50 Shades of Grey. 12th of February. Opening night in Australia. Three girlfriends and I went to see it.
“You’re pretty excited about this,” one of them said half-accusingly, as I bounced up and down and drank out of the mini bottle of champagne I’d smuggled into the cinema.
“As excited I was about Magic Mike,” I trilled.
Oh, 50 Shades. If only you were half as good as Magic Mike. (A film that had a plot; was tongue-in-cheek, had plenty of the female gaze; and some damn charming flirting, thanks to Mr. Channing Tatum, a man whose beefcake looks I am ambivalent about, yet who still is a master banterer.)
I know, I know. The book is abysmal. In 2012, I wrote how I hated 50 Shades, and the memory still lingers. The source material — Twilight — was bastardized as fan fiction, the characters re-named and the plot slightly changed. The writing was so poor as to rank with one of the worst books I read that year, let alone ever.
So why get so excited?
Because it looked like fun.
Because it had a prominent female director.
Because Jamie Dornan is hot.
Because it looked like a fun night out with the girls, watching a movie with a hot dude who makes out with you in an elevator, and spends half his days buttoning or un-buttoning his button-downs. (I don’t mind the repetition in this case.)
At the start, the movie theatre was geared up. Hordes of women, bubbles in hand, giggled and even laughed uproariously. My friends and I (bolstered by two glasses of bubbles apiece) snickered and commented our way through. The only people who didn’t seem to get into the lighthearted spirit of the film were the men scattered around the back of the cinema, silently sitting not with their girlfriends, but by themselves. Creepy. And perhaps the movie’s ultimate viewer.
Who else would enjoy seeing a woman be stalked?
See, I kind of forgot about that. The book’s bad writing stayed with me while the stalkerish tendencies faded with time. They built up and built up over the film — you could feel the audience getting more annoyed. (Or at least me and my friends did.)
Item 1: When a guy shows up at work, and you have a crush on him, you might be a bit flustered. When he shows up IN YOUR NEW APARTMENT after you’ve known him a while, your natural reaction would be — what?
Here’s mine: “What the f— are you doing here?”
Instead, Anastasia simpers her way through the scene.
Item 2: When someone gives you a car as a present — and SELLS YOUR OLD CAR WITHOUT TELLING YOU — you know, the car that you’ve absolutely loved, that makes you feel kinda cool because of its vintage vibe — your natural reaction again would be, “WTF.” And here we go with Anastasia’s blankness. Does she have no emotions like a normal human being?
Item 3: When one goes out to a bar, one does not wear a small t-shirt, no matter how tight it is. Seriously. All of my friends and I simultaneously pointed out what a stupid fashion choice it is. Anastasia has a cute roommate. She would never let Ana go out of the house in a dumb slogan tee. This isn’t 1998. It was an incongruous choice.
The list goes on. Let’s see, there were the heavy-handed closeups of her biting the ‘Grey’ pencil (yes, a real pencil). Then there was the completely bizarre scene where they were going through her contract, each seated at opposite ends of a conference table, backlight with orange light. It took me half the scene to figure out it was supposed to be a sunset. (Or was it? Even now I’m not sure. Perhaps it was meant to allude to a 1980s music video? Who knows.) The bit that really annoyed me was how there were not one, but two scenes where Anastasia wakes up, covers herself in a sheet, and walks out to the living room to find Christian playing a piano. Do you know where we saw this before? Pretty Woman. Where it was done much better. We didn’t need to see it twice in 50 Shades.
I do have to say that, for all of its abysmal writing, having the book set in first person did lend itself to a slightly deeper knowledge of how Anastasia was feeling, particularly during the sex scenes. What was she thinking or feeling during them? I have zero idea. I do know that, for all this is a movie written by a women, with a woman director, for a female audience, there were certainly a lot of gratuitous nipples. Did every single scene where she’s been handcuffed or tied up include one of Anastasia’s nipples? Why couldn’t it have been one of Christian’s nipples? Why a nipple at all? Why so many nipples? Whyyyyy?
Oh, I forgot. It was for all of the single men silently ringing the movie theatre, sitting with their hands in their laps.
Should I be disgusted, or should I be happy that, hey, at least someone got off by watching this movie?
I shall not delve into the BDSM aspect, except to say that E.L. James should have read Dan Savage’s Savage Love back columns for the past 20 years. And that I’m positive that many of my friends — from the one who is an occasional dominatrix to the one who is presently exploring their love of kink — would be highly insulted to see how the film portrays what should be a consensual act between two people who are vastly enjoying themselves in their different roles.
Finally, I’ll leave you with two thoughts:
Why does Christian, when introducing Anastasia to the glider instructor, tack on her surname? Who in real life ever does that?
And why, dear Lord, why, do they spend so much time pouring white wine (what’s wrong with red?) and then never drinking it? Oh, the humanity.
And that’s my main problem with 50 Shades. The small details are wrong and wrong and wrong again, obscuring from view any amount of pleasure we can derive from a visually appealing film filled with great music and two hot actors.