While it’s fresh on my mind, I would like to get my thoughts about the Fifty Shades of Grey movie out there in the open, since I’ve spoken about it so much on all of my social media and even this blog. I want to start by posting links to two reviews I completely agree with. While neither of them are completely favorable, they do explain why the movie works and why it’s such a phenomenon.
Bondage stakes its claim on the multiplex as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele transition steamily from best-seller to the big screen. – “Fifty Shades of Grey”: Film Review from The Hollywood Reporter
I will say here and now that I really enjoyed the movie, and I had a great time going with my friend Zach, especially being amongst a sold out crowd of people who love the books as much as we do. I have not been one to claim these books are a literary triumph, but I have stated in my original review of the Fifty Shades trilogy that this is pure escapism for me because I am able to become lost in the relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.
And contrary to the many condescending reviews, women aren’t watching “Fifty Shades” for life lessons on healthy dating. They aren’t under the impression that it’s a documentary. And they aren’t overly concerned that its story line is flimsy; they’re watching “Fifty Shades” for plot subtlety just like men in the ’60s bought Playboy “for the articles.”
It’s called fantasy, and if you’re going to argue it’s the wrong kind, I’d like to see some equivalent write-ups on the appropriateness of the majority of the adult films guys watch online every day. – Sarah Stewart, The New York Post
Those paragraphs so aptly summarize why I went to see Fifty Shades Of Grey. Critics and “haters” must really think so poorly of those of us who are reading these books (I hate the moniker “mommy porn”). They can’t all possibly believe that myself and millions of others are reading these books because we actually look at these as guides to a certain kind of lifestyle or relationship. I’m well aware of how Christian Grey appears in the book, and for the most part, I felt he was stalking Ana in the beginning. What endears me to this trilogy is Ana’s ability to still be herself and that she “hangs on to her free will” throughout. She beguiled this man who is as tragically handsome as he is damaged. Maybe there is no possible way that someone like Ana could change someone like Christian in “real life”, but I love that someone has made up the fantasy that it could.
So many reviews state that Jaime Dornan doesn’t posses the chops that it takes to portray the marred man behind the billionaire that is Christian Grey. But I disagree and I believe that Dornan plays him just as he should be: aloof, dark and brooding until he is lust-struck by Anastasia. No one can explain chemistry between two people, but it happens. This is fantasy at it’s most appropriate definition: Powerful billionaire falls for the unsuspecting everyday girl. Outside of the sometimes hokey catch-phrases (“Welcome to my world” or “I’m fifty shades of f-ed up”), Dornan does do what he’s supposed to do, and that’s to portray Christian Grey’s struggle of why this sweet college girl has him all up in knots.
In that glass box, Dornan seems lacking as the stormy-eyed Grey, displaying little of the animal magnetism of the serial killer he plays on BBC series The Fall (indirectly referenced in an exchange of in-joke dialogue). But his performance quickly grows fascinating in its containment, revealing a disturbingly more animated side of Grey when he next encounters Ana. With a suddenness that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a horror thriller, he shows up in the aisles of the hardware store where she works and leaves her deeply flustered as she helps him with a shopping list of items — rope and cable ties among them — whose true purpose she’ll soon understand.
Except for his prowess at pleasuring women, everything is slightly off in Grey, from the not-quite-swagger of entitlement to the not-quite-revealed memories of a wounded childhood. In his first major big-screen performance, Dornan creates a remarkable range within Grey’s tightly wound intensity. When he takes Ana up in a magnificent glider, both characters let go, and the two leads wordlessly evince very different forms of unhinged joy, equally affecting. – Sheri Linden – The Hollywood Reporter
What has me wanting to see this movie again is the portrayal of Dakota Johnson as Anastasia. Johnson portrays the best part of Ana and infuses strength into her innocence, yet provides her with a spunkiness that would absolutely draw someone like Christian Grey to her. She seems a bit shy and a bit awkward at first in the interview scene at Grey’s office, but little bits of her gumption start to peak through. One of my favorite parts is when Ana drunk-dials Christian while at a night club and does a funny bit where she asks about why Christian sent her the expensive books then proceeds to tell him how he pushes her away, then pulls her in, only to push her away again. The other scene that I love is when they are discussing the contract and what she will and won’t do, and how she is completely disarming him with her ability to discuss hard limits, although he knows she doesn’t have any true perspective of what she’s getting into. I absolutely felt Christian’s heat during this sexy exchange of words, which causes him to undo his tie slightly.
First seen looking in a mirror, Anastasia is a figure defined by self-discovery. She’s embarking on postcollege life at the same time that she experiences a physical awakening that she never would have imagined. Although the character’s literary leanings are as flatly drawn as Grey’s vague philanthropic undertakings and high-powered tech-biz talk, Johnson is captivating. Her facial features recall both her parents (Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson), but she’s very much her own actor.
With a loose-limbed naturalness, she conveys naiveté, intellectual curiosity and romantic yearning, and shows the unassuming Ana’s newfound thrill at being seen, however complicated the man holding her in his admiring gaze. She’s open and vulnerable but no fool. Best of all, Johnson and her director embrace Ana’s paradox: She snickers at Christian’s predilections, but they also turn her on. – Sheri Linden – The Hollywood Reporter
Finally, I like that the sex scenes and the playroom are stylized. This is BDSM that is “safe” for consumption and isn’t meant to be hardcore. I read a review that it’s a shame we never see Anastasia truly climax. The intimate scenes are meant to show Ana’s sexual self-discovery and since I’ve read the books, I know how to fill in the gaps of what happens next without needing them to be gratuitous. I watched the movie to see Christian and Anastasia’s romantic tension personified, which then allows me to re-read the next installment with them in mind, anticipating what director Sam Taylor-Johnson has planned next for Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed (now that there is confirmation that the trilogy will all come to life).
I would highly suggest that if you are going to see the movie and have not read the books, to go read the books first: All. Of. Them. Not only will it fill in some gaps regarding Christian’s company and Ana’s relationships with her roommate and other minor characters, but you’ll get a bit more perspective on Christian Grey in a few chapters that EL James provides at the end of Fifty Shades Freed. While reading the trilogy, keep this at the forefront always: This isn’t supposed to be Pride & Prejudice. This is Fifty Shades of Grey, and I’m so glad it’s now on celluloid because not only am I going to watch it again on the big screen, but I’ll be purchasing the deluxe set once it comes out on DVD so that I can relive the experience again and again, just for my inner goddess.