The past seven days

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey - Review

Fifty Shades of Grey follows a young college student named Anastasia Steele as she enters an unknown world of sexual and emotional discovery after a chance meeting with Christian Grey, a 27-year old billionaire with a secret life as a BDSM dominant.

This will have spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie or read the books you might want to skip over this. 

I'm the first one to say that I really didn't like the Fifty Shades books. I read all three of them and although the second one was enjoyable enough and the third was the best, the first book was by far the worst. I could go on and on about how Christian is emotionally and sexually abusive but that isn't really relevant to the movie because... well, the movie downplayed a lot of things that the groups protesting the movie are pushing; BDSM being the biggest.
With that said, I did actually enjoy the movie. I thought that they changed and omitted enough from the book to really amplify the plot and the characters enough to make it an enjoyable movie. Whether you wanted it or not they did go for the mushy love story, but it actually worked in this case. They didn't completely omit the troubled past of Christian Grey and they let it play into why he was how he was, but it wasn't overdone. There was a lot that wasn't overdone and in this case that was the best thing that could have happened because of how poorly written the books were.
Sam Taylor-Johnson had a strong attempt and after seeing how this film was handled, I would hope that Universal finds a way to keep her around for sequels. I think losing the element and handling she brought to the film would really hurt the sequels. Aside from that the cinematography was gorgeous. I figured if it turned out to be horrible at least it was beautiful to look at. 

One of the biggest complaints from the fanbase, and from a lot of reviewers so far, was the apparent lack of chemistry between the film's lead actors, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. For me personally, I didn't find them to have a lack of chemistry that was distracting. It's apparent in some scenes that it must have been close to the beginning of filming because they seemed a bit uncomfortable and awkward, but as the film went on there was really a sense of chemistry between the actors.
Dakota Johnson, however, was the best part of the film. She truly shined and had the best performance of the whole cast. For this being her first lead role in a feature film she really nailed it. I found her performance to be fun, lively, and she really gave Anastasia a sense of self respect that she lacked in the book. One thing I said prior to seeing the film was that if Anastasia was the way that she was in the book it was going to be a struggle. She was the worst part of the book because she is basically a doormat. She lets Christian do whatever he wants to her because she doesn't want to risk him telling her to get lost. She doesn't come across as overly naive, like in the book, and and she stands up to him. Firm limits regarding the contract and what she will and will not do are set and Christian respects them all, unlike in the book where he felt she just needed to try things first. The scene where they discuss the contract really showcases the changes that were given to Anastasia because she seems to enjoy teasing Christian and then leaving him hanging. Kudos to them for taking a wood block of a character and giving her life. I really loved every aspect of Johnson's performance which is a surprise for me to say.
As far as Dornan goes as Christian, I don't think he was the best choice but he wasn't the worst. He did the best that he could given the amount of time that he had to prepare. The most glaring thing for me personally was how terrible his American accent was. There were times where I cringed hearing him say certain words and his pronunciation of certain words was very strange. As an American I could easily tell that he was struggling through most of the dialogue. Aside from that, I don't think he did a terrible job. It could have been worse.  As far as how they portrayed Christian, I think they made necessary changes. In the book he is a flat out stalker and is very emotionally, and often sexually, abusive to Anastasia. In the movie he just comes across as a little forward and seems to really be trying to impress her and win her over. He isn't just a giant asshole to her like he is in the book and I think that was a necessary thing to change. The only disappointment is he needed more development regarding his past. You get that he had a rough childhood and he does disclose to Anastasia why he is the way he is, but it's more of a precursor rather than an explanation. For people who didn't read the books there is a huge hole there that needed to be patched up with some more explanation. Hopefully they touch on that with the sequels.

Before getting to the most-anticipated aspect of this movie, let's cover the writing. It's no secret that the Fifty Shades trilogy has horrendous writing. Anastasia's "inner goddess" monologue and the dialogue between the characters is just terrible. However, I think the movie captured the dialogue in a way that wasn't overly annoying. They kept certain things from the book that were cheesy and lame (such as "laters, baby" and "fifty shades of fucked up") but it wasn't distracting and the lines didn't take away from what was going on. I felt that the characters said enough but not too much like they do in the books and that was a good thing. If they would have done a line for line adaptation it would have just been the worst. It's one thing to read horrible dialogue... it's another to actually hear it said out loud.

Now... the sex scenes.

