Dear readers, I haven’t quite told you the whole story of the movie marathon my girlfriend and I had back in December. See, it’s true that we agreed to sit down and watch all five Twilight films at once, but the initial plan was to drink our way through them so that by the end we would be reduced to sad, broken, pathetic shells of our former selves. We were going to film it, and it was going to go up on Low Five’s website as a YouTube series rather than these articles.
Of course, no erosion of the human spirit could possibly be complete without a viewing of Fifty Shades of Grey.
“It started off as Twilight fanfiction,” we reasoned, “And it’s supposed to be pretty bad. We’re kind of obligated to include it. It’ll be funny.”
Oh past Scott, you sweet summer child.
Before we get into this review proper, let’s make one thing abundantly clear: Fifty Shades of Grey is, by a fair margin, the worst film I have ever seen. It is an active assault on the senses. It offends me as a viewer, it offends me as a man in love, and it offends me as someone who from time to time enjoys the odd spanking. It aggressively upsets me as a writer. I tutor fourth graders who have written more compelling fiction than E.L. James.
Alright, let’s do this.
The Twilight Saga, Part 6: Fifty Shades of Grey
That joke was absolutely not worth the effort. I’m so glad I did it anyway.
We open on Anastasia “Ana” Steele, a woman whose name is so absurd it could only come out of porn or fanfiction. Thankfully, this is both. Ana is an English major from Seattle who’s helping out her roommate by interviewing business mogul Christian Grey for the student paper. This is already ridiculous because as an English major myself I sometimes have a hard time getting attention from my own father, so how the hell did she score an interview with a 27 year old billionaire?
From the opening few minutes of the movie a number of things become clear: First and foremost, E.L. James has absolutely no idea what Christian does for a living. He has a building with a name on it and a bunch of modern grey-on-chrome office furniture (You see, it’s a metaphor) but nobody is seen actually, y’know, doing anything. Nobody is on the phone talking with clients, nobody is seen speaking to investors, at no point does anyone even use the word “business.” Grey’s personal office is enormous, but it has a desk, a computer, and a bunch of chairs. There’s absolutely no indication of what this company does.
Secondly, Grey only hires tall, blonde, white women. Seriously, his office looks like an issue of Vogue.
So Ana walks into Christian’s office and immediately trips over her own ass. I’m not kidding, she trips and falls because she caught her feet on nothing. This is one of those details that appears in fanfiction a lot because it looks okay in our heads, but doesn’t appear a lot (ever) in film because it looks wrong. Even as a naturally klutzy person I can confidently say that I’ve never tripped and fallen without some kind of extenuating circumstance: There was a cat in the way, I was holding something that was obscuring my vision, whatever. Ana trips on nothing.
And, effectively, lands mouth-first on Christian Grey. That’s not actually what happens, but if I stop to criticize every single stupid thing in this movie we’ll be here well into next week. The interview goes well, with the exception of the fact that during it Christian waves off a nonspecific meeting, proving that he’s exceptionally good at running a business.
Ana works at Home Depot and Christian shows up unexpectedly. Before you ask, no, she didn’t tell him where she worked. He buys rope, chain, tape, and Subtlety for Dummies before asking Ana if she’d like to go for coffee, to which she agrees. In true Cullen fashion, our hero Not-Edward leaves the coffee date in a huff saying that he and Ana are wrong for each other despite the fact that the coffee date was his idea in the first place. After this, he sends her some books. Y’know, because that’s a fantastic way to get someone to stop thinking about you.
Ana graduates and drunk-dials Christian, who gets upset that she’s drinking and comes to get her because feminine bodily agency does not exist and anybody who told you it does is a filthy liar. On the plus side, it turns out she was so drunk that she needed babysitting after all, so I suppose that’s Me: 0, Creepy Stalker: 1. Christian dumps Ana in a hotel to sleep it off and then decides, “Fuck it,” and crawls into bed with her to get some shuteye himself.
Ana wakes up to find herself more or less naked and learns that Christian stripped her and slept in her bed but they didn’t bang. I can only assume that because the economy’s in the shitter Christian didn’t want to spring for two adjacent hotel rooms like a sensible billionaire might. Around now (and despite my constant yelling at the screen) Ana and Christian start dating.
One night at dinner Christian makes Ana sign a non-disclosure agreement in order for them to continue dating. He also presents her with a second document (“The Contract™”) outlining all of the kinky things that he wants to do to her. Ana doesn’t sign it. Let me repeat that again, because it’s going to be important: Ana does not sign The Contract™. She says something about how she’s intrigued, but that’s it.
Despite this, Christian says he’s going to show her his “playroom,” which is behind a door locked with an old-timey key. Ana asks, “What, like your Xbox?” suggesting that not only has the woman never had sex, but that she’s never actually heard of sex. Yes, Ana, he brought you to his apartment in formal dress and then showed you a sex contract so that you guys could spend the night going hard on a game of Fusion Frenzy. Jesus.
To the shock of Ana and nobody else, the room is stocked with various BDSM stuff—floggers, canes, riding crops, mood lighting. It’s elaborate, but anybody with a drawer at home with a lock on it probably has a fairly similar selection. Then they bail on all the interesting kinky stuff and go have sex in a different room. At this point we as an audience learn that the sex scenes were not worth the price of admission.
Oh, also Ana lives at Christian’s house now because he has a room for her. I don’t mean “He has an extra room,” I mean he literally has a room reserved for any woman who agrees to have kinky sex with him, because his expectation is that she’ll live there and be at his beck and call. It disappoints me to say that this is one of the least upsetting parts of this arrangement. Ana continues to not sign The Contract™.
At this point, the best and most terrifying scene of the movie happens. Ana owns a beat up but technically vintage car, which she claims, jokingly, is the start of her vintage car collection. One day Christian and Ana are leaving Ana’s apartment and, lo and behold, Ana’s car is missing. Christian is like, “No it’s not,” and suddenly a fancy new car squeals around the corner and stops in front of them. You guys, he sold her car without telling her. Just…up and sold it. It’s gone. Instead she gets the new car, which is a big fancy fuckin’ sports car that probably gets terrible gas mileage and will cost a zillion dollars to repair. Without her consent! Best part? He doesn’t even pay her for the car. He keeps the money from the sale. Ana is slightly perturbed but decides to roll with what I can only describe as a masterclass in being a giant douche.
Okay, so remember when I said it was important to remember that Ana never agreed to anything weird? Here we go. So Ana and Christian are having dinner with Christian’s parents when Ana mentions offhand that she’s going to visit some family in Georgia. Christian flips his shit because he wasn’t informed, to which Ana, rightly, says that she doesn’t have to tell him everything. They fight about how Christian’s robbing her of her freedom of choice and Christian says something about how that was what she agreed to—which she didn’t. See? See the problem?
Listen, I have nothing against anybody who willingly and informedly consents to this kind of lifestyle. If you want to do the BDSM thing and that includes having another human being make important life decisions on your behalf then go for it. The difference here, aside from the fact that Christian is a crazy person, is that those relationships are okay by virtue of consent. There’s a loud and enthusiastic “Yes!” at the beginning, something that Ana never does. In fact, this entire movie is basically one long, drawn out, “Weeeeell…I’m not so sure.”
Ana flies to Georgia and Christian is there, which is terrifying because now he can teleport. He says he wants to make it up to her and takes her on a ride in a glider, which works out because Ana’s affections can be bought, bless her heart. Then Christian inexplicably leaves. I’m not kidding, it’s like, “Thanks for the glider ride, I’ve got stuff to do in Seattle. Laters, baby.”
There’s some more fuckin’.
Before Ana agrees to sign The Contract™, she decides that she wants to understand Christian, so she asks him to demonstrate what the worst thing he could do to her is. Christian takes her to the playroom and whips her six times on the ass with a belt, at which point she bursts into tears, calls him a monster, breaks up with him, and leaves. Roll credits.
Now, I’m gonna level with you guys, I’ve been whipped with a belt before and honestly? Not that bad. It kinda stings, but if you’ve ever been slapped it’s not a whole lot worse than that. If you’re not into pain it’s not a good feeling, but speaking as someone who’s also been punched in the face, it’s pretty low on my scale of “What’s The Worst You Can Do To Me?” On the other hand, this proves that a life of sexual masochism probably isn’t right for Ana, so in the end I think it worked out well for both characters. If that was the end of the story I could at least say that it ended on a relative high note, but of course there’s two more movies of this bullshit so we’re not even halfway done with this story.
In fact, the sequel comes out pretty soon. Maybe I’ll have something to say about it in a few weeks?
I certainly hope not.