Home Arts Fifty Shades of Grey was a painful experience, and not in a good way

Fifty Shades of Grey was a painful experience, and not in a good way

by Sara Baron-Goodman February 17, 2015
Fifty Shades of Grey was a painful experience, and not in a good way

Maybe my tastes are too singular, but this fifty shades of sucked

Full of self-loathing and holding our heads low, my date and I sauntered into the AMC on Valentine’s night to join the throngs of bored vanilla couples and gaggles of barely-legal girls going to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

We were off to a bad start before the preview reels even began: the theatre, packed to the brim, had seats left in only the three front rows—not the ideal viewing spot for anybody, as you’re forced to crane your neck and stare into the distorted giant faces of the cast, but even less so for a farsighted individual like myself. I never thought I’d feel so intimately connected with every little bump on Dakota Johnson’s nipples.

Then the film started, with a long establishing shot showing Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, putzing around his millionaire’s walk-in-closet, going for a jog, and generally setting him up as a filthy-rich, put-together, virile-type person.

Then we see Johnson as Anastasia Steele, looking doe-eyed and waif-like as we would expect, in an ill-fitting cardigan and wispy bangs. Because, as everybody knows, all virgins must wear glorified sacks and gratuitous floral prints (and white underwear as we will soon see). Luckily, once she’s deflowered her wardrobe is no longer highly dependant on florals.

I came into the theatre with very low expectations. I’d read excerpts of the novel and enough reviews of both the books and the movie to know to keep an eye out for the psychological manipulation and emotionally abusive tendencies of Grey, the misrepresentation of BDSM practices, and the overall lack of chemistry between the two leads who have more than once openly admitted to despising each other.

I expected, however, despite my own reservations about the plotline and relationship between the characters, to be at least slightly tantalized if not semi-aroused throughout most of the film. This was being billed as softcore erotica, after all, and if nothing else I expected delivery on that front.

Sadly, even my most meagre of expectations were not met. Of the four or five sex scenes in the film, two were decently hot, and really only because it’s pretty hard not to get at least a quarter-arousal going when there’s an attractive woman writhing around, bound-up and suspended from ropes while the now-infamous slower, deeper, headier version of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” swells in the background. Unfortunately, that was about one minute of pleasure out of 122 minutes of cringeworthy pain.

Now, let’s just skip past the whole psychological abuse thing, Grey’s unhealthy tendency to stalk Steele like she’s his prey, and his obsession with owning her and controlling her (see her confession of being a virgin, to which he responds “Where have you been?” as if this is the greatest gift he’s ever been given; also buying her a new wardrobe, computer, and car; and setting up quarters in his home for her. Strangely though, he does not replace her ‘90s throwback flip phone).

We can also look past the fact that Steele never did sign that contract agreeing to be his submissive, despite them engaging in a dominant/submissive relationship throughout the film—a relationship that she was skeptical of, if not outright terrified to partake in (and was quite vocal about these reservations throughout the film). And hey, I guess it also isn’t a big deal that there were no instances of aftercare, even after Grey goes too far and leaves Steele crying on the floor as he whips her and, when she confronts him about it, responds that he’s “fifty shades of fucked up” so, I guess it’s not his fault. Nobody understands him, poor baby.

All these things are fine though, because he’s like so intense and like so hot and she just loooves him so much. And how can he be blamed when she has the audacity to bite her lip like that in front of him because she knows what that does to him.

Yes, perhaps all these slight details could be ignored if the actors had even an ounce of chemistry between them, or said their lines with any sort of inflection or feeling. The script, which was no winner to begin with, completely flatlined under the monotone delivery of both Dornan and Johnson. It was like they were speaking at each other the whole time, and were bored doing it. The hatred between them was palpable, and not in a hot, tense, Ryan Gosling-and-Rachel McAdams-hatred-for-each-other-circa-The Notebook-type-way, but rather in an “I’m completely bored and disgusted to have to be in the same room as you let alone have to simulate sex with you”-type way.

Moments that were presumably meant to be fraught with tension were so cringeworthy that the entire theatre alternately laughed and groaned out loud pretty much every time Grey revealed a new kink or made a new request, and likewise every time Johnson seemed to be climaxing before Grey even began to touch her.

The entire film came off like a bad spoof. It was so incredibly awful that I have to wonder if director Sam Taylor-Johnson perhaps intended it to be that way. Maybe the film is actually meant to be a meta-experience of sadistic pain, masquerading as pleasure, for the audience itself. Maybe we’re all Steele, wanting so hard to feel something that we’ll accept any kind of horseshit that hits us first.

In the end, I cannot possibly do justice to this spectacle in words, and I urge you all to arm yourselves with a bottle or two your poison of choice, and illegally download (for the love of God don’t make the same mistake I did and actually pay for it) this shipwreck to see for yourselves.

And hey, maybe I do have more masochistic tendencies than I gave myself credit for, because a deep, dark part of me can’t wait for the sequel.

How to get fifty shades of fucked up for Fifty Shades of Grey (which is really the only way to experience it):

 

You will need:

 

  • an alcoholic beverage of your choice, perhaps Fifty Shades of Grey wine?

  • a receptacle for said beverage

  • a liver of Steele (see what I did there?)

 

Rules:

 

  • Take a sip when…

    • there is a gratuitous shot of Dakota Johnson’s boobs

    • she bites her lip

    • Christian Grey appears topless

    • Anastasia is naked while Christian is clothed

    • There’s a shot of a full bush

    • There is phallic imagery (skyscrapers, pencils being sucked etc.)

    • He buys her something

    • They stare into each other’s eyes

    • She rolls her eyes

    • He threatens to punish her

    • She appears innocent and virginal

    • She tries to assert herself by sassing him

    • he plays piano

    • she cooks

    • he alludes to being psychologically damaged

    • he recoils at her touch

    • she whines about their sleeping arrangements

    • someone makes an astute observation (ex.: is that a car? do you play piano?)

 

  • Chug throughout any sex scenes (these are fewer and farther between than you’d think)

 

Good luck. You’ll need it.

 

Related Articles