Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

There’s no doubt this is intended to be ‘one for the girls’. That should be obvious to most people given the success among women of the erotic romance novel on which it’s based. This week Event Cinemas reported that they had pre-sold more than 20,000 tickets for its special opening day ‘Chicks at the Flicks’ […]

By Mark HadleyWednesday 11 Feb 2015MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

There’s no doubt this is intended to be ‘one for the girls’. That should be obvious to most people given the success among women of the erotic romance novel on which it’s based.

Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

This week Event Cinemas reported that they had pre-sold more than 20,000 tickets for its special opening day ‘Chicks at the Flicks’ screening. And to ram the point home, the screening I saw was preceded by trailers for Pitch Perfect 2, Magic Mike XXL and Insurgent, the sequel to the teen-queen adventure Divergent. This film is what producers, distributors and viewers all agree woman want to see – and that is a very sad state of affairs.

I’m not going to spend much time on the storyline of 50 Shades of Grey. Firstly, anyone who wants that form of titillation can turn to Google. Secondly, though, it’s because there’s not that much to say.  Dakota Johnson stars as Anastasia Steele, the young journalist who falls for billionaire businessman Christopher Grey (Jamie Dornan). Grey slowly introduces Steele to the world of bondage, discipline and sado-masochism. The billionaire playboy’s unusual tastes are balanced by his romantic character and Anastasia’s discovery that she not only loves this man but can appreciate at least some of the practices that arouse him. Yet as provocative as that plot might sound the result is something else. This 500-page best seller ends up being too thin to stand up on the big screen.

I stopped keeping count after the fifth explicit sex scene. My personal habit as a reviewer is to keep a clear conscience by taking those scenes as opportunities to stare at my shoes. Doing so this time around just emphasized how little else there was to the film, and how repetitive a soundscape could be. And the man making a lot of that noise is just too two-dimensional to be believable. Christian Grey is the purest construct of feminine fantasy – he worships Anastasia, makes passionate love to her and plays the grand piano afterwards. He saves her from unwanted advances and in the next moment gently holds back her hair as she vomits on the pavement. If he’s not simply staring at Anastasia over her love-inspired breakfasts, Christian’s procuring cars and perfectly chosen clothes to surprise her with. Any man in a serious relationship knows what dangerous territory that last one can be, but of course Christian has no trouble reading Anastasia’s mind. The expectations he creates for real-world relationships would be disturbing if they weren’t so ludicrous.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about. The truth is, the book and this film will continue to captivate women, and even if you don’t watch it – by the way, don’t watch it – we’d do well to understand why…

C.S. Lewis wrote that the devil never created anything; he only warped the good things God had done. That truth sits at the heart of 50 Shades of Grey’‘s appeal. God designed men and women to live in long-term, monogamous relationships where they would find all of the security they long for. Christian certainly bears all the outer markings of commitment, and his ‘singular tastes’ are something Anastasia’s love is supposed to look over, or at least understand:

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“Try to keep an open mind – if you agree to be my submissive I will be devoted to you.”

But Christian’s idea of sex is not service but servility. It’s abusive, plain and simple. It takes the Bible truth that a husband and wife’s bodied belong to their partner and inserts ‘mine to hurt’ where ‘mine to cherish’ should be. However Anastasia is not guilt free either. She already has the perfect construct of a man, yet she won’t be happy until he bends in a half dozen other ways to match her own desires. Both members of this shiny couple spend the majority of the film overwhelming each other with their personal needs, and so fall far short of God’s idea of love. 

Describing his own introduction to BSDM, Christian tells Anastasia,

“By giving up control I felt free of responsibility, of making decisions. I felt safe.”

– and he encourages her to do the same. But it’s a sham because she won’t feel free; she will feel used. God’s words in Christian’s mouth would have sounded more like, “By giving up my pleasure for your joy I make the one decision that matters – and my ‘responsibility’ becomes the pleasure I thought I’d given up.” His ideal puts the onus on me, not my partner, and holds up Jesus as our inspiration: 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  

Sadly what 50 Shades of Grey offers is exactly what women want, but in a place where there’s absolutely no hope of finding it. 

 

Rating: MA15+
Distributor: Paramount
Release Date: February 12