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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Fifty Shades of Grey movie review: neurotica

Fifty Shade of Grey red light

A charm-free hero with control issues and a passive, fretful heroine have coy and tediously vanilla pretend-sex. This is meant to be erotic?
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): despise the book and despair of its popularity

I have read the source material (and I hate it)

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Let’s be clear about one thing: The problem with Fifty Shades of Grey is not the sex.

I mean, apart from how Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have no onscreen chemistry at all. And apart from how watching them pretend to fuck is utterly unsexy and unromantic. And apart from how coy and tediously vanilla the pretend-sex is (even more vanilla than the not-at-all-BDSMy sex in the book!). And apart from how no one ever gets to actually come because the gauzy dissolve into the next scene happens before anyone orgasms… every single time. And apart from how the heterosexual female director of this film, which is intended for an almost entirely heterosexual female audience, chose to shoot the sex scenes in a preposterously male-gazey way, with the camera lingering as it swoops up and down Johnson’s naked body in a way it never does on Dornan’s, as if when heterosexual women think about having sex with a hot guy they imagine themselves not using their eyes to drink in what he looks like but somehow letting their eyes float off into the distance in order to luxuriate in a disembodied view of their own breasts and asses being revealed as they are undressed.

(It’s not like director Sam Taylor-Johnson doesn’t know how to do female-gazey! Check out her Nowhere Boy, about teenaged John Lennon: the camera positively makes love to her leading man, Aaron Johnson. Of course, that was a low-budget British indie, and this is a big-budget Hollywood production. Are the studios really so afraid of female desire that even in a movie about a sexual relationship told from a woman’s perspective, a male gaze must be reinforced? No, don’t answer that…)

Still, the sex is not the problem.

A disturbing number of people who complain about those who complain about Fifty Shades of Grey — the book and now the movie — completely fail to appreciate that the sex isn’t what we complainers are complaining about. Even the clearly coached responses from Johnson and Dornan on the red carpet of the London premiere of the film on Thursday night missed it: They went on and on about how careful everyone involved in making the film was to ensure that it’s clear that all the sex is consensual.

And it is. Every sexual act in the film occurs with at least the unspoken agreement of both parties, and sometimes with explicit spoken negotiated consent. But an intimate relationship is about more than sex. Sex isn’t the only understanding between lovers (or even just friends) that requires consent. There are boundaries that have to be respected and personal autonomy that is no one else’s to control. This is meant to be a 21st-century romance, isn’t it? So why does it feel retrograde in ways that are demeaning to both men and women?

This is a very literal adaptation of E.L. James’s very literal novel — the screenplay is by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks) — but it does downplay the worst of its romantic “hero”’s boundary and control issues. It cannot eliminate them, however, because they are fundamental to the extremely traditional ideas about men and women, and about men’s and women’s experience of sexual desire, that the story is about. College student Anastasia Steele (Johnson: Need for Speed, The Five-Year Engagement) is a demure, naive virgin who is literally slack-jawed with awe, literally wide-eyed, and literally giggly with her own self-consciousness when she meets self-made billionaire Christian Grey (Dornan: Marie Antoinette) to interview him for the school newspaper. Thus begins a “relationship” that is all about him pushing her, her rebuffing him after long anxious debates with herself, and him overcoming her objections till he gets what he wants from her, often by showing off how wealthy he is. None of this occurs in a way that is romantically seductive — there is no wooing going on here, and Christian is completely lacking in anything approaching charm. He makes no attempts to be ingratiating, and is in fact domineering and controlling from the get-go. On their very first date, an outing to a coffeeshop, he commands her to eat. Not like “Oh, hey, I thought you might like a muffin with your tea,” but a bark of “Eat!” as he shoves the pastry at her. Him policing her consumption of food and drink will be a recurring thing. This is not normal.

By the time Christian presents Ana with a nondisclosure agreement to sign (also not a normal thing for a prospective boyfriend to do), she has more than enough hints that she should run away very fast in the other direction because he is a dangerously obsessive control freak who wants to be in charge of things he has absolutely no right to be in charge of. She doesn’t run away. But then, a little later, when she decides to turn down his offer to become his sexual submissive (the supposedly BDSM stuff here, as in the book, bears little resemblance to actual BDSM practices) and tells him she never wants to see him again, how does he react? He breaks into her apartment — well, he had previously warned her “I’m incapable of leaving you alone” — to overwhelm her with his fucking. Sure, she doesn’t tell him to leave, and she doesn’t say No to the sex. But this isn’t really a positive thing. Not when it’s underscoring a hoary trope about what women are supposed to do — insist they don’t want sex — and how men are supposed to respond: disbelieve her and give it to her anyway, because she secretly is dying for it.

