Wednesday, 25 February 2015

it had to be done: 50 Shades of Grey

Many years ago, I worked at a large bookstore in downtown Montreal. American Psycho came out and the world was outraged and so was I, despite never having read the book. I'd heard it was filled with gratuitous violence and horrific scenarios, and that was enough for me to trash talk it along with everyone else. I realised that I couldn't continue to bash a book I'd never read, so I bought a copy. It was indeed incredibly violent and disturbing but also a clever satire of the 1980s yuppie era. The opening sushi scene was brilliant.

Decades later, I once again found myself making fun of a book I hadn't read: the ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey. To make a long story short, most of what you've heard is true. It's a really, really, really, really badly written book. It wasn't originally self-published as legend has it (see, but it's unclear whether or not it ever crossed the desk of an editor. It's in desperate need of someone's red marking pen, and I don't think even the most die hard fans would argue that point.

I went to see the film with a friend, mostly for lols. "It had to be done," she said to me as we left the cinema. "50 Shades of Shite," I replied. Poor Jamie Dornan; I suspect he never knew what he was signing up for when he agreed to be in this film. I absolutely loved him in the BBC series "The Fall", where he did brooding, smouldering, psycho very well. In 50 Shades, he and Dakota Johnson have as much chemistry as me and a flu jab. He's there to do a job and then get the hell out again, and you might feel a bit drowsy afterwards. to deliver my lines.
I was bored. The sex was boring, the dialogue was boring, and good lord Danny Elfman what's happened to you? Even the soundtrack was boring. The continuity errors (Ana's non-iPhone makes iPhone sounds when she receives messages and her MacBook suddenly turns into a Windows laptop in one scene) and the completely random Rita Ora cameo are so distracting that I could never get lost in the fantasy world this book is supposed to create.

I am not going to go on for paragraphs about what a terrible film this is because it's not, by far, the worst thing I've seen. Johnson is well cast, managing to be attractive, awkward, clever, and mousey at the same time, which is exactly how I imagined her from the book. Film Ana is savvier than book Ana (film Ana knows how to use a computer, for example), and she has some genuinely funny lines. There is one very clever scene that takes place in Christian's meeting room that clearly puts Ana in control and is remarkably well written. It is the sexiest scene in the film, despite no nookie taking place and the enormous glass table that separates them throughout the scene.

It's like a soap opera; fans of this franchise just go with it and ignore the fact that it's badly written and the acting is cheesy. What it's not (at least in the first book/film) is a promotion of domestic abuse or the degradation of women. Ana sets the boundaries and is explicitly told that she can back out at any time. This is punctuated by a firm "NO!" in the final scene, which could only be made clearer if she said, "I am telling you no, which means I am not giving my consent to any of your shenanigans, and well done you for accepting this with no argument and off I go down the lift now, byeeeeee."

If you want to be outraged, be angry that such a badly written book is making millions of dollars and EL James has the studio by its bollocks so they have no leeway with her dire dialogue. Part of me wants to say good on you to James for making a mint out of a few Internet posts. Hey look, anyone can become a writer! Part of me weeps that something so terribly written is a bestseller, especially knowing that there are some brilliant authors out there who still need to have day jobs.

The worst part is, I've got that goddamn Ellie Goulding song stuck in my head now.

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