I had to pay human money to see Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie adaptation of bad fan fiction based on bad fiction that has earned way more money than it deserves. My actions contributed to 0.000000085% of its global opening weekend earnings, and I apologise to you all for my crimes. I removed three of my toenails as penance.
I am now bleeding profusely from the foot because I am a fair man. I also want to be fair to this film, so while the internet has already covered the world with think pieces like a cerebral Napoleon, I’d thought I’d dip my nail-less toes into the murky puddle of positivity with things I actually liked about the film.
Plus, writing the good things in this film over the bad things simply means less work for me.
First thing’s first: a big congratulations to the cinematographer, the lighting crew, the set designers, the audio specialists and the editing team for making a film that I was able to follow with both my ears and eyes. It may sound like I’m being a snarky jerk with that praise – and 70% of me is being a legitimately snarky jerk – but when blockbusters like Taken 3 can’t even get some of the basic shit right, I’ll take what I can.
An even bigger and heartier congratulations goes out to Dakota Johnson, who managed to take Anastasia Steele – a poorly written play-dough of a character – and make her somewhat likeable, sweet and charming. A bar scene early on sees her get drunk and mock Christian Grey over the phone for being an Edward Cullen. From this point, I was on Ana’s side.
It makes it all the more infuriating when the supposedly smart Ana starts making incredibly bad decisions on a worryingly consistent basis.
(Sorry, almost broke out into a rant there.)
But most people aren’t going into Fifty Shades of Grey for riveting character development – they want sex. With millions of eyes focused on the film’s portrayal of sexual activity, it was heartening to see a sex scene with Christian Grey using a condom in a rather matter-of-fact way (the pill was also mentioned later on). It’s a detail that usually goes missing in mainstream cinema sex scenes, but this moment proved that contraception use doesn’t detract from “the heat of the moment”.
It’s a good scene, if you ignore the fact that he broke into her apartment after she e-dumped him, which you shouldn’t ignore because that’s creepy as fuck.
(Sorry, sorry, nearly lost it again.)
Another good scene arrives in the middle of the film where Ana and Christian negotiate the terms of their contract – one that would lead to two different kinds of legally binding (*slaps knee, holds for applause, crickets leave*). It’s a scene that gives Ana a slither of agency, turning down particular sexual acts and forcing Christian to agree to them, much to his disappointment.
However, it’s pretty strange that she would understand the definition of ‘anal fisting’ but remain completely clueless about ‘butt plugs’. I mean, the definition is in the name. Damn it Ana, you brag about a 4.0 GPA and yet you cannot deduce this simple terminology!? A butt plug plugs the butt! It’s not even arbitrary!
(Woooooosaaah… woooooosaaah… *rubs ears*)
Then there’s Fifty Shades of Grey’s crowning achievement: the ending. Ana and Christian’s final conflict in the film is the type you would typically find at the start of the third act in most films – the kind that makes you think “How are they going to solve this dilemma?” Not me, however, who, after two hours of having this film expose itself to me, slumped a little further down my seat thinking “How much longer am I trapped in here!?” Then, to everyone’s utter surprise, the film just… stops.
Go to black.
Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.
“Wait, I can leave!?”
Based on the novel by E.L. James.