Shouldn’t we be past the point at which a woman has to pretend not to want sex lest she be called a slut, at least in a woman’s own fantasy? Do some women enjoy pretending they don’t actually like sex?

On the other hand… Every time Christian steps waaay over a line he shouldn’t — expressing incongruous jealousy as if it’s totally appropriate; believing he should be kept apprised of all of Ana’s movements; treating her material property like it is his to dispose of as he wishes — Ana instantly dismisses and forgets her own objections, which were only the tiniest mewls of objection anyway. Because handsome rich boyfriend? There’s literally no other reason we can see. She never initiates sex — he orders her into it — and she doesn’t appear to have any desire of her own. So maybe she isn’t secretly dying for it, and maybe she just wants the fairy tale of a rich man to sweep her off her feet. Maybe she doesn’t say No to the sex because it’s the price she has to pay to get Christian? Unlike in the book, Ana here has no career aspirations and makes no attempt to find a job after her graduation (which occurs about halfway through the film); maybe she just wants to be taken care of?

This isn’t a better option to explain Ana’s motives.

Either way, we’re left with a woman who is manipulative and weak-willed and a man who is a slave to his hormones in an abusive relationship that is presented as romantic. This is not romance. It’s not even a fresh or original depiction of a messed-up sexual relationship. It would be old hat in a Victorian pulp novel. It is inexcusable today.

Shouldn’t our daydreams be the one place where we don’t have to play by these idiotic, woman- and man-hating rules?


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Fifty Shades of Grey for its representation of girls and women.


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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)
US/Can release: Feb 13 2015
UK/Ire release: Feb 13 2015

MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language
BBFC: rated 18 (strong sex)

viewed at a public multiplex screening

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Juliet

    Thank you so much this. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who despairs of the kind of relationship this movie/book represents. The whole phenomenon makes me feel very distant from other women. It’s hard to understand why so many women long for the kind of insecure, controlling man that would make me run away in terror.

  • a

    I liked the movie, but don’t you find it odd that the alleged *target audience* of women would want to see a movie with more naked women than men? Also, you brought up a comparison with the book, about how they removed the parts of Anastasia being employed and Christian buying her company. I suspect this is because the producers are waiting to see how this will fare at the box office and depending on this, they’ll know whether they can afford bigger actors for the, ehem, *next two sequels*

  • don’t you find it odd that the alleged *target audience* of women would want to see a movie with more naked women than men?

    Yes, I do. That’s why I mentioned it in my review.

    how they removed the parts of Anastasia being employed

    Also mentioned in my review.

    What did you like about the movie?

  • Jennifer Merin, Cinema Citizen

    Brilliant, MaryAnn. You say it all, and you say it soooo well. I hope moviegoers, moviemakers and pop culture moguls read your critique and take it to heart,

  • Winnie

    Thanks MaryAnn. As a critic myself I always enjoy reading your reviews.
    Personally, my favorite movie about sexual taboos, (though there was almost no actual sex on screen) has to be Sex, Lies, and Videotape a movie that’s concerned with the psychology of all the parties present, actually cleverly subverts a lot of the gender roles, AND does quite a bit of female gazing where James Spader is concerned. Plus it makes female pleasure a specific concern!
    And yeah, frankly the movie would have been better if it had showed more *real* BDSM but the real stuff is actually all about boundaries and consent.

  • Constable

    Glad I saw Kingsman instead of this, I know you don’t like it (and I can see why) I found it enjoyable in an insane sort of way. This just seems boring and tasteless.

  • Tonya

    I don’t know if people should be able to review movies if they don’t understand the story. For instance a charm-free hero? He’s not supposed to have charm. Christian isn’t supposed to woo. Brother. He is not trying to ingratiate. He IS domineering. That’s the point. From all the tweets I’ve read the fans understand this movie and are loving it. I guess that’s all that really matters.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    What is it then to be loved about this?

  • Just another writer

    Did you read the book?? If you had then you would know the movie was going off what the author had written. In no way did anyone ever say this was a non fiction story… This is completely fiction… Obviously. It is not about what lines he steps over and how It is not a normal realtionship. That is what makes it appealing. I would suggest you read the books and then write a review with the book in mind. Also clearly you need to get some action yourself. It might help you not be so up tight.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Did you read the review? If you had, you’d find the answer to your first question right there at the top of the page.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Welp, here they come…

  • Just another writer

    No I didnt. I just wrote a reply out of thin air…

  • Danielm80

    I hate to say, “Did you read the review?” because it sounds like a cheap shot. But MaryAnn not only stated directly that she’s read the book, she spent large portions of her review commenting on the differences between the book and the movie.

