Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

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Before it was a movie, or even a book for that matter, Fifty Shades of Grey was posted online by author E L James as an internet fan fiction. Using the internet handle ‘Snowqueen’s Icedragon,’  James was originally writing her kinky story using characters from The Twilight Saga books. Halfway through writing, she decided to change the character names and publish it.

Fan fiction has a reputation for being bad. Of course, not all fan fiction is bad, but the majority of it is just a fan’s way of paying tribute to the some piece of pop culture by writing themselves into it. If the fiction receiving this treatment is already beyond awful, we’re off to a pretty rocky start. Having said all that, this movie is based on a book that was based on fan fiction which was based on the Twilight novels. Expectations should be set very low.

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This movie will ‘whip’ your tolerance for stupidity.

So this is the story of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), an English Literature student in her last year of school, who meets billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) when she interviews him for her school newsletter. Grey is the CEO of Grey House, a corporation that does… business, of some kind. Ana is awkward and intimidated by his handsome suaveness, but she obviously makes an impression on the young man. Soon after their meeting, Christian starts stalking her, showing up at her work and generally exhibiting extremely creepy behaviour. He stares her down in a way that would make most people uncomfortable, but not Ana. She is flattered by him because plot contrivance. After their first date Christian looks her in the eye and says, with an odd conviction, ‘I don’t do romance and dating, if that’s what you’re looking for.’ But that’s exactly what she is looking for! Christian is a dominant guy looking for a submissive sex slave, and Ana is a virgin who has been saving herself for that special someone. The relationship should have ended right there.

Here’s the problem then: Christian and Ana may be attracted to each other on a surface level, but beyond that they are completely incompatible in every possible way. And they know it, too. The film makes a point to establish this fact multiple times before they decide to enter into a relationship with each other. I guess the writer assumed this would work because conflict is dramatic. But these two characters are from completely different ends of the spectrum, and it’s impossible to believe either one would adapt to the other. But screw logic; after Ana drunk dials Christian one night, the heroic hunk rescues her from the bar she’s at (somehow just ‘knowing’ where that is), and they spend the night together.

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After he punches one of Anastasia’s best friends, of course.

Once they agree to be together, they spend a large portion of the film negotiating their relationship contract. No, really. The two of them discuss a binding, written agreement that defines what he is allowed to do to her. He is very accommodating too, scratching out anal fisting at her request. To sweeten the deal he offers to take her on a date once a week, like a ‘real couple.’ How generous. How could anyone take this garbage seriously!

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The negotiation room has extremely dim lighting, because the last thing you need is the ability to see the document you’re discussing.

And so their relationship, doomed from the beginning, starts. What ends up happening is a repetitious pattern where the two of them will get along, then slowly drift apart until they encounter *gasp* a minor disagreement. They hate each other for a few minutes, but then Christian will somehow convince Ana to have sex with him to solve the problem. And it always works too, until they encounter their next argument. This same sequence of events occurs four times, and then the movie ends. One of the petty issues that nearly destroys their relationship, for example, is Ana travelling to visit her mom in Georgia.

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How dare you visit your mom! Now Have sex with me!

I never thought I’d say this, but, sadly, the sex scenes are gratuitous and pointless. Once we’ve seen it once, we understand what they’re up to in the bedroom (or ‘playroom,’ as Christian calls it). The problem is that the movie’s not about the story or the characters, it’s just about the different types of sex they have. Every time they’re intimate, the scene feels like it’s ten minutes long and is always accompanied with terrible music, usually a slow-tempo pop cover with a deep, pounding bass track. The narrative is just filler to get us to the next bang-sesh. It’s just… too much sex. I’m reminded of the sex scenes in The Room, though at least in this movie the actors are a lot more attractive and the filmmakers shot them a little more tastefully (the difference is marginal, though).

The actors have no chemistry onscreen and that’s probably because, as rumour has it, they hated each other in real life. Everything they do and say together sounds and looks too contrived and unnatural. It’s hard to believe a romance film when the characters can’t convince us they truly like each other, though it does work in the scenes when they are angry. You see, actors are strongest when they have something to draw from.

I hope fans of this series aren’t watching this thing, wanting to be Ana so that they can be with Christian. On a superficial level, Christian’s too perfect; he’s rich, handsome, and cool. He’s an amazing pianist and a plane pilot. I suspect Christian might be Snowqueen Icedragon‘s fantasy of the ideal man.  He’s supposed to come across as that dark, brooding, man of mystery. But beneath the surface, Christian’s an asshole with some real deep-seeded issues. Molested as a teenager, now he’s grown to a point where he has more money than he knows what to do with. I suspect he might be bipolar, because he’s a perfect gentleman one minute, and a possessive maniac the next.  Hell, Ana’s not much more realistic. She’s practically a prostitute with he way Christian has to buy her things in exchange for sex. The man likes to beat Ana and watch her cry. He should be negotiating contracts with a psychiatrist, not a sex slave. And Ana should too, since she keeps coming back to him for more.

There’s not much more to this film other than two needlessly complicated characters who lack the slightest hint of rationality. They both commit to something they know won’t work, and are then astonished when it all falls apart. There’s a lot of character idiocy worth laughing at in this film. It’s definitely worth watching, pending your adherence to the following condition(s):

  • You (the “Viewer”) hereby guarantee to Trebor (the “Reviewer”) that the Viewer shall not idolise and/or seek out his/her own personal Christian Grey.
  • The Viewer shall not ever, under any circumstance now known or hereafter devised, consider the events of the motion picture presently titled Fifty Shades of Grey (the “Picture”) to be anything more than an absurdly stupid work of fiction.

Let me know if you require any further revisions to the Agreement and I’ll draft up a term sheet for you to sign.


 

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