After all the rumours, changes in casting, delays and upheavels, we finally had a date for the finished product. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie, was coming to a cinema near me and I could not wait. I arranged, months in advance, to see it with another FSOG fan (my lovely sister-in-law) and, as s0on as tickets became available, we booked our seats – VIP, no less.
A couple of weeks prior to the showing, I reread the books (as you do). Oh joy. The story is so compelling, Christian’s angst so captivating, that I fell, once more, into the heady romance embroidered with Mr Grey’s ‘need’ to bind Ana.
I didn’t read any pre-reviews or opinions; I didn’t read up on the actors or actresses or sound bites, but I did watch the trailers. They were disappointing because she was not Ana and he was not Christian. Escala, however, was exactly as I expected and I was gratified to see Charlie Tango take pride of place in the main trailer.
My sister-in-law and I had a meal before the show so we could catch up and get all inconsequential conversation out of the way. The cinema was packed and, although she had pre-booked, the queue to get our tickets was trailing out of the doors. Being surrounded by so many excited women just upped the anticipation. The waiting began to be itchingly uncomfortable – good job we have posh seats. The screening was packed – not a spare seat to be had – and we saw at least a dozen men in the audience with their partners (could have been siblings, but very unlikely), no doubt dragged in to show them what is expected in the romance department because Christian is very romantic when he puts his mind to it. His obsession with Ana is mouth-wateringly delicious and I only hoped they would manage to convey it on celluloid – do they still use celluloid or is it all digitised?
Forget that and let’s get to, ta da, the film!
Casting: As I have already said, I was disappointed with the actors chosen to play Ana and Christian. They look nothing like the characters; they are either too old or too young, too happy (Christian) or not innocent enough (Ana). What was up with that fringe? Then there were the side characters – with the exception of Jennifer Ehle as Ana’s mum, the others were wrong, wrong, wrong. Elliot was so very wrong, I actually gasped. Actually, there was a collective gasp and murmur – see, I’m not in the minority.
The story line: I was irritated by Caroline Long’s review in The Sunday Times. Not only did The Times send someone who was already biased against the trilogy to review the film, but she made some glaringly obvious mistakes. The book neither finished nor started as she said – one wonders whether she was rummaging for her sharpener at those points. There were a few other mistakes and, collectively, these were enough to make me dispel her review, especially when coupled with her negative attitude regarding the whole FSOG idea – please do not read it.
The first moment Christian and Ana see each other is crucial and, sure, they made sure Ana fall into his office but the next oh-so-important bit was not there: her comment about the paintings adorning his office walls make him see her in a different light. When she was lying at his feet his mind clicked and he saw ‘submissive’. That moment of sexual attraction was the seal for how he would view her physically, but it is the comment she makes about the paintings that throws him for a loop as he makes a mental connection with her – they are like-minded souls – and it this is the start of his journey into the unknown.
The contract – it does not go over the ‘eyes down/do not speak/refer to him as Sir’ part which she fails so spectacularly at and which he, for the first time in his arrangements, allows (you need to read the books to know how very un-Mr Grey this is) – it is another way in which she is so very different from his other submissives. Finally, we come to Georgia (it’s so important I had to use bold). The most crucial thing about Georgia was her mumbling in her sleep that she will never leave him. This gives him the confidence – nay, the comfort – of going that one step further with her. He’d been slowly easing her into his dark world, in a fun way – he knows that not only is she completely innocent sexually, but she is a lamb completely sheltered from most of the horrors of life – but now, with her assurance that she will not leave, he gives in to his craving and succumbs to her plea to ‘show’ her the worst. Of course, it fails. Spectacularly.
That last scene – Aaagh! He certainly looks devastated, but he makes no effort to speak with her or encourage her to stay, which was very hard to see. The book handles this a lot better because, had I not read the books, I would be appalled at his reaction, at the way he seems to just give up.
Then, there is the lack of a scene as regards her wardrobe – we need that to show us his largesse and her underwhelming acceptance. It encompasses everything about how he is and his lack of appreciation for how she would feel whilst also giving us an insight into how attracted she is to him and how money is very unimportant. They are polar opposite sin almost everything except their attraction for each other.
Talking of which, the little things – the pink champagne, silly names, ‘moot’, etc – they are like little smarties that sweeten their extraordinary relationship. By the way, I like the pencil. Nice touch.
The sex scenes – these were done extremely well, to my mind, considering their premise was to explore a BDSM relationship, which is hilarious at best. Of course, there was the expected giggling and ribald comments, huge snorts of laughter when he sniffs her panties, the oohs and aahs when he strips – but it was all done quite tastefully. As wrong as they are as the characters, the actors performed their parts perfectly. I decry everyone who says the lack of chemistry was noticeable.
My final comment about the translation to film is a big thank you for that one little scene when she comes downstairs, ready for Mia’s homecoming dinner. When he asks, ‘do you have everything you need’ (I may have misquoted here) and it is only the die-hard FSOG fans who know he’s talking about her lack of underwear (which he’d pocketed earlier).
When the film finished on its cliffhanger there was a resounding cry of ‘No!’ which was, in equal parts, gratifying (because we all want HEAs) and annoying – had they not read the books? Sheesh.
Now, having said all that, you may be surprised to learn that I went to see the film again. Guess what? It was much better the second time round because I wasn’t focussed on everything that was wrong. But, had I not read the books, if I didn’t know all the little things that that were missing, I’m not sure I’d have liked it at all. As a note I would like you to know that this was several days after all the horrible reviews, but the cinema was still packed to the gunnels.
Now, with the hype fully exploding on every piece of media available, my 15 ½ year old daughter wants to see it. She is very aware of the sexual world that lives outside her bubble and scoffs at my insistence that she is too young to be exposed to such debauchery, however it led to some interesting conversations.
Fifty Shades Darker: will I go to see it? You bet. I was pleased to hear that the next two films are definitely going to be made! I hope the main characters stay, because, you know: continuity. However, I will not be displeased to see a different Jose, Elliott or Mia (it’s not their acting!) and please, pretty please, can we get a different script writer who understands the importance of the psychology behind his decisions?
Of course, once I’d seen the film (twice!) I went home and reread book two, because I couldn’t leave it with that cliffhanger (I know I know the story, but I needed to confirm it in my own mind). You can bet that Jamie Dornan starred as Mr Grey! ;)
If you don’t know much about Jamie Dornan, have a look at this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqUuTLh6pHk
Now, as pessimistic as I have been about the characters, it occurred to me the other day that the actors we would visualise as best portraying Christian Grey may not want to play the part. Let’s face it, you’d become a sex icon; you’d appear in every woman’s fantasies; you could be typecast; you may not like to nude shots; finally, your life, as you know it, would be contrasted to Christian’s every minute of the day! So, I forgive Alex Pettyfer, if he was asked, for turning it down. Now, after Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey is my next favourite heartthrob screen character.