    Of course, a movie should be enjoyable whether or not the people in the audience have read the book. It’s not meant to be just an illustrated version of the novel. But MaryAnn thought that this movie replicated everything she hated about the book and, in some cases, made the flaws even worse.

    Your comment about non-fiction makes very little sense to me. Most Hollywood romances are slightly unrealistic, because they’re meant to be idealized fantasies. But the way these two people act is so horrific that a real-life version would be an abusive relationship, and for some of us, even the romanticized version can’t hide how psychologically damaged these people are, or make their behavior appealing.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    If I wanted to see an antisocial billionaire fulfilling his ridiculous desires, I’d rent Iron Man.

  • Just another writer

    You can “cheap shot” all you like. It does not bother me.
    I read the review and I understand she read the book. I should have said is did you understand the book? Reading and understanding the reading are very different things.
    There is only so much you can fit in a 2 hour movie. The movies will never be like the books. Books are so much better over all. However that does not make it a bad movie.
    There are real like realtionships like this not exact but yes contracts are in place it is all about the well being of the two people involved. There is a big difference between two consenting adults and a man or woman beating or anything else to their wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend.
    It is funny how no one mentions the fact you have to sign paperwork to be married some even have more paperwork so they can have a prenuptial agreement and yet this is seen as so different.
    Also he clearly has his own issues… But then again don’t we all…

  • a

    I liked how they condensed the book and made it less vapid and repetitive among many things. And I utterly adored Johnson’s performance, admittedly Ana was so annoying and two dimensional in the book, I felt like Johnson gave her humor, wit and shockingly, a personality – despite how much you hated this, I love how it’s above Kingsman in the ranking.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Given how much of it you missed, I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t get past the red dot on the picture. Or maybe the green splatty on the RT page?

  • Baurushan

    You can go and fuck yourself since you hate every movie that is good! How are you meant to be taken seriously as a reviewer or critic!? You have no heart or likability! You deserve no respect nor mercy as a woman! I can kill you and it will be the right thing to do!

  • If it is about their well-being, then why does he get mad at her when she uses safe words? When she uses the safe word, a true dominant would be comforting. It is the Dominant’s job to make the submissive feel comfortable. And Ana makes it clear to readers several times that she doesn’t actually enjoy it. Submissives become submissives because they enjoy being dominated. Ana even says that she felt ABUSED. Have YOU read the book?!

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    wow, it’s worse than I thought.

  • Jurgan

    Holy hell, you’re a terrible person.

  • He’s not supposed to be charming? Okay, fair enough. So is the escapist fantasy part supposed to be that Our Heroine will eventually change him? What’s the hook?

  • RogerBW

    Or Atlas Shrugger? :-)

  • RogerBW

    It was always going to be difficult to make a film of this book, because so much of Ana is a cipher for the reader to see herself in. Still, what a pity they couldn’t get Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson for this.

    The basic problem with this story is the same as with Ayn Rand: the author feels a particular way (in this case, that a taste for BDSM is the sign of a disturbed person, and that women want to be overborne) and assumes that the entire world works according to her feelings.

  • My first death threat. Thanks.

  • He’s *supposed* to be controlling and domineering.

    And you think this is a *good* thing?

  • the movie was going off what the author had written

    Oh. Well that makes it all just peachy then.

  • contracts are in place

    Have *you* read the book? She never signs his contract!

  • because so much of Ana is a cipher for the reader to see herself in.

    That’s part of what is so horrible about the book (and the movie). I despair of women who imagine themselves as passive and naive.

  • ketac6

    Well, a) it’s just rude to get personal and b) the point of a film review is not to compare how close it is to the book version, it’s to review how well it functions as a film.

    Frankly the whole thing sounds awful to me, the book sounds awful, the trailer was awful, the premise is awful. What did you like about it?

  • ketac6

    Other reviewers are available if you disagree with this one. Are you five years old or something? You think people deserve to die because they don’t agree with you?

  • Jurgan

    I imagine Pattinson calling up the actors who considered auditioning for this film and telling them “dude, you don’t know what you’re getting into. Basically, run.”

  • bronxbee

    no worries — this is the kind of person that would need an order from christian grey to do anything.

  • bronxbee

    your sexual fantasies are one of those things it’s difficult to pin down when it crosses the line into “wrong.”

