Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Valentine's Post: My Fifty Single Experience


Stars:  Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson

Let me preface this review by saying that I struggled about whether to see this movie. Of course, if I didn't see this movie, I would never be able to write my review. I had other reasons that I wanted to see it -- I won't deny. 

The book was given to me some time ago, which I read.  About the only thing it did is incite me to write Conflicting Hearts, my own book about being fifty shades of screwed up due to my childhood experiences. In spite of the juvenile writing style of E. L. James and rather erotic porno content, the book contained one iconic statement that has stayed with me since I closed the cover. Spoken by Christian Grey: "I don't know any other way, Anastasia. This is who I am."  Rather than bore you with my tendencies, I will continue.

The theater on a Saturday afternoon was surprisingly filled with one-quarter men and three-quarters women. About half of the female population were giggling young ladies in the rows behind me.  As I sat in the seat, I figured what I was about to watch couldn't be any worse than the carnage of the last movie still brewing in my brain from the evening before.

So let's break the storyline down for the mentally healthy:
  • Christian Grey is a manipulative control freak, stalker, and possesses "singular" sexual desires.

  • Anastasia Steele is a virgin, gone bonkers over the rich and hot Mr. Grey who shows an interest in her and showers her with attention and gifts.

  • He introduces her to his kinky playroom and then takes her virginity. She doesn't seem to mind losing her virginity, but is a bit shocked over the red room of pain and the fact he's a sadist.

  • Afterward, he pulls out the contract. Will she or won't she become his submissive so that he can dominate her in all things -- dress, eating, lifestyle, and most of all sex.

  • The man is damaged.

  • The woman is naive.

  • A decision must be made by Anastasia whether to agree to his kink or leave.

Psychologists, churches, feminists and quite a few family value human beings have warned the population not to watch the movie. The message is evil.  Men are not supposed to manipulate and abuse women. It creates a false idea for the youth of today of what constitutes a normal relationship. There is nothing romantic about how Christian Grey treats Anastasia. It's abuse -- plain and simple, even if it is consensual. (What is she thinking?)

Photo Credits: Chuck Zlotnick/Universal Studios
On the other side of the camp, are the swooning ladies sucked into a fairytale of riches, a hot guy, and being taken care of for the rest of their life, even if it means a bit of pain to gain.  Why did E. L. James hit the jackpot on such a controversial subject as BDSM? It's hard to say, except that she created characters that are both different and a tad intriguing. Then again, it might just be that elusive fairy of success who indiscriminately flies above authors and touches one here and there with her magic wand of worldwide success.  Sadly, she's been avoiding me.

As I watched the movie, knowing the story, I wondered how others who had never read the book would perceive the tale. Since I had prior knowledge of events, dialogue, characters, and the scenes, it took on a different life of its own while being acted out rather than imagined in my mind.  Is it a great movie? No. But I will admit I found it surprisingly -- heaven forgive me -- better than I expected -- minus whether I agree with the premise of the story or not. The movie isn't all about sex -- it focuses on the characters and the struggle in their budding relationship.

Here are the points:
  1. Dakota Johnson is a sweetheart. I really liked her being cast as Anastasia. She embodied all of the innocence, naivety, and conflicted heart that Anna deals with regarding Christian. Her lines brought a bit of humor to the story, making it lighthearted in spots. She's spunky, and frankly manipulates Christian in her own way to lead him on.

  2. It took me a while to get used to Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. After seeing the movie a second time, I liked him a little better than the first viewing. There were scenes where he fit Christian well, and others where he felt totally out of place and uncomfortable in the role. I didn't feel like he embraced the character to his fullest capacity.

  3. The sex scenes were R-rated. I've actually seen more graphic use of flesh and copulation in other movies. Of course, the main difference in most of these sex scenes, is that someone is tied up and helplessly exposed to the dominate male. The red room activities were very docile, with little discomfort. He treats her tenderly, for the most part, with a quick slap here and there. The difference between a drunk beating his wife in anger and Christian giving Anastasia pleasure, is clear as day.  Being tied up turns her on. You'll see a lot of Dakota's body, but very little of Dornan's. He refused to show his front parts, but his rear is exposed.

  4. The ending exposed more than Anna's rear to Christian's belt. Dakota did a great job bearing the shock and pain of how bad it could get if she signed the contract. Jamie's portrayal of the scene fell flat, as far as I was concerned, and even flatter as he struggled over Anna's insistence that he never touch her again. Each of the six wallops with the belt, he looked like his facing was screaming, "I don't want to do this - I'd never treat a woman this way," rather than a dominant male enjoying the moment. I don't know what it was about Dornan, but he just didn't bring Christian across on the screen as I had hoped. 
You may be asking me what is inherently wrong with me for thinking anything good resides in this story and movie?  I'm fascinated by flawed characters.  It's the humanness that authors often tinker with in those we create on the written page.  It's what makes them human with all of their pain, flaws, sins, and mistakes that mirror back to us our own brokenness at times. Of course, the story also implies that Anna is the cure-all for what ails Christian, and it's her love alone that brings about his redemption. Psychologists say there's not a chance in hell - he's damaged for life so don't believe that could actually be possible. The man is doomed, as well as Anastasia. Yes, it's a dysfunctional union.

A lot of controversy swirls around the story and its message and that will continue.  Whether the story is right or wrong is a decision I'll let you make, while leaving my deeper sentiments privately tucked away. So why did I give it three kernels? Definitely for Dakota, and the fact that I didn't have to sit for two hours and watch the human race brutally murdered on screen by Colin Firth inside a church sanctuary. Which is worse? A little slap with the palm of a hand and crop on the slim butt of Anastasia, or the rampant disregard of human life where we find such stimulating entertainment on screen. Both are equally abusive, in my opinion.

And coming soon to Starz is Jamie giving Claire a beating with his belt in Outlander, which readers and lovers of the tale shrug it off by saying, "But that's just the way it was back then. She deserved it for putting everyone at risk." Hum...

Laters baby.

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