Unsurprisingly, this film is not on the top 1000 greatest films of all time, but in my review of Secretary I said I would review 50 Shades, so here’s the review. I did try reading the book, but it was so bad that I gave up after two chapters.
Christian Grey is a young, handsome and extremely creepy millionaire with a dark secret. Anastasia “Ana” Steele is a young, innocent English Literature student who interviews Christian Grey, after her housemate is unable to. Christian and Ana have an instant connection and the two begin a sado-masochistic relationship.
One thing I would give 50 Shades is that, whilst it grossly misrepresents it, it does make some effort in defining the different aspects of BDSM, which is something that Secretary lacks.
50 Shades received much publicity due to its depiction of BDSM. It was largely criticised by BDSM communities for completely misrepresenting the practice. Those involved in BDSM relationships have emotional courage and a strong emotional bond with one another. Nothing could be further than the truth in 50 Shades. Whilst Ana is emotionally attracted to Christian, he wants to keep their relationship purely physical, as he doesn’t date, he doesn’t want to sleep in the same bed and he doesn’t make love…he fucks HARD.
50 Shades also perpetuates the misconception of those in BDSM relationships being emotionally damaged. It is revealed that Christian Grey entered the BDSM lifestyle after he lost his virginity to one of his mother’s friends and then became her submissive for years. However, their relationship failed due to incompatibility. Rather than gratifying Ana’s desires, I would argue that Christian is using Ana to vent his anger at his failed relationship with his mother’s friend.
Christian is also a horrible character. In the book, he effectively rapes Ana, when he ignores how she gives up her consent, during a particular act. Whilst this doesn’t happen in the film, he is still very creepy, by stalking Ana everywhere, getting unjustly angry at her and selling her car without her permission. All in all, he isn’t very nice to Ana and it is difficult to see why she is so attracted to him. Ana is also very annoying. After Christian tells her to go off and research BDSM, rather than using her initiative, she keeps asking him question after question after question. This climaxes when she asks him what a buttplug is (seriously, Ana, what does it sound like?)
One thing I remember from the book is the dialogue being terrible and I was unhappy to see that the film stayed faithful to the book in this regard. The dialogue was bad from Christian’s “I don’t make love…I fuck HARD” to Ana’s “well good…because I’m making pancakes,” which was worsened by Dakota Johnson’s awkward delivery. This is more of a minor criticism, but it also really annoyed me, when Christian asks Ana “was it Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre or Thomas Hardy that first made you fall in love with English Literature?” Speaking as an English lit student, I’ve struggled through both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and I can tell you, neither of them made me fall in love with English Literature.
One thing I felt that the film really lacked was Ana narrating it. The book is told from Ana’s perspective and I felt that the film should have been too. With Ana narrating it, I felt like her personal journey and storyarc would have been more prominent for the audience. It would have made her struggles and conflicts more identifiable. I think she would have been a more likeable character, if the audience had been privy to her internal thoughts and feelings.
The ending was also really bad. Ana demands Christian to demonstrate the extremes of a BDSM relationship to try and understand his emotional distance. Christian then whips her 6 times with a belt. Ana is horrified by this and storms out of Christian’s playroom, which isn’t where he keeps his xbox, Christian then calls out Ana’s name and Ana calls out Christian’s and there the film ends. This ending was far too abrupt and sudden to really tie up any loose ends or resolve any outstanding issues. It left me feeling very underwhelmed. Finally, if Ana had actually done any research into BDSM, then she would have learnt to expect something like that happening.
This film really is a complete train wreck. With a bad narrative, unlikeable characters and cheesy dialogue, it is a complete catastrophe.