There are many things that I will do for my friends. When they’re feeling down, I’ll find random ways to make them laugh. When they just need someone to talk to, I’ll be that friendly ear. When they insist that I’m one of the few people who would accompany them to Fifty Shades of Grey and offer to bribe me into attending? Well, how can I refuse? My friend splurged on getting us super cushy seats at this new theater, iPic, in Rockville, MD. Armed with cocktails, I girded my loins and prepared myself for the inevitable.
If you have been avoiding every form of media out there, let me give you a quick summary: college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) encounters enigmatic businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The latter chooses to pursue the former for unconventional sexy funtimes. What ensues are some of the most unorthodox contract negotiations ever seen on screen.
There has been a lot of criticism lobbed at the film and its source material. A lot of folks have written lengthy diatribes about the abusive and controlling way Christian approaches his relationship with Anastasia. I can’t speak to what goes on in the novel. I’ve never read it and, to be honest, I don’t have any plans to do so.
I’m not going to spend my review talking about the ways that Christian Grey is a creepy stalker and how messed up their relationship is. Both Anastasia and Christian have terrible decision-making skills and are unable to effectively communicate like rational people. There are tons of reviews and blog posts out there about the unhealthy messages this film and the book are promoting, not to mention the way it treats BDSM. I have friends in the community who are more than happy to discuss this at length.
No, I’m going to talk about the big crime this movie actually committed. Instead of being titillating, erotic, or even really entertaining, it was just. . .boring. It really should have been titled Fifty Shades of Meh. The pacing was uneven, the dialogue was giggle-worthy (and not in a good way), and the principle performers had very little in the way of palpable chemistry.
In all fairness, the movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I went into it expecting a complete and total trainwreck. Perhaps if it had been a little worse it may have ended up in definitely campy territory and my opinion of it may have improved. As it was, it was merely mediocre. Fortunately, it was mediocre with an awesome soundtrack. I will forgive many cinema sins for a good set of tunes.
For a movie all about passion, desire, and a relationship that neither of the main characters can seem to shake, it was about as arousing as watching “True Blood” with my parents. Yes, we did used to sit down around the TV every Sunday to watch it before my mom lost interest. That show had some prime eye candy in all kinds of exciting situations, but I was watching it with my parents. It was like being wrapped in a wet blanket and nudged outside into the snow.
Look, I don’t know where that metaphor was going. It’s just really difficult to appropriately articulate how the movie was not as stimulating as it hoped to be. Just look at the trailers and publicity shots? It’s supposed to be all about the eroticism. I’ve found most Jane Austen adaptations more stimulating. The way Matthew Macfadyen‘s Mr. Darcy flexes his fingers after helping Keira Knightley‘s Elizabeth Bennet into the carriage? I had to fan myself. If you can’t give me the vapors with your naked actors like Pride & Prejudice (2005) did with their clothed performers, perhaps you should rethink some of your life choices.
In a nutshell, Fifty Shades of Grey is best enjoyed with liquor and friends who will giggle along with you at inappropriate places. It could also be a good teachable moment for showing how you can utterly fail at having a relationship or being an adult with agency. The best part of going to see the movie? The awesome seats in the swanky theater and my good friend’s company.
Honestly, I think most of the ground I’d cover here has been covered. On its own, Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t quite the terror that people have made it out to be. Adding it into the current patchwork quilt of society and where our culture is, as Christian Grey would say, “fifty shades of fucked up,” that’s where it could do the most damage. Christian Grey needs therapy instead of kink (or along with kink if that helps). Anastasia needs to learn how to Google effectively. Seriously, what college-aged person has to honestly ask what a butt plug is? I want to give her the benefit of the doubt and think she’s being facetious, but it’s really hard to tell.
In any event, this movie has spawned some interesting dialogues about the nature of abuse and what BDSM is and is not. If we get nothing out of the movie, we’ll at least get that. It may not seem like much, but talking about these sorts of things is always helpful.