An Honest Review of Fifty Shades of Grey Movie

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.

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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!

Happy Valentine’s Weekend & FSoG Day!

The time is upon is. We’ve waited a long time to get to the most romantic day of the year. There’ve been previews and posts in anticipation of the day we go all hearts and mushy stuff. It’s Valentine’s Day this weekend, y’all!! And to make it hot and steamy, we’ve got the Fifty Shades of Grey movie ready to whisk us off our feet!

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There’s definitely no real GREY area about the movie. Either people are really excited to go see it because they loved the book or they definitely do not want to see it because they loathe the book and the whole idea of the alpha male sex plot. I can’t lie—I really want to see the movie, but probably not for the typical reasons.

One, I read the book and the entire trilogy. Many times. The first time, curiosity drove me because the news reported Ms. James was making over $200K a DAY on it. Also, I wanted to see if I could spot the Twilight elements. About half way through, I wondered how anyone couldn’t see the similarities to Twilight. Take out the vampires, insert the rich billionaire, and it’s basically the same plot. I didn’t want to like the book. I wanted to ridicule it. But dammit, by the end, I had to read the next book. And by the end of that one, I had to finish the entire trilogy. What the hell happened?

There are a lot of people decrying the poorly written narrative. How James didn’t go out of her way to lose her British-isms, like “Laters”. How there are grammatical errors riddled throughout, which there are. And how the BDSM depicted in the book isn’t close to safe or what the BDSM community deems acceptable. It’s an abusive relationship between an unpredictable controlling man and a simpering victim of a girl.

I cry bullshit. Not that there aren’t valid points to the criticism, but that people are using the criticism to say it’s a horrible romance book. It’s not that bad, and it’s better than Twilight. But there’s another reason why I appreciate FSoG. James unknowingly pushed romance stories that involve hot and heavy sex into the mainstream.

Perhaps it was the dawn of the e-readers and e-books that helped the wave. But all of a sudden, we didn’t have to be afraid of having that racy romance book hiding under our pillows. We could read it out in the open. We could talk about it out in the open. Yes, it might be scandalous to do so, but didn’t that make it even more elicit and fun?

I’ve now put out four pieces to my Rock & Rodeo series: Sweet Melody: Book 1Warm Body: Book 2, Sweet Thing: Tease 1and Warm Thing: Tease 2. I readily admit that I don’t think I’d be able to get any eyes on my sexy stories if James hadn’t broken the dam and helped romance storytelling evolve into a new age that allowed us women to say, “Hell yeah, we like sex, we are sexy, and we’re not afraid to talk about it or show it!”

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And in some ways, the black and white take on FSoG, both the book and especially the film, will show up in the ultimate financial numbers. If so many disapproved of the book, why has it grossed so much? And over this weekend, I’m betting the movie will end up being number one.

Why am I going to see it? Well, for one, it’s kind of part of my job as a romance writer to see a huge movie based on a book from my genre. Okay, that’s a total cop out. I WANT to see the movie. I want to see if Jamie Dornan, whom I loved in Once Upon A Time, can do justice as Christian Grey (I really wanted Matt Bomer). Or if Dakota Johnson pulls off a better awkward brunette than Kristen Stewart from Twilight. But mainly, I want to see if the movie has any heat. My curiosity’s getting the better of me…and you know I’m gonna give in. Stay tuned for a review!

For those who crave the heat or are not interested in FSoG this weekend, might I pimp, I mean suggest, my Rock & Rodeo books as a steamy alternative? They’re all available for FREE with Kindle Unlimited. At just $.99, starting with Sweet Melody would be a great way to dive into the romantic world of the Rock & Rodeo.

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Romance Recommendations—Take Two Part 1

This past weekend, I rented the film What If mainly because I’ve been enjoying Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Harry Potter work (don’t even get me started on how much I love the twisted movie adaptation of Horns). But the romantic film features Zoe Kazan, and I realized that she’s been the romantic lead for three movies that I watched, two of them I liked. So, like those annoying multi-part movies that turn what should be one movie into three, I’m writing three reviews over the next three days, and I’m dubbing them Romance Recommendations—the Zoe Kazan Edition!

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What If (2013): The film starring Zoe Kazan as Chantry and Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace takes place in Toronto. It’s a boy meets girl, girl flirts with boy, boy likes girl, girl has a boyfriend storyline. In fact, the original title to the film was “The F Word”, making a play on words about “friends” only, right? Most of the film focuses on Wallace’s frustrations as every interaction with Chantry is fun and brings out the best in him. Over time, Chantry relies more heavily on Wallace instead of her boyfriend Ben (Rafe Spall). When Ben takes off for Dublin for his job and leaves the two of them, the tension grows. Despite the interference to bring them together by Wallace’s friends Allan (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Mackenzie Davis), who play the romantic foils who are head over heels crazy in love to the main characters’ cool reserve, it takes the full movie to get Wallace and Chantry together.

I wanted to like the movie more than I did. But several things held it back. One, the screenplay was based off a play Toothpaste and Cigars, and for most of the movie, it felt like it was a play trying to be a film. What I mean by that is, it was just too cool for its own good. It was lmost, and I hate using this word, hipster cool—like some people choose to dub it cool, and it’s so cool that I can’t understand how cool it really is. There are funny moments, but it’s not a romantic comedy. There’s the love triangle, but Ben is so lame, he almost feels like that plot device was thrown in there just to create tension.

For most of the movie, you’re supposed to want the love interests to get together, and you’re pulled through the movie by the tension that they’re not. In this one, I found myself wanting them to get together so that the movie would end. Not necessarily a good thing. BUT, I found that the Kazan and Radcliffe scenes were the absolute best part. The two of them are strong actors. If someone cut out all the parts of the movie except their scenes, I wonder if it would have fared better. This movie’s a definite HEA, but I wish they would have cut out some of the slower, cool parts as well as the crazy comedy bits and just gotten down to the heart of the story with Chantry and Wallace. (PS – not sure if they get extra points given or taken away for the love lead being named Chantry). movie valentine icon cinema sign