good writer would do for an assignment like this, I also read through “Fifty Shades of Grey.” (Ok, I downloaded a copy and sped-read it on my computer because I didn’t want to actually buy the book.) That being said, even speed reading it, I couldn’t find a plot. Maybe some character development, but not a plot. Sex, yes. Wow. Lots of very explicit sex. So a movie version? It would be like hardcore porn on the big screen, right? I mean, let’s be real. Guys are going to hole up in their room and watch porn in that privacy before they would go see it out in public. And after watching it myself, I would totally agree. Stay inside. It ain’t worth your buck. There’s more entertaining adult content online for free.

I am a college-age male with a healthy sex drive, inhibitions and curiosities about sex like everyone else. I do know I’m not a sadist or a masochist, and I’m definitely not a lonely, middle-age housewife looking for some action.

But I must say, this was one movie whose characters I do not want to compare myself to. I don’t want to be a Submissive like Anastasia Steele: scared, confused and coerced into giving up my body to someone for their pleasure (though Christian Grey would argue it’d be for my pleasure as well, not just the other person’s). I don’t want to be an ignorant slave. I also don’t want to be a Dominant like Christian Grey: an arguably abusive, cold-hearted, domineering and shallow man who hunts for people to use as sex toys. I don’t want to objectify any woman, placing her at the level of being used for sex (though Ana would argue she probably enjoyed every second of it).

There’s also something about whips, chains and slapping that just doesn’t appeal to me. The whole leather and bondage, one person dominating the other thing? Really, the plot that does exist is all about sex and the “relationship” that develops between the characters.

Without giving too much of the movie away, I honestly thought the scenes would be more explicit. Yep. More explicit. Sure, there was moaning, there was gasping, and there was thrusting. There was a very close-cut shot of an almost-penis flash. There was plenty of nipple, plenty of ass.

“The only sort of relationship I have” because “It’s the way that I am”

If I’m being honest with myself and everyone who asks, yes, I get the Grey character. I get him. At some point in every man’s life, I would guess we’ve all had a Dominant-type thought. Some might even go through a Submissive thought process. For me, I can understand it to an extent. I may not entertain it, but I get it. We all have those kinds of fantasies, but most don’t act them out. And to some extent, I can see why millions of other people around the world have read (and now have seen) the story.

I like being in control of things as much as anyone else. For example, I like to drink, but I don’t like to get completely drunk. I like being in control of myself and my own actions. Giving that control up, or seeing someone else give it up, is something I just can’t fathom. We are all free-willed beings and giving that up, to me, is almost like giving up part of your humanity.

 I also consider myself to be a romantic at heart. I would never treat my girlfriend the way that Christian treats Ana at certain times — and I would hope that she wouldn’t want me to. I would never treat someone like an object, nor would I want to be half of a shallow relationship to be used just for sex. Yes, it could be a very pleasurable and healthy experience, for sure, and I’d be all for it. But I was raised to respect the person I’m with no matter what, and that includes having honest and sensible discussion about healthy and unhealthy sex. That’s not sexist or chauvinistic; that’s simply treating the person like an equal and loving them without forcing it.

This story though, it’s not like that. It’s not romantic. It’s borderline disturbing. And it’s a graphic representation of a culture that’s dominated (no pun intended) by sex appeal and sexual advertising. It’s a product of a culture that treats sexual relationships like they are allowed to be abused. Humans and sex should never be viewed, portrayed or subjected to that.

Contact Heather Inglis at [email protected] and Matthew Merchant at [email protected].