Yesterday, we got to see a preview screening of Fifty Shades of Grey in a room full of screaming fans. We heartily recommend this experience.
The storyline is undoubtedly problematic in many of the ways the book is. But just as when the book became a bestselling women’s erotic novel, we can't help but find it overall positive that a blockbuster movie was made specifically for women’s pleasure. It doesn’t mean it’s perfect, and it doesn’t mean it succeeds in eliminating the male gaze, but Hollywood's attention to female sexual desire is such a rarity that Fifty Shades is undoubtedly a victory of sorts.
Fifty Shades does improve upon the book, but don’t expect the movie to completely exceed your expectations. The awkward dialogue, lack of plot, and clunky ending are totally there. But it’s funnier and a bit cleverer than the novel, too—Dakota Johnson does a nice job bringing humor to what could have been a dull role. And though Christian is creepily paternal, buckling Anastasia in and lecturing her on drinking, his dreamy appeal is understandable (especially during his shirtless shots).
Okay, let’s get to the meat of it: the sex scenes. We won’t lie—these were the best parts of the movie. Remember when the Internet was freaking out last week because a whole twenty minutes of the movie is dedicated to sex scenes, making it easily the raunchiest R-rating in recent years? We're here to tell you that there could have been more. Mostly because when Ana is supposed to be enjoying herself, you believe her. It’s not an issue that she’s naked so often in the film, considering what the film is about (and she even has pubic hair—good move, Hollywood!). It is, however, disappointing that Christian is buttoned up so much more often. He’ll have Ana hands tied and completely naked while he tickles her with a peacock feather or smacks her with a flogger, but he’ll still be wearing jeans. The subject matter almost requires objectification, so why not make it go both ways?
Also, this is not BDSM. The film could definitely lead audiences to believe that those who enjoy sexual dominance or submissiveness are in some way damaged and have to be fixed before enjoying a “normal” romantic relationship, which is very problematic (especially considering how tame these scenes truly are, and how fixated the film is on consent). Make note: the real issues in Christian and Ana's relationship come from the controlling elements outside of the bedroom.
Despite the movies missteps, if you go with a bunch of friends who’ve read the book—or, like us, you find yourself in a theater filled with others who have—and you all collectively giggle when Christian says, “I exercise control in all things, Ms. Steele,” you will have a good time. You will all eyeroll at lines like "I'm fifty shades of fucked up,"and everyone in the theater will simultaneously shout “What?!?” when the ending comes out of nowhere. And you know what? It will be a fun place to be.
Not to mention, the soundtrack is killer, and the Pacific Northwest unsurprisingly serves as a lovely backdrop for the film. Basically, if you think you’re going to like Fifty Shades of Grey, you probably will, and if you think you won’t, you probably won’t. Let’s just let those of us who like it have the opportunity to do so, and appreciate the conversation it generates regardless. Laters, baby.
Image c/o Universal Pictures