  • RogerBW

    Oh, absolutely.

    But whatever you’re into, I think it’s important to make a distinction between “I enjoy this” and “everybody enjoys this, and people who claim not to are just lying”.

  • bronxbee

    oh, yes, now i see what you were saying.

  • Beowulf

    Most critics agree that it should not be necessary to have read the book a film is made from to understand the film. The film should stand alone. Also a film is not a book, nor vice versa.

  • JEREMY

    @MaryAnnJohanson:disqus

    I’m glad I had the good sense to save my money for AVENGERS:AGE OF ULTRON.
    I don’t feel this excuse for a sex film deserves to be in IMAX and 3D. That’s more for films like the one I just mentioned.

    Any of your readers who want to see a more empowering film for women would be better served to rent THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA from Netflix.

    The only real winner walking away with whatever prize comes out of this farce is DAKOTA JOHNSON.
    50 SHADES will be for her what SHOWGIRLS was for Elizabeth Berkley(at least HER character DID get a chance to fight back near the end).

    Certain details in the book were left out in the script to reach out to the TWILIGHT fans who
    are now married w/kids.

    Any women(or men) trapped in the kind of abusive relationship shown here would probably
    succumb to Stockholm Syndrome like Ana did
    (did YOU get the sense of that happening,too?).

    Then again, both the man AND the woman would have noticed SOME kind of warning signs early on.

    50 SHADES is like a White Castle Slider.
    More bun than burger.
    I hear the spirit of Clara Peller asking,
    “Where’s The Beef ?”.

    I suspect many in the audience posed that same question.

  • Beowulf

    What are you–an eleven-year-old boy? Its easy to be a dick when you hide behind an anonymous shield.

  • DharmaPunx

    They’ve been clever. Market it as ‘romance’ and you’ve got a guaranteed female audience. Call it what it is and the audience becomes niche, therefore smaller profits.

  • Darkmystery11

    I can´t believe we are still discussing this THING, I mean, if that guy is Dominant then I´m the Queen of Hearts. But the female protagonist…MY GOD…the hole thing is one big NO-NO. I feel bad for those who like real BDSM and have to witness this thing going mainstream…¬¬

  • Robert P

    It seems our apoplectic hero isn’t anonymous. You can find him various places online. Bit of a frustrated movie critic it seems.

  • I cannot definitively tie him to any specific other account online. But his IP address has been noted, as well as the address he uses on Disqus (which might actually even be a real one).

  • bronxbee

    that’s a *guy* making death threats over a basically female-gaze movie? my head is spinning.

  • Danielm80

    http://www.ew.com/article/2015/02/17/three-women-arrested-fifty-shades-grey-screening-scotland

    It’s all that damn sex and violence in the movies, corrupting our youth. Or possibly our middle-aged ladies.

  • RogerBW
  • Christian isn’t charming? So then what’s the point?

  • He’s rich.

  • Lurker

    Long time lurker, first time commenter here.

    Loved the review, FF! I also confess that I enjoyed the movie, though I can’t say I disagree with anything you wrote. It boils down to the fact that (a) I like bad movies – they can be entertaining in their very awfulness and (b) the main relationship in this movie is basically a guilty pleasure – having a screwed up mess fall for you and your love fixing him (admittedly it only happens in the later books) is very unrealistic but it’s something I like in the safe confines of fiction.

    I do find it deeply ironic that the books, whose biggest selling point appears to have been erotic stuff for women, have been adapted into a movie so full of the male gaze and with a lot more female than male nudity.

  • Radek Piskorski

    “Not when it’s underscoring a hoary trope about what women are supposed to do — insist they don’t want sex — and how men are supposed to respond: disbelieve her and give it to her anyway, because she secretly is dying for it.”
    Duh, that’s why it’s called Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not supposed to be that clear what is right and what is wrong. Of course, I AM NOT DEFENDING IT and I clearly DON’T AGREE WITH IT, I’m just explaining what I think the stupid point of the book seems to be. I didn’t read it, but I read a very very detailed and hilarious review by a blogger somewhere. I think his “control issues” are supposed to be part of the Dominant aspect of the relationship (kinda like in “Secretary”), even though she didn’t agree to it. It’s all shades of grey, isn’t it?

    Bleh.

  • Radek Piskorski

    Don’t subs like this? (I have no idea, I’m just guessing)

  • Ashley Bergman

    I have always loved your perspective– I’ve been following for more than ten years!

  • Shades of abuse.

