Review: Fifty Shades Of Grey by Jamie

I entered the booking number into the automated ticket dispensary, fingers trembling with apprehension and a sense of growing dread despite the alcohol coursing through my system, the result of a couple of hastily downed pints at the bowling alley opposite in order to try and steady my nerves. The kind of nerves that anyone would experience when willingly putting themselves through a masochistic experience such as this. My mind was a blur as I waited in line for refreshments, a large coke on my mind, something large enough to try and help me endure the two hour torture session I was about to submit myself to. Finally it was my turn. I ordered, fingers fumbling with my money as I handed it over. Could the person behind the counter sense my fear? Did they know what it was that I was here to do?

“I LOST A BET!” I yelled, slightly drunkenly, at the man who was taking tickets. “Ok…” He replied, a confused look upon his face until he saw the name of the movie on the ticket that I handed him and he chuckled knowingly, tearing it and informing me that I would be in screen one, seat M17. Of all the lies I had thought up to try and save face in front of the ticket collector, I lost a bet was the one that had suddenly come to me in my moment of panic. He bought it, I thought to myself, smiling and safe in the knowledge that this perfect stranger who I would almost certainly never have another social interaction with knew that I was not here of my own choice. I entered the screening room, the doorway decorated with a number of black, grey, lighter grey and white balloons. Apparently the party industry never anticipated a day when they would actually need balloons in a massive variety of shades of grey.

The screening room was packed, a few couple sprinkled through here and there and frankly a lot more men than I’d anticipated but the majority of the crowd were older women, the kind that apparently didn’t realise that porn was widely and freely available on the internet.Perhaps it was my imagination but I could almost swear that the scent of ancient vaginas lubricating themselves for the first time in years out of anticipation for what was to come permeated the room. Pity the poor bastard who had to clean this place afterwards. I tried to keep my head down and was distraught to find that my seat, seat M17 which I had chosen thanks to it’s position next to the aisle, was currently occupied by a creature that I could best describe as Jabba the Hutt in a sundress. Best not to disturb this beast, I thought, and took the seat opposite, still on the aisle, and hoped that no one would claim it for themselves. Eventually four teenage girls came and sat in the four empty seats next to me and it looked like I was safe from having to move or attempt to meet the sundress wearing Hutt in hand to hand combat. And so I settled in to watch Fifty Shades of Grey…

What can really be said about E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey that hasn’t already been said? We’ve heard all the criticism, that it’s domestic abuse tarted up as kinky sex, that it has as much to do with realistic BDSM as The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation (Not the first Care Bears movie, the BDSM scenes of which were extensively researched and portrayed in as realistic a way as possible) and that it’s poorly written with characters being little more than cardboard cut-outs with the internal monologue of pasta. Some of us, myself included, know these criticisms to be just because we’ve actually read the damnable thing. I read it because I’m a glutton for the worst entertainment has to offer and wondered if reading a bad book could be as enjoyable as watching a bad movie. Spoiler alert, it isn’t. It’s a lot longer and good luck trying to get a bunch of friends round for a drunken reading of Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyway, with the way that this book has been slammed by critics, laypeople and kink enthusiasts (And I mean slammed as in criticised not as in, you know, a good way) alike, the world was left wondering if a movie adaptation could be any better. Well it is.

Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey: The Motion Picture is better than Kinky Twilight Fanfic Fifty Shades of Grey: The Novel but please, don’t get your hopes up that this is the great BDSM work of fiction that the world has been clamouring for. Saying this movie is better than the source material it is based on isn’t much different that saying a rhinoceros with two legs has a better chance of survival than a rhinoceros with no legs. I mean, it’s technically probably true but the difference is negligible at best. The story is still largely the same story which means that it’s weak though it does have the advantage of not being narrated by it’s main character Anastasia Steele and her fucking “inner goddess” so we’re at least saved from that indignity.

