I’ve put it off long enough: I finally saw Fifty Shades of Grey. Why did I wait so long to see it, especially given my recent interest in Jamie Dornan? Well, that’s complicated. pretty much everything concerning that story is complicated for me.
I bring a lot of baggage to the table in regards to personal feelings about the author and the conundrum of liking the story but critiquing the writing. yadda, yadda, all you really need to know is that I like the love story, and find the red flags that should appear for every woman who reads this story, interesting. interesting for those who acknowledge those flags but keep moving forwards, regardless. I can personally relate to Ana in many ways, so when she gets to the point where she realizes she’s in too deep but can’t get out- doesn’t want to get out- because she’s already in love with Christian, I understand. because I’ve fallen for him too.
Why would you fall for someone who wants to punish and control you? who doesn’t permit himself to show you affection? because I want to help him see that he is worth more, that what happened to him as a child doesn’t have to define him as an adult. would I have been strong enough to do that without losing myself in the process? that’s the real question. the punishment angle really bothers me but the control issue doesn’t as much. once upon a time I often relinquished control in order to feel safe, cared for, free from daily stress. not to the extreme described in the story, of course, but there are undercurrents running through the story that can be viewed apart from BDSM. over time I decided I didn’t like it, my stubborn streak was too strong and my sense of self needed much more breathing room. it was, and continues to be, a learning process.
Some question how realistic the character of Ana actually is, in her naivete towards the kinkier side of life. I didn’t know a lot of things concerning my own body because I was embarrassed to talk about them and when my peers did, I didn’t want to be ridiculed for not knowing. so I didn’t ask questions, even though I didn’t have buttoned-up parents who wouldn’t talk to me if I had asked– quite the opposite, at least in regards to my mother. I could draw definite parallels between Ana’s parents and mine. I learned more as life went on, from movies and books and keeping my ears open when others had those kinds of conversations but it wasn’t until I started reading erotic fan-fiction that I really became educated. did I mention I was 30 years old by that time and the mother of two children? yeah. so I can relate to Ana. I can relate to her curiosity, to her self-worth. I can relate to her romantic notions, and the longing to be noticed by someone who wasn’t a friend first.
Why did I avoid the movie? well, first and foremost I was embarrassed to see it in the cinema. I didn’t want to see it with someone because I would have been too conscious of their body language, wondering whether they thought it was ridiculous or not. I didn’t exactly want to see it alone either–the stigma of a middle-aged woman going to see soft porn alone at 10 am on a weekday morning! I was tempted, mind you, but I never gave in, opting to wait for the dvd release instead. that occurred this past weekend. part of me wanted to run out and rent it on the first day but then Husband said he’d watch it with me. umm…maybe I should see it myself first? again, the worry of having to defend what was on screen to someone who wasn’t familiar with the whole story beforehand.
I was apprehensive for other reasons too. fear that it would be less-than-satisfactory, like most of the Twilight movies. fear that it’s similarities to Twilight would distract me too much (I was a fan of the fanfiction form first, so the changes tend to stick out to me like a sore thumb) fear that it would take the character I loved (Christian/Edward) and make him less, somehow. but here’s the thing: it took the character I loved, and made him more.
Christian was softer in the movie version, more methodical than mean, charming than suave. he seemed more mysterious than closed off, at least at first. it was easy to see why Ana would be drawn to him and why she wouldn’t have run away screaming when she found out about the playroom. he was trusting, through all of it, until the very end when the darkness finally peeked through. the movie version made it more clear that Ana thought it was a game. she thought it was odd, but exciting. she liked teasing Christian, flirting with him and testing his boundaries. slowly she started to see that it wasn’t a game but by that time she was in over her head.
I thought Dakota did an excellent job portraying Ana. she made her playful and ditzy and adorable, but with a sense of self that was admirable. I can easily see why Christian was captivated by her, why the darkness inside of him craved her light. by the same token I thought Jamie did a fine job portraying Christian, though his strong points were more subtle. I was impressed with the scene in the coffee shop when Ana said she was a romantic: Christian’s eyes lost their light and you were able to see a real emptiness there almost instantly; that was impressive. I also appreciated the fine balance of drawing Ana in and then pushing her away.
The movie itself was visually pleasant to watch. the wide shots of Christian’s apartment with all of it’s classic modern lines, and the rich sophistication of the playroom with all of it’s reds and golds. the sex scenes were tastefully done, though I felt they were a bit choppy, not having enough of a lead in or cool down. I particularly enjoyed the montage of playroom activities that flitted between Christian and Ana using the ceiling grid and shots of Ana’s body being caressed by the riding crops; the background music really enhanced that scene (as did the Sinatra song during the dance scene).
All in all I felt the movie was cute, more a fluffy romance than taboo erotica. I wasn’t expecting that kind of tone going in but I liked it. I liked that it started light, touching upon the mysterious, before transforming into darker angst. I didn’t like that we were just getting a taste of plot before it ended abruptly. that’s how the book was, so really they had no choice but to end it there; it was still frustrating (the fanfic version was two installments vs the published version’s three. I’ve always felt that ending the first book where it did was a blatant marketing ploy).
The next movie will have more plot and we’ll get to see more of the darkness that Christian has been keeping locked inside of him. Ana will be riding an emotional rollercoaster and so I look forward to seeing how this version of her character will approach that. a new screenwriter and a new director will be coming on board though, so I’m apprehensive once again (the screenwriter is the author’s husband). at least I can stop wondering whether or not I would like the movie. I did like it and am off to watch it again before my rental runs out…