  • This movie is not anything like an accurate depiction of BDSM practices.

  • Thank you!

  • Gianni Boscarino

    Dear Ms Johanson,I despise the movie just as much as you do, but I wish your article focused more on reviewing 50 shades and less on displaying your self-righteous moral views on relationships, expression of consent and on how movies and books should all be done according to such views. I just feel it would have been more helpful to just explain how the plot and the dialogs are poor and naive, the characters are not believable nor relatable, the acting is not great either and the movie is just painfully slow and boring. It seems like you just wished this movie was more PC rather than being any good.

  • a

    This comment would look nice on the bingo.

  • mortadella

    You’re sick — and have the temper of a spoiled child (the exclamation points and word choices in your post are very grade school, by the way. Maybe you’re 10 or thereabouts?). I hope you’re on meds, baur. You essentially said Mary Ann should be murdered because she disagrees with you. At least you’re not hiding the fact that you hate women.
    …and I think you should stay away from caffeine and other stimulants.

  • pat

    I enjoyed your review. However, there were a few inaccuracies. Why should I care? I wouldn’t normally, but I’ve seen too many comments all over the internet where people who have not read the books — some haven’t even seen the movie! — repeat things they have read or heard that are completely unfounded in fact. In addition I have seen a vitriol I’ve never witnessed before from people who hate the book/film, against the public who enjoyed them. Mean, hateful, personal things such as: fat, ugly housewives who can’t get any, etc.

    First, he doesn’t give her a non-disclosure agreement, (“not a normal thing for s perspective boyfriend to do”) as a perspective boyfriend. He has no intention of being her boyfriend. Which he makes clear from the very beginning. It’s a non-disclosure agreement for someone, who he is sharing very personal information with, information that he doesn’t want made public since he has a reputation to protect. And he’s not doing it as a potential boyfriend. Once again, he makes that clear. He’s doing it so he can share what he does want, which is for her to become his new submissive.

    In the coffee shop, he does not *bark* eat. If he does in the movie, it’s the screen-writer’s lazy shorthand for his problems with wasted food due to issues with trauma.

    From the book: (You said you read)

    His long fingers deftly peel back the paper, and I watch,fascinated.

    “Do you want some?” he asks, and that amused, secret smile is back.

    Me: Now that is one hell of jump away from him “barking eat!”

    Yet, there will be people reading that and the next thing you know it will be repeated across comment after comment that Grey is a horrible person who doesn’t ask if she wants a muffin, instead he *barks eat*.

    ~~~~~

    Then you state:

    “But then, a little later, when she decides to turn down his offer to become his sexual submissive (the supposedly BDSM stuff here, as in the book, bears little resemblance to actual BDSM practices) and tells him she never wants to see him again, how does he react? He breaks into her apartment — ”

    Okay, lets look at this. First, she does not turn down his offer and she DOES NOT tell him she never wants to see him again. I can’t even blame the screen-writer for this one, because they even show that she was playing a joke on him and had no intention of breaking things off. And, although they didn’t make it clear in the movie either way, he did not *break into her apartment*.

    From the book:

    The same day this incident happens, in fact just a few hours prior:

    “Quite frankly, I have a mind to run to the Heathman Hotel and just demand sex from the control freak.”

    My analysis: Okay, that sounds like a woman who doesn’t want to have anything else to do with him. Yes, contemplating showing up to his hotel and *demanding* sex is a sure sign that she wants him to leave her alone.

    ~~~~
    As for the rest and the accusation that he breaks in:

    “Taking the awesome free technology with me, I set the laptop up on my desk. I e-mail Christian.

    To: Christian Grey

    “Okay, I’ve seen enough. It was nice knowing you.”

    “I press ‘send,’ HUGGING MYSELF, LAUGHING AT MY LITTLE JOKE.

    My analysis: hugging herself, laughing at her little joke? That is not a woman who does not want the guy to ever see her again. She is NOT breaking up with him or wanting him to go away. And saying otherwise, is not merely a misunderstanding. That is so clear that saying otherwise is, frankly, dishonest.

    Now, for the breaking into her apartment accusation. In the movie it doesn’t show how he got into the apartment. Therefore, the movie goer can jump to that conclusion if that’s already their preconceived idea about the character. The screen-writer doesn’t tell you one way or the other.

    The book, however is another story.

    “His voice is cool, his expression completely guarded and unreadable. The capacity to speak deserts me. DAMN KATE FOR LETTING HIM IN HERE WITH NO WARNING. Vaguely, I’m aware that I’m still in my sweats, unshowered, yucky, and he’s just gloriously yummy ….

    Okay, can we reiterate. “Damn Kate for letting him in here with no warning.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a hell of a lot of difference from “breaking into her apartment” versus knocking on the door and coming in when her roommate invites him in. But, as I said, maybe that’s just me.

    “I open my mouth and then close it again, twice. The joke is on me.” “I thought you would respond by email.”

    There have been comment after comment from those who “heard” or “read” that Christian rapes her in this scene. Horrible, hateful comments about the people who enjoyed the book. So lets look at that since it’s the same scene.

    “His tongue is in my mouth, claiming and possessing me, and I revel (what’s that word again? revel) in the force he uses. I feel him against the length of my body. He wants me, and this does strange, delicious things to my insides. Not Kate in her little bikinis, not one of the fifteen, not evil Mrs. Robinson. Me. This beautiful man wants me.”

    Of course, not everything in a sexual episode is perfect. Not even for fictional sexcupades.

    Let’s look at her thoughts, shall we:

    “He bends down and starts undoing one of my sneakers. Oh no … no … my feet. I’ve just been running.” Okay, he’s not in the act of raping her as the rape truthers would have you believe. But she *is* worrying that her feet will smell. Not quite the same thing as rape though. But, once again, maybe it’s just me.

    Other thoughts? “Oh — what panties am I wearing?”

    We said Kate let him in. Is Kate still in the apartment to protect her if needed? Let’s see: “I strain to hear him. I can make out low rumblings, and I know he’s talking to Kate.” Why, yes, the person who *let him in* is still there.

    *But* … the haters exclaim! It doesn’t matter what happened before, if she changes her mind and says no it’s still rape! Yes, I agree. The point the haters (who have not read the book, who have only heard or read the information from reviewers such as yourself), that point is valid. *If* she says no. But ….

    “He shifts so he’s lying beside me, his erection at my hip. Oh, I want him inside me.”

    “I am beyond warm — warm and chilled and wanting. Wanting him, inside me. Now.”

    “Please.” “What do you want, Anastasia?” “You … now,” I cry. “I meant it as a joke, ” I whimper. Please fuck me now, Christian.

    Okay, that was the big rape scene that people are losing their minds over. Not because a rape happened. But because someone read, said, heard that he broke into her apartment and had sex with her even though she told him she never wanted to see him again. Perhaps there’s an alternate version of the book that one in every 500,000 people received that the rest of us didn’t. But, what I’m seeing from some of these people isn’t just a dissatisfaction with the character or the book. They personally attack (on the internet) the people who read and like the book by saying we hate women; that we applaud rapists.

    As for the ‘she gets naked and he doesn’t’ argument, I’d be lying if I said that seeing Christian naked would be a plus. And that Hollywood tends to show her and hardly him in general. But, looking at it objectively, it’s not the same thing. For one, we are seeing her breasts and perhaps a splash of pubic hair. But unless she opens her legs and the camera gets a good between the legs shot, we are *not* seeing her genitalia. Let me repeat, seeing a full frontal on a woman does not allow us to see her genitals.

    But, showing a full frontal of Jamie, would indeed be crossing a line that we do not subject the woman to. We are not just seeing his chest and a splash of pubic hair. His genitalia is out there on display. That is not, may I repeat, not the same thing. That is a line that we do not ask women to cross. And Mr. Dornan has every right to say that his true *private parts*, his genitalia is for his partner and not for public viewing. No one asked Dakota to put her most private area up for public viewing. She was able to leave that private for her partner as well.

    As for his food issues, we first get a glimpse of the background of his problems in his graduation speech. As the story progresses, including some scenes and chapters from his point of view, we learn that Christian was starved as a child. In general, they found a picture of him when he was four, waiting for the adoption to the Greys to go through. Although he was four, he was so malnourished that he looked like a much younger child. He had not grown normally.

    In a more specific scene we learn that he was left with his mother’s decomposing body, without any food or water, for four days before being found. So, yes, due to the trauma of his early years, he still has deep emotional problems with seeing food wasted while he knows people are going hungry.

    How many of us were told by our parents when were growing up to eat all our vegetables because there were children in the world who were starving? Well, Christian was one of those children. So, it was a bit personal for him. It’s a shame that the screenwriter was lazy and used a benign scene at the coffee shop to shorthand that complex and painful issue into one line with no context.

    And, herein lies my own complaint about the movie. The lazyness of the screenplay. So many scenes that were tedious and repetitive when there were real scenes, real issues that would have moved the plot along and given you a clearer sense of both characters.

    A movie should be self-sustaining. You shouldn’t have *had* to read the source material to figure out what the hell was going on. With this movie you did. Otherwise there is so much misinformation being spread by people filled with hate and the anonymity of the internet. There are too many people leaving the theater having no clue, whatsoever, about the story they just watched being played out.

    Worse, reading the book could make your eyes bleed, and it’s a shame because it really is a more complex and passionate story than the movie would have you believe.

  • Your dedication to defending this abusive garbage is somewhat terrifying.

    he doesn’t give her a non-disclosure agreement, (“not a normal thing for a perspective boyfriend to do”) as a perspective boyfriend.

    But that’s how *she* sees him! And that is how she is constantly approaching him.

    Also, no NDA would stand up in a court of law in this situation. It’s legal nonsense. Which a successful businessman would know. So he’s either an idiot, or he’s taking advantage of Ana’s naivete.

    In the coffee shop, he does not *bark* eat. If he does in the movie

    Yes, he barks in the movie. I am reviewing the movie. (And you don’t want to bring the book into this. Christian is *much worse* about policing Ana’s food and drink in the book.)

    You shouldn’t have *had* to read the source material to figure out what the hell was going on. With this movie you did.

    No, you don’t. Because the movie is the movie, and I stand by my review of it.

    the book… really is a more complex and passionate story than the movie would have you believe.

    Dear god, no it isn’t. It is a blueprint for abuse. It is not romantic, and the only passion on display are the kinds connected to fear and anger.

  • pat

    See, this is my point. Your first sentence begins with a personal attack on me. If I have an opinion that doesn’t completely agree with yours, it is “terrifying”. And this is one of the things I pointed out. Instead of saying that you don’t agree and then giving your reasons, it goes right into an evaluation of me and my ideas. It’s as confounding as the general hysteria over this book and movie from both sides.

    You state:

    But that’s how *she* sees him! And that is how she is constantly approaching him.

    Yes, she approached him as if he was her boyfriend. I am in complete agreement with you. Let me say this again — I am in complete agreement with you.

    But that only speaks to her idiocy. How many times does he have to tell her? Does he have to drop a load of bricks on her head? How many times does he have to say that he doesn’t want a girlfriend. She is not his girlfriend. He doesn’t do romance. He doesn’t want to do romance. He tells her constantly and plainly not to misinterpret anything he has said or done as meaning anything other than the fact that he likes her and would like her to be his submissive. If she still thinks she is there to be his girlfriend, then she is severely deranged. But that’s on her, not him.

    Actually, the contract would never stand up in court. It is never supposed to do so. It’s simply a blueprint as to what each want out of the relationship and how to proceed in a consensual, safe and sane manner. People have giggled over the contract as if E.L. James is a complete idiot. But in doing the research from people in the lifestyle (and I can give you a wonderful reference from a professor who not only teaches it, but also practices it) there is indeed a contract that responsible people in the lifestyle use. Except hers is much more detailed than E.L James’, with pages about medical conditions, triggers, having the submissive do a chart stating what they want to do, what they would like to try to do and what they don’t want to do. And she insists that it be reviewed with her sub every 3 months.

    However, a non-disclosure contract is legally binding. But, if you care enough to look for evidence to the contrary, it’s not an issue I feel strongly about. Just assume I said ‘okay’ and moved on.

    As for saying “bark” in the coffee shop, yes, I stated that he may have done that very thing. I did not have an issue with you saying that. In fact, I couldn’t remember and said that if he did, and I was assuming he did since you said as such in the movie review, that it was my opinion that:

    “it’s the screen-writer’s lazy shorthand for his problems with wasted food due to issues with trauma.”

    My reason for that opinion was because it’s so different in the book. But, as you said, you were reviewing the movie, not the book. I’m reviewing the movie as well, and that was my opinion of the screenwriter and how she handled it in the movie.

    I was not disputing that what you said was correct. In fact, I was assuming you were absolutely correct.

    You seem to be angry that I said one of my problems with the movie is that you shouldn’t have to read the book before seeing the movie. Why that angers you I’m not sure. Especially since I am basically agreeing with everything you are saying. For a movie to be good, a person who sees it should not have to read the book first. And this is why the movie fails in so many ways. From the reviews, professional and non-professional, there seems to be a lot of confusion because the movie makes no sense. And I don’t mean “you” personally, I mean the general “you” as in the public. A good movie should stand on its own and this movie doesn’t.

    I sense that you may have misconstrued what I said as a criticism. I’m not saying that you personally should have had to do anything in order to give a fair review of a movie. In fact, I was saying the exact opposite. If so, I’m sorry that I may have articulated that so badly.

    As far as the book being complex and passionate once you remove all the horrible prose, that is simply my personal opinion. I am talking about the trilogy as a whole. I have a right to that opinion. I do not see abuse. And the first part isn’t romantic. I agree. Christian was very upfront about what he wanted out of the relationship. So was Ana, and it’s that conflict that guides the first movie. That certainly is not romantic.

    One more thing the book explains that the movie doesn’t, is that the only reason Ana asks him to whip her is that she is thinking she can then manipulate him into letting her touch him. Of course, that’s a contract in her head. She never runs it past him to see if he agrees. And he gave her chance after chance to change her mind. It was a complete manipulation on her part. But, he goes into the playroom with the understanding that she wants to be whipped so she really can see if she wants to do this. That’s what she tells him, and he has every right to believe this.

    But, she’s really asking him to whip her for a completely different reason. She doesn’t want to be whipped at all, and that’s one more thing that drives them apart. She’s saying one thing and thinking something else. So they are at odds on what’s happening and why they are doing the whipping. He’s doing what she’s asking him to do. And she’s not being honest about what that is.

    But, once again, we are reviewing the movie, not the book. And the movie doesn’t show that. So the movie review of that scene may be something completely different.

    As for the rape scene, you never made mention of that in your review. I simply went on to say that many people are stating that he raped her in that scene, and they are doing so because of things they heard, read or seen passed around. It’s not something in your review and, in retrospect, only muddied the waters on what I was responding to. However, it is that misconception that is driving much of the rape hysteria I’ve seen over the internet. I also stated that it was the movie that failed to accurately show that he was let in instead of breaking in. And, once again, the review was of the movie.

    Most of what I said was and is, an agreement with your review. I’m sorry that it seemed to upset you.

  • Sam

    Actually I did find the sex a problem…because it wasn’t sexy–which only meant it served a different purpose. I haven’t read the books and don’t intend too so I don’t know what purpose the supposed sex was serving. Christian says he is damaged goods. Ana doesn’t—so what is the draw to him…other than that he is worldly and rich (as Mary Ann writes)? Watching the sex scenes, I couldn’t see what was turning her on.
    With one exception and it went both ways—maybe the only scene I saw that did….it was when he was playing the piano and she comes down the steps, she straddles him on the piano bench and then he carries her (pretty impressive the way he does this…and sexy, I’d say)…into the bedroom…

  • Sam

    Women are used to the “male gaze”—we have contorted our brains to gaze at things this way even when females. Yeah, it’s odd and we should be very aware of it. Happens all the times in most of our movies, even our tv commercials for that matter.

  • Sam

    I don’t think Ana is remotely naive or really even passive. That said, I haven’t read the books nor did I care for the movie.

  • It happens all the time in movies and TV commercials because they are, for the most part, directed by men.

  • How was she active and knowing?

  • sam

    She never signed the contract. She actually had the upperhand. She threw him off his game. She laughed at some of the things he was taking so seriously (such as spanking her lst time with his hand), by calling a “business meeting” to discuss contract, by making certain things off limits, by calling the shots when she saw the worst.

  • And yet she doesn’t know what a butt plug is.

  • Sam

    Yes, agree completely. Although women can be as patriarchal as any patriarchal male, depending.

  • sam

    My thought is that she would look it up after that meeting oerhaps. I just don’t see her as naive. On sme level I think she knows what is going on. She says “odd woykdn’t begin to describe it. Seems to me a dysfunctional story about a young woman being drawn to a damaged rich boy…thinking on some level that she can change him. Old old
    story. Not good one either.

  • sam

    Sorry for typos!

  • Women grow up with patriarchy being inculcated into them just like men do.

  • Bill Greene

    Helpful review, but I think you need to enlist in a Writing or English class at your nearest Community College. Yikes.

  • Bluejay

    You might want to enlist in one yourself, to learn which words to capitalize or not capitalize. Yikes.

  • Why don’t you return the helpfulness and apply your community college English prof skills to my writing and tell me what’s wrong with it?

  • Shiraz

    Very late to the party here, but Baurushan, you are a terrible person. A misogynist. A person who posts death threats. Get therapy or something. The topic of this thread is a corny-ass film disguised as something hip and edgy — but is the same sexist bullshit most of us witness on a daily basis.
    You posted it was OK to wish death on a film critic. Consider you are a confused, sick asshole.
    Oh, this movie was absolute shit.

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