The film tells the story of the aforementioned Miss Steele who ends up interviewing handsome young billionaire Christian Grey in place of her room mate who has fallen ill. There is an immediate attraction between the two (apparently) and he is soon stalking her, tracking her phone using GPS and picking her up while she’s drunk and bringing her back to strange hotel rooms and changing her clothes while she is passed out. You know, love. It is as the plot, well, progresses I guess that Anna learns that Christian has special tastes when it comes to the bedroom. He sleeps hanging upside down and often leaves the bed in the middle of the night. Could it be that Christian Grey is in fact the mysterious Batman who stalks Gotham’s criminals at night? I kid of course. Christian is actually in to kinky sex which could only really be shocking to post-menopausal grandmothers and people who’ve never heard of the internet in this day and age. A few bland sex scenes later and we’re left with Anna wondering if she can really go down this sexy path and also knowing that if she doesn’t she might just lose Christian forever! Whatever will she do? Will you care? No. No you won’t.

Ugh. Ok, let’s get in to the meat of this thing. Why is Fifty Shades of Grey the movie better than the book even if it is only marginally so? That, as near as I can tell, rest on the shoulders of two people. Director Sam Taylor-Johnson and Anastasia Steele actress Dakota Johnson. Taylor-Johnson, it seems, didn’t take the material as seriously as the author did and so she thankfully injects it with a slight camp, tongue-in-cheek tone the story sorely, sorely needed. She knows that she’s making a movie based on trash and so she’s going to have a little fun with it and that is much appreciated by those of us who have forced ourselves to see it.

Dakota Johnson is the real highlight of the movie though. She takes what was a weak-willed, personality-less character in Anastasia Steele and actually gives her some agency and, most importantly, a sense of humour. She’s quick witted and smart and Johnson has a real sense of comedic timing which really works to her advantage. Whereas the Anastasia Steele in the book feels as though she’s being manipulated and cajoled into doing things that she doesn’t really want to do through some stupidly blind love for an abusive partner, this Anastasia Steele actually feels as though she’s in control and is allowing things to proceed as she wants and at her pace. It’s a stark contrast and one that’s really important if you’re going to bring this story to the big screen.

As for the bad, well, there’s Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey himself. Well, perhaps bad isn’t the right word just kind of left without much to do beyond say fuck a few times and fret about Anna. Oh, and I guess he broods a few times too. What I’m saying is that he isn’t really giving much to work with here and that which he is given leaves him feeling much more like a charicature than a character, especially when placed up against the much more wilful Anna that inhabits the screen version of this story. All his assertions that he wants to make her his come of as silly rather than sexy or steamy. And he ends up just seeming like a complete tool, perhaps even moreso than if he had the love-blind, meek, enabling Anna opposite him. Perfect example is a scene where Christian is explaining his sexual inclinations. Anna asks if they can still go on dates, watch movies and such to which he replies “That’s not really my thing.” There is a moment’s silence in which Anna looks a little upset prompting Christian to ask her to keep an open mind. Excuse me? Did your character just say that he’s absolutely not interested in what the other character wants and then accuse the other character of being closed minded because they weren’t interested in what he wanted? Wow.

As for the other characters, ummm, yeah. They don’t really matter. As for plot, well, it’s a slight improvement over the original but it’s still the same basic thing. Nothing actually happens in this movie. Why would it need to? Our main character begins a relationship with a billionaire. Anytime the plot needs to move forward, he throws money at it. Job done. And when the movie wasn’t being tongue in cheek or the romance was trying to be taken seriously, well, let’s just say I spent a lot of time checking the time and figuring out just how much time I had left and as I already mentioned, the sex scenes were just kind of bland and it wasn’t helped by the fact that one of the girls in my row couldn’t stop giggling through each and every one.

So in the long run, this movie was not as bad as it could have been but that by no means makes it good. I’ll say that, since it’s fair to compare this to Twilight due to it’s fanfic roots, it is better than all but one of the Twilight movies (that one being the last one. Thanks Michael Sheen!) and that is largely because Dakota Johnson > Kristen Stewart. Hell, this movie even managed to get a couple of laughs out of me. Still I can’t recommend this to anyone . If you want romance with a hint of sexiness then… well, fine. I guess there isn’t a dearth out there particularly for female audiences. But if you want porn, then the internet is out there and those things can have some pretty deep story lines sometimes I hear. One and a half pints out of five. Laterz.


