One of my 101 Things in 1001 Days was to try and do an honest review of the 50 Shades of Grey movie. As described in great detail in previous posts, this book series set me on the path to my discovery as a submissive. I certainly won’t say it was my entire education, but it did start Sir and I on our journey. I never would have had the motivation to talk to Sir about my desires and I’m not sure he ever would have opened up to me about his sadism and willingness to try a TPE relationship without this series as a jumping off point.
However, the movie is not the book. I think anyone walking into a theatre or pressing play on their DVD expecting to see the novel in action would have been setting themselves up for disappointment. But Sir and I talked about this as a problem in general with modern book-to-movie films. Over the last decade a number of highly popular novels and series have been given big screen adaptations. And I think, feel free to disagree with me, that people have been largely disappointed with various aspects of the Twilight Series, Harry Potter Series, and World War Z screenplays. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I blame Lord of the Rings. This series showed that you could go into detail and not take a hacksaw to a book to turn it into a profitable film. Fans of the books, as well as those who had never picked up J.R.R. Tolkien would sit through a three hour plus movie to get the full experience of the text. There was enough time to give every character their full growth and the story didn’t suffer. Even those who complained about the seventeen endings in Return of the King sat through it and cried like a baby with Merry, Pippin, and Samwise. The conversion from book to film didn’t have to include truncated characters and rushed pacing.
Sadly, however, every film does not have the budget or skill of Peter Jackson. And a movie about a sexual relationship between two people doesn’t exactly command a three hour presence like the battle for middle-earth. That being said, I think that the director (Sam Taylor-Johnson) made some wise choices. Removing the inner-monologue from Anastasia’s character put a lot more pressure on Dakota Johnson to really bring out her internal struggle, but she rises to the challenge. They also chose to remove the constant eating/food control issue from Christian’s concerns. I think it helps to make him more likable to those who saw him as an overbearing jerk.
Overall, they really tried to tone down the stalkerishness of Mr. Grey in this adaptation, which I liked. They kept little touches of him buying the car, upgrading her plane ticket to Georgia, and tracking her phone to the bar. But they smoothed over his appearance at her apartment and job, completely skipped the OBGYN appointment with one line, and dropped the exercise negotiation entirely. Christian’s past is also revealed in this first installment, which creates a character more open and honest than the novel’s. Making him more relatable works as they have such a limited time to convey their story.
They also removed several characters and plot-lines that work for this film, but create several issues with the series going forward. Eliminating Ana’s job interview and all reference to Seattle Independent Publishing helps move the story along, but will make things difficult as it is vital to the second and third installments. They also cut out Grey’s housekeeper. She’s not vital now, and I guess she could be removed completely, but she does provide a female presence to counterpoint Mrs. Robinson for Ana in the subsequent books.
Overall, I found the movie entertaining. I tried to go into it with the hopes of being entertained, rather than picking apart what was changed. In that respect, I was pleasantly surprised. I will say that the pacing was an issue for me. They reordered several scenes that makes the middle of film seem disjointed. And I will say, I was a little disappointed that they cut the scene where Kate calls Christian and yells at him for making Ana cry. I found that to be a very pivotal scene in the book as it shows how Ana was hiding her feelings from him and how he did understand. They did do a good job, I believe, in showing that this relationship’s failure was the fault of both people. I know when Sir read the book, he blamed Christian completely. And I was sitting there yelling about how she didn’t safeword and she had been hiding