When the studio decided to release Fifty Shades of Grey over Valentine’s weekend, they took a huge chance in pushing the movie as a romantic movie choice. And the hordes of naysayers descended on the movie like vultures ready to pick it apart to its bones. I’m here to be a part of the clear minority that believes that the movie achieved what it set out to do, to present a romantic movie and push the romance genre into new visual territory, just like the book did for the fiction genre.
Several of my friends decried the movie WITHOUT EVER SEEING IT!! First and foremost, I personally think that no one should pass judgment on anything like a movie or book without having personal knowledge of it. That’s one of the reasons I read Fifty Shades to begin with—to see why it was so popular. And while I agreed that it is truly flawed, I also appreciate what that book did for the romance genre.
As I stated in my first post about the Fifty Shades movie, the book took explicit sex scenes and helped push the romance genre from something that (typically) women read in secret, and moved it right out into the open. It opened up talks about sex, even if that talk was about controversial sex. People of all ages (some entirely too young) openly read the books. Gone was the shame attached to liking and reading romance, especially what we’ve come to know as erotic romance (known as Erom in the writing world), featuring explicit sex scenes.
After Fifty Shades, the book genre exploded with lots of other romance books and series, some eerily similar and others taking the idea of the dominant alpha male to new plots and stories. I maintain that, while it wasn’t the first salacious book out there, it was the one that opened the door to the romance genre to the 21st-Century reader.
I explain what I think James’ book did for the genre because I believe that the movie, while highly criticized for several reasons, may move the romantic movie in the same way. Whether the general audience wants it, I think it may open the door for movies with the rating of R to show more explicit sex scenes.
I’m not going to discount that the book has issues with how the “hero” Christian Grey treats the “heroine” Anastasia Steele. There are several sources out there that site how abusive Christian is to Ana, and they use James’ words as examples. The discussion of whether or not the relationship in the first book is abusive is too deep to cover here. I’m aware of it, and I concede some of the points. However, I think that the discussion of the treatment of Ana in the book needs to be separated from the film because to me, the film treats the story in a different manner. In a way, it fixes a lot of the problems of possible abuse that the book treads on.
Also, I think that there needs to be a bigger separation of claiming abuse and attaching it to the overall BDSM community. What is presented in the book is not truly representative of the BDSM lifestyle, regardless of Christian’s “Red Room”. To use that book as the jumping off point to condemn a different sexual lifestyle is irresponsible, and quite frankly, wrong.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead
The film from start to finish is a romance. To boil it down, it’s a rather sheltered girl who meets a powerful business man. They’re both attracted to each other. She finds out that his sexual tastes are way more extreme, and he finds out how innocent she is. Opposites attract. They push and pull each other in different situations, both trying to satisfy the needs and desires of the other one. In the end, the girl tries the guy’s extreme and finds it upsetting. The movie ends with her walking away from him.
That’s it. In that boiled down synopsis, there’s nothing salacious, nothing controversial. And truly, the movie isn’t that shocking. A lot of the writing that raises people’s hackles is gone and smoothed over by the screenplay writer, Kelly Marcel. What’s left is the issues of building a relationship—not the big bad wolf trying to beat the crap out of Little Red Riding Hood.
Seeing the sex scenes live and on the big screen was a little awkward, but still hot. I kind of felt subconscious because of the others around me. I’m thinking that the movie will make twice its numbers once it’s available to buy and rent to watch in the privacy of home. But I think the film handles the different scenarios well. What I couldn’t believe is that the movie achieved an R rating. There’s a lot of nudity, especially from Dakota Johnson. But none of it was horrible or unnecessary. In fact, all of the sex shown was important to the story. Without it, the story of the film wouldn’t have been as strong.
Now for the petty personal review stuff. I loved Dakota Johnson as Ana Steele. In fact, I think the movie makes it because of her. She plays the innocent girl willing to test her own limits well. While Ana is grating a bit on my nerves in the first book, Johnson’s portrayal makes her compelling (and so much better than Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan in Twilight).
I’m a fan of Jamie Dornan, having gotten to know him in Once Upon A Time and then watching the incredible series The Fall on Netflix. I can see why they would choose him as an alpha male after his intense role in The Fall – seriously, if you haven’t watched it, go do it! It’s no secret that I wanted Matt Bomer in the role. To me, Dornan almost gets the alpha power required for the part, but just barely misses it. And, I truly hate saying this, his American accent is terrible. It ruined most of my enjoyment of his screen time. Personally, I fantasized during the movie that Dornan’s stubbled look and his Irish accent came back. If you put all of Christian’s lines in the Irish accent he uses in OUaT, all of a sudden he gets hotter. I hope that for movies 2 & 3 he manages to fix his accent.
However, in terms of how hot the sex scenes were, I would still rate the movie pretty high for that. Let’s just say that I was wearing a scarf, and I found that I would put it up over my mouth as I watched the steamy scenes. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I cut off the circulation in my left hand because I had twisted the scarf so tight around it while reacting to the visual sexy time.
And a huge mention has to go to the soundtrack for the movie. I cannot recommend it enough. Even if you are a staunch naysayer to the movie, get the soundtrack. It is full of seductive cuts of songs, especially Beyonce’s “Haunted” and “Crazy In Love” remixes. It definitely set the right mood, and to be honest, I’m listening to it on continuous playback while writing my next book.
Is the movie going to win an Oscar? No. But it is a better romance movie than has been released in a long time, and I think it stands as a great opponent to the typical Nicholas Spark movie. And yes, it IS a romance movie.
One last note. I feel that a lot of the controversy over the film comes from people who haven’t seen the film or who refuse to see it for moral or ethical reasons. That’s fine to choose not to spend money on something you don’t want to see because overall it doesn’t fit in with your moral reasons. However, don’t spend so much time making noise about something that you have no knowledge of.
Also, I want to say to anyone that wants to go see it—it’s perfectly fine for you to want to watch it. It’s great that you are enthusiastic to see a book adaptation and see what it’s all about (please book gods, may someday I have one of my books adapted). I fear that some of what all the noise was against the movie ends up being simple “shaming”, trying to make those who liked the books despite their problems and who liked the movie feel ashamed. There’s no shame in having different tastes and making up your own mind.
As for me, I think the movie improved upon the storyline, cleaned up a lot of the controversial aspects of Christian’s abusive tendencies, and streamlined the story to provide a different romantic story. Plus, you know, explicit sexy time on the screen isn’t the worst thing in the world!
If you need a safe space to say you saw the movie and whether you liked it or not, add your voice to my comments!