It was assumed that these would be the driving force of the film as it is based off an erotic trilogy. However, I found myself a bit disappointed with the sex scenes, especially the BDSM scenes in the "red room." For a story so centralized on the lifestyle that Christian practices the movie didn't seem to explore it a whole lot. I thought that Anastasia's introduction into the room was well done and she really played off the whole, "what in the hell and I doing here" vibe that she gets in the book. But, out of all the sex scenes there were only two in the room and they were quite tame compared to what I expected them to be. It didn't really give that element of danger and fear that Ana had in the book.
On the other hand, the "vanilla" scenes were very well done. I thought the virginity scene was believable, for what it could be, and the ice cube scene was probably the best one of the whole movie. They just gave that sense of vulnerability and realism that most films don't capture when it comes to sex. It wasn't the typical, oh this is awesome let me just jackhammer away at this girl. It's hard to describe the essence that was captured but it was very well done. I appreciated those scenes a lot more than the BDSM aspects of the story.
Another thing I appreciated about it is they stayed away from Anastasia's ridiculous orgasms. In the book she pretty much has an orgasm whenever Christian comes near her at all. The movie was very lacking in the "big O" department in comparison to the source material, but you could tell that she was enjoying herself and discovering her own body and that you can definitely credit Dakota Johnson with. The way she handled her character's reactions and how you could see what she wanted without dialogue was impressive. None of it seemed forced or overly exaggerated.

With all that said, I think the main thing that I walked away with regarding the sex was the amount of nudity in the movie. Nudity doesn't really shock me and I don't get embarrassed by it, but there was a lot of nudity. Dakota Johnson goes full frontal a good four times or more and you easily see her body the most. I could probably draw a picture of her body without needing a reference photo and from what I have read she didn't use a body double, so good for her. The only thing that I noticed, and appreciated to a degree, was how she retained some body hair. I think it gave more believability to the character and was pretty accurate to most women who leave a certain amount of pubic hair and don't shave above the knee. The little details like that are what made it so enjoyable.
You also get a decent amount of nudity from Jamie Dornan, but it isn't full frontal like it is with Johnson. You do see a quick flash of his penis but it's probably a half of a second and is when he unbuttons his jeans. Every other time it's just back nudity (aka, butt nudity) and bare chest. They really had a great director of photography and cinematographer because the shots were really sculpted around Dornan's body to avoid frontal nudity.

The most improved change, for me, was the ending. I'll mention it below as well but the minor changes they made to the final scene was enjoyable. In the book it is more of a conflict for Anastasia to leave and it is several pages of inner monologue from her explaining how painful it was for her to leave. The movie shows her actually wanting to leave and while you see her upset, she seems to understand that it's for her own good. There is no argument over the money for her car and there is no argument about her returning the Macbook he gave her. He seems to understand why she is leaving and doesn't seem as conflicted about it either. It isn't until she's in the elevator that he tries to go after her and she quite forcefully says no.
The biggest change regarding the finale is when Christian goes into her room after the punishment she does not allow him to touch her and she kicks him out of the room.  The book version of Ana is allowing him to come close to her, cuddle her, and she still wants physical contact from him even after he punishes her. The movie version of Ana has her on one side of the bed with Christian on the other. She never looks at him when she is talking to him, she does not want him to touch her, and she kicks him out of the room after he tells her that she can't love him. She also leaves the next morning and not the same night. We don't see her return to her apartment to cry it out as the movie ends as their meeting started with them saying farewell through closing elevator doors.

Most questions I have seen online are regarding what is included in the book and what is left out. There was more left out than included from what I could tell and at times it did make the movie feel a little rushed, but I don't think it was a bad thing. Like I said before, if they would have gone for a line for line adaptation it would have run long and gotten too corny.

What was omitted (for those who read the book):

  • Anastasia does not get a job: In the book, Ana interviews for jobs and is hired right out of college as an assistant to the editor at a publishing firm in Seattle, but the movie has no mention of her even applying for jobs. I would assume this is something that will be saved for the second film.
  • Mrs. Jones is non-existent: As you might know, Christian's housekeeper was quite prevalent in the books and she did come into some significance in Fifty Shades Freed. However, she is not included or even mentioned in the movie. 
  • Taylor is not as prevalent: Taylor seemed to always be around in the books, but in the movie he is more of a backdrop and isn't that noticeable. 
  • Christian's overwhelming jealousy with other men in Anastasia's life: The book shows Christian was constantly overprotective of Ana and jealous of the other men in her life such as Jose Rodriguez, Ethan Kavanagh, and Paul Clayton. The movie doesn't depict this beyond Christian showing up at the bar and pushing Jose away from Ana when he tries to make a pass at her.
  • Ethan Kavanagh is non-existent: Speaking of jealousy and non-existent characters, Kate's brother Ethan does not make an appearance in the film and is not mentioned. He is another character that becomes somewhat important to the plot, so I assume he will appear in the second film. 
  • Dr. Greene is non-existent: Beyond a quick mention by Christian asking how the GYN appointment went, we did not see or hear any more about Dr. Greene. She is in the book and is in the later books as well, so this might be another casting announcement they are saving until the sequels. 
  • The WSU graduation was very quick: Ana's graduation is very big in the books and it gave Christian a big introduction to Ray, Ana's father. All we got to see on screen was a small bit of Christian's speech, Ana talking to him while getting her diploma, Ray and Christian shaking hands, the photo taken for the newspaper, and that's about it. 
  • Anastasia's trip to Georgia was very quick: There were several chapters dedicated to Ana's trip to visit her mother and had events such as her being silently upgraded to first class, her being more involved with her mother and stepfather, Christian dropping in on her, more sex, arguing with Christian about paying at an IHOP, and the air glider. The movie basically depicts Ana having lunch with her family, being dropped in on by Christian at the hotel, and being taken flying in the glider. That's it. 
  • Christian's issues with Anastasia's eating habits were minimal: Christian basically shoves food down Ana's throat throughout the book and consistently tells her she needs to eat. She also describes that she is so intimidated by Christian that she finds it difficult to eat around him. In the movie, he presents her food and the underlying tone of eating being important to him is there, but it's not overbearing. She doesn't seem to have an appetite problem at all in the movie.
  • There is less sex: The book has a total of 48 sex scenes. The movie has seven.
  • More controversial sex scenes were omitted entirely: Scenes involving fellatio, tampon removal, cunnilingus, and sex by intimidation and threats that were prevalent in the book were not present in the film at all. Don't let the internet fool you because they simply aren't in the film
  • The ending is a bit different: As I said already, the end of the book and the movie are essentially the same but have minor differences. The book has more of a conflicting struggle between the two characters and Ana really doesn't want to leave. She gives Christian back the gifts he got her much to his disapproval and they argue over the money for her Volkswagen. The movie, however, had Ana really wanting to leave. She was repulsed by Christian and hurt at the same time. He seemed to immediately realize what he had done by going after her and she responds by a very forceful, "Stop. No!" as she gets in the elevator to leave. 
  • The technology is upgraded: The book introduced us to Ana as if she was attending college in the early 1990's. She didn't have a personal computer and seemed to be completely lost when it came to technology. The book also utilized Apple and Blackberry products. The version of Ana we get in the movie has an older but decent flip-phone and a computer, but the computer is broken. Christian still gifts her the Macbook, but he does not give her a cell phone. His Blackberry also was updated to an iPhone. 
  • The beginning is very to the point: We get to Christian and Ana's first night in his apartment after 40min or so in the film, but it is several chapters into the book before we get to that scene. The book has a lot more conversations between the two characters and the post-interview events at the Heathman were also more in detail. The film takes us from 0-60mph quite fast because it is very quick from the initial interview at Grey House to the first night in the apartment. Conversations between Ana and Jose are not included as well as conversations between Ana and Kate. We don't see Christian ask Ana for coffee but we hear about it and the coffee scene is over and done with very quickly. 
  • Kate is not as protective of Anastasia: Kate is a lot more involved in the book than in the movie. She gets rather threatening towards Christian and when he upsets Ana she nearly kicks him out of their apartment in an attempt to keep him away from her friend. The movie depicts Kate as almost non-existent. She is there, but she isn't very involved. Ana kind of brushes off her roommate and in situations where Kate was present in the book she isn't in the movie, such as the night Christian shows up at their apartment.
  • Anastasia is a pretty feisty, funny girl: Ana was practically a talking piece of cardboard in the book. Let's be honest about that. The movie portrayed her in a very different light and it was a very necessary change. She has an obvious and likeable sense of humor and actually has self respect. She isn't overly aggressive towards Christian, but she knows what she wants and isn't shy about trying to talk about it. That is not something we had in the book at all. 
  • Christian's abundance of wealth: The exact depth of Christian's wealth isn't explored in any detail like it is in the book. We get the general idea given the fact that he has a garage full of cars and a helicopter, but that's really all we get. Ana also didn't seem as uncomfortable by his wealth as she was in the book. 

There is more that I could go on about, but those were the biggest things that I noticed. Overall I did enjoy the movie a lot more than the book. I think if this is a pace they are setting for the future movies that will no doubt happen they are off to a great start. I expected it to be horrible and was pleasantly surprised. 
I wouldn't recommend seeing this with anyone you would be uncomfortable seeing this subject matter with, such as parents. I saw it with a friend and we found things to laugh at and were comfortable with it. Just a heads up there. If you get weird seeing boobs in a movie you watch with your mom don't take her to go see this movie.

#fiftyshades #fiftyshadesofgrey


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I did some editing and added more components to the review.

  2. Excellent, detailed review. I pretty much agree with every word you said. I saw your post below mine on IMDB and came over to read the review you mentioned. I don't know about you but I put the awful dialogue down to EL James' interference on set. It jarred so badly, I think it could only be her doing! Hopefully, for the next film, the studio will ditch her and keep the director? LOL!

    1. The cheesy dialogue that did make it into the movie was most likely due to EL James' involvement. Easily lol. I hope Universal didn't sign a contract with her that requires them to have her directly involved in the sequels because that will hurt them and just cause more tension between her, the actors, and the director.