Fifty Shades of Blah
THE cinema on Valentine’s Day is already hellish enough but 2015 will make every cynic want to torch their local multiplex. One of the most tiresome phenomena of recent years is hitting the big screen and the media would have you believe it will be compulsory viewing for every red-blooded woman. I refer, of course, to Fifty Shades of Grey.
Holywood’s finest, Jamie Dornan, is set to sizzle as the domineering, sexy billionaire, Christian Grey. Grey takes on the most naïve, inexperienced woman imaginable, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), to be his personal sex slave. That’s pretty much it.
The book is terrible and the movie looks to be beset with problems too. There have been reported screaming matches between the book’s author E.L. James and the film’s director Sam Taylor-Johnson. James wanted to preserve the novel’s dialogue and ‘artistic vision’. It begs the question, why was the infamous tampon scene – surely performance art-worthy of Tracey Emin herself – cut? Could it be that it’s absolutely gross?
There are also rumours of clashes between the two lead actors. There’s no solid foundation to these, apart from some rather aloof body language between the two. Perhaps more troubling for the fate of the film is the fact that both Dornan and Johnson have made some efforts to distance themselves from it. Johnson admits that she wondered “What the f**k have I done?” when she accepted the part; more telling still is Dornan’s comment that “Mass appreciation doesn’t always equate to something good. Think of Hitler! But I think, in this case, it must. It simply must. There’s got to be merit in it if so many people agree.” Is it just me or does it sound like he’s trying to convince himself, rather than the rest of us?
The film is rated 18 but there’s supposedly little enough sex in it (20 mins of its total running time). The men who’ll be dragged to this will have doubtlessly seen more explicit material on the internet as will many of the women. The focus is apparently on the ‘romance’ between Ana and Christian. This was the main problem with the book and it will be problematic on screen also.
There’s very little romance in the book, at least for the reader who goes in with her eyes open. Ana and Christian may be engaging in BDSM but it’s outside the bedroom that the real violence occurs. He stalks her, he scolds her like a child for not eating to his schedule or drinking too much; he forces her to get rid of her car to drive one of his choosing; he isolates from her friends and threatens her on a regular basis.
Of course, such abusive behaviour is apparently okay because he’s hot and a billionaire. In her glorious and justly famous one-star Goodreads review, blogger Katrina Lumsden posts a picture of George Constanza from Seinfeld posing in his underwear and asks if Christian Grey would get away with it if he looked like that.
Dornan’s prior role as a twisted serial killer in The Fall makes him the perfect fit for the role of Christian Grey. If the film was turned into something darker – embracing the undercurrent that E.L. James clearly isn’t aware of – it could be intriguing. But that kind of film won’t fill cinemas with mother-and-baby groups.
Many will go see Fifty Shades of Grey for the craic. More power to them. However, a trial going through our courts at the moment shows what can happen in real life when the vulnerable are taken in by manipulative abusers. The fact that one in five women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime shows what can happen. Real-life Christian Greys are never romantic.
Photos c/o vogue.com, melty.es