The Vampire Double Feature: Let The Right One In and Twilight by Jamie
17/02/2009, 6:52 am
Filed under: Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ah, Vampires. I’ve always liked the undead, blood-sucking little bastards. Wow, Microsoft Word doesn’t recognise the word undead. That’s unexpected. Anyway, blood drinking monsters have existed for as long as civilisation but the suave, pale seducer that we know as the vampire today has only really been around since the 19th Century and is most famously portrayed in Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula.
In this day and age, Vampires are not just some of the most popular movie monsters but also some of the silver screens most popular sympathetic characters. They symbolise the gift and curse of immortality, the inherent loneliness of living forever, the harsh truth behind the fantasy. They also represent a dark side to our sexuality, a very real, forbidden predatory nature with the act of penetration replaced with the biting of the neck and the drinking of the blood.
So with that in mind, let’s get into today’s two reviews, the 2008 Swedish language film, Let The Right One In and another 2008 film, this one in English, Twilight. Let’s begin with Let The Right One In.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist of the same name, Let The Right One In, tells the tale of a 12 year old Swedish boy and his blossoming friendship with a 200 year old vampire.
Set in the 1980’s, Oskar is a young troubled boy, bullied at school, who spends his free time alone stabbing trees. It’s whilst doing this that he first meets Eli, someone who has recently moved into the area with a man who is apparently her father. She only comes out during the night and has an odd choice of clothing for the freezing cold weather.
Over time their friendship grows, cemented in the fact that they are both outsiders with no friends but each other. They begin communicating with each other by banging on the wall between their rooms when they can’t be outside together. Their relationship eventually reaches a point where Oskar decides to cement their relationship by cutting their palms and mixing their blood. At this point Eli cannot help herself and so her secret is revealed to Oskar.
This is about all I’m willing to reveal about the plot. I honestly cannot express how much you owe it to yourself to see this film. It manages to tell a sweet, romantic story between the mortal and the immortal, whilst balancing it perfectly with the acts of horrific gore that Eli must perpetrate in order to survive. It also touches on some of those familiar vampire themes mentioned earlier, particularly the loneliness of the immortal soul but it also manages to place equal emphasis on the loneliness of the mortal in this relationship as well.

And so to the second film in this double feature, Twilight, another vampire film based on a novel, this time the wildly popular 2005 first novel in the series of the same name and tells the tale of a seventeen year old American girl and her blossoming romance with a 108 year old vampire.
The story begins with Bella Swan moving from Arizona to Washington to live with her father since her mother and step-father are going on a bit of a road trip. At school she makes a few new friends and becomes interested in an apparently young man by the name of Edward Cullen. It seems at first that Edward is repulsed by Bella but a few days later he saves her life when she’s nearly hit by a van, apparently making use of super speed and super strength. A few days later Bella figures out Edward’s secret.
In the sake of fairness I’m going to leave any revelations about the plot there, though this certainly isn’t a film you need to see in the same way as Let The Right One In. I was however surprised by it. I wanted so much to hate this film. It seems, though I consider my self politically liberal, when it comes to movie monsters I’m deeply, deeply conservative. I want my zombies slow and numerous, my werewolves to be vicious, instinct based killers and my vampires to be fanged and to worry a little more than sun burn if they go out in the daytime. And for the first part I did hate this movie. I felt cheated that after 45 minutes I’d seen more compost than blood and more dress shopping scenes than on screen kills. In fact most of the first half of the film seemed to be made up of awkward, furtive glances across a school cafeteria but in the second half of the film things pick up a little with an awesome special effects-laden baseball game and finally a little bit of violence.
Once more the main theme of this film is loneliness and accepting the fact that the immortal can find companionship in a human, but it also explores the relationship between the predatory nature of the vampires and how they regard humans, their prey, which I thought was a nice touch.
Overall I have to say I did enjoy Twilight. I’d definitely recommend it for a rental when it comes out on DVD and depending on the special features, I might even consider adding it to my collection. I mean, hell, I own The Super Mario Bros. movie on DVD and I don’t enjoy that at all.

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