Film: Fifty Shades of Grey
Release Date: February 15, 2015
Based On: Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Overview: 22 year old Anastasia Steele is about to graduate college. When Ana’s roommate/best friend can’t make an interview with a young billionaire, Christian Grey, Ana fills in her shoes. What she discovers is both erotic and terrifying. Mostly terrifying. Not so much to Ana but to this reader. This was a very odd read for me.
Working in its Favor: In the traditional Box Office sense, I’m not sure this movie will make its money back. The book garnered commercial success, but critics were open to dismiss the book as no more than poorly written smut (which it definitely is). On the commercial side of things, I just don’t see people flocking to like this as they did to Twilight. Since sex is so predominantly featured in this 514 page string of poorly constructed sentences, I don’t see general audiences flocking to this one either. Where I do see this movie making its money is in the VOD department. As far as I know, there are no plans for a VOD release to coincide with Valentine’s Day weekend. But once this sucker hits home media, this movie is going to figuratively break all the banks with literally all the money.
Sam Taylor-Wood directs and I’m not familiar with any of her previous work. I do know that Kick-Ass is married to her. Steven Soderbergh, Gus Van Sant, Angelina Jolie, and Joe Wright were all on a short list of directors to helm the project. I don’t know how far discussions went with any directors, but they’re all pretty talented. This seems like the type of project Soderbergh would have classed up with his visual styles.
Potential Issues: This book is a piece of shit. There’s really no way around it. I’m all for some pornographic material (we all watch porn; don’t even go there). But the number of people that find this material “hot and steamy” in any capacity is worrisome. While there are issues with the sexual fantasies at play here, it’s mostly the reasoning behind the fantasies that raise questions. The story does nothing to examine the deep-rooted psychological issues that would almost certainly need to be present for Ana and Christian to behave the way they do. Author E.L. James is just so blissfully unaware of it all. Maybe I just don’t understand BDSM, but I’m also confident that it shouldn’t be fetishized when someone has a mental breakdown.
On the most surface level assessment, I don’t believe the attraction between the characters. Maybe because I’m getting more bitter with age, but characters need to sell the attraction to make me believe it when they get down and dirty. (Porn is a nightmare.) Casting good actors that ooze sexuality would make for at least impressive big-budget porn. While Dakota Johnson and Jaimie Dornan are good looking actors, they’re just not drop-dead gorgeous.
I hadn’t actually seen the trailer for the movie so I thought I’d test those waters as I sat through these pages of a sex nightmare. Speaking of nightmares, I felt the trailer for 50 Shades of Grey would best follow suit with a title reveal of Hostel 3. Okay, it wasn’t that off-putting but it wasn’t sexy enough (at all) to be the most viewed trailer of 2014.
Wild Card: There is a good chance the music and cinematography here will be good. Danny Elfman specializes in iconic scores (Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Man). Perhaps he can add some smooth, sexy sounds to the proceedings? Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, hot off his Oscar worthy cinematography in Godzilla, knows his way around a camera. His imagery is constantly evolving, allowing the audience to be absorbed into the worlds being explored (we forgive his flat scenery in The Avengers because everything else rocked).
Verdict: Will It Make A Good Film?: No. There is always hope for a movie. There was hope for Tusk last year. There was hope for Green Lantern. There will be hope for movies like Fantastic Four. There will even be hope for the inevitable 75th Paranormal Activity. I cannot imagine a world where this movie is anything less than a fetishistic mess of odd sexcapades. But I could also be wrong and this will end up with a Best Picture nomination for 2016. Weirder things have happened (example: Bill Cosby is still allowed to perform standup outside of prison).