June 22, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson

Sadly, I missed the theatrical release of this, so I was instead forced to watch it at home while awkwardly sharing a couch (that was not nearly big enough to make it less awkward) with a girlfriend. And yes, there were cocktails involved.

So we settled in, ready for laughs, which came easily right off the bat. I mean, the girl's name in Anastasia Steele. I know this is basically soft core porn, but is it necessary she have a porn name? A guy's porn name? So that, coupled with the incessant zooming on Anastasia's lip biting in an attempt to imbue sexiness, and we had to hit pause and rewind several times to hear the amazing dialogue we missed during our peals of laughter.

With all the supposedly controversial sex stuff, Anastasia's lip biting was actually the most offensive. I know they were trying to show a buildup of sexual tension while simultaneously showing Anastasia's naiveté, but the best they could come up with to represent all that was lip biting? Not only did it look awkward and forced, but then they had Christian keep commenting on it with lines like, "I'd like to bite that lip." Maybe I'm the naive one here, but I expected a little more than Twilight for people who are no longer tweens.

Of course, it didn't stop with the lip biting. The sexual metaphors were so heavy in this movie I could have written a college thesis on it. Like the fact that Anastasia goes from dressing like a fourth grader (Overalls? Really?) and speaking only in whisper to some confident sex kitten in form-fitting dresses and heels the minute she has sex for the first time? They might as well have had her talking about blossoming into a woman while showing her reading a Judy Blume novel or something.

And though the stilted dialogue is ultimately what brought the movie down, the acting itself was also not stellar. Nor was the casting. I mean, if acting ability wasn't a requirement for the movie, they could have at least found more attractive people. Jamie Dornan is ok I suppose (in a generic kind of way), but not someone hot enough to get [literally] whipped for. And while I get that Anastasia's character is supposed to be a bit of a mousy type of girl, they must have had better options than a lesser version of Selma Blair. Though I will say, kudos to both actors for clearly working out a ton before shooting this movie because both their bodies look great. Even though because of the R-rating, they show very little besides a couple of butt shots and way more nipple than I ever want to see in my lifetime. Like, so much that I can skip watching any artsy indie movies for awhile.

So this movie is terrible, of course, for all the reasons I listed above. And the fact that there is way too much face touching. But it also wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be.

Laughs aside, the movie tries to be sexy. It really does. And while that doesn't sound like much, when was the last time you watched a movie that was truly sexy? It's a pretty hard thing to pull off. What's sexy to one person will always be cheesy and awkward to dozens others, especially in group settings. Don't believe me? Go watch Out of Sight with JLo and George Clooney with your mom and tell me you don't find it to be kind of ridiculous. It's all in the context. I mean, there's a reason this book was as popular as it was. Obviously people reading it alone found it to be sexy and this movie tried to take a real shot at re-creating that. So for that, I applaud it. I imagine it's much more difficult to maintain that sexiness when creating something for mass consumption--especially then those consumers will be packed into a theater, elbow to elbow, watching it. And while the movie actually does BDSM a bit of a disservice by implying only emotionally damaged people engage in it, it likely jumpstarted the sex lives of countless older married couples. So it has that going for it.

Maybe I'm giving the plot too much credit, but if you simply re-imagine Anastasia as a sixteen-year-old girl (which she essentially is, emotionally), it's much easier to believe and invest in the story enough to care what happens to her in the sequel. (Because come on, there's always a sequel.) Many of her decisions are cringe-worthy, to be sure, but what girl hasn't made a string of bad decisions for some guy? It's as much a part of growing up as sneaking out and drinking underage. So I am sort of looking forward to the sequels to see Anastasia stand up for herself and stop being so stupid and annoying.

Sadly, instead of internalizing the message of empowerment and standing up for yourself, I'm sure a whole generation of girls will instead tell themselves "he can change" and believe that they will be the catalysts for that change. You know, rationalizing why they keep dating a**holes who occasionally do something nice. But I guess that's part of growing up too.

Final word: Terrible in so many ways. Mostly in a train-wreck-you-can't-stop-watching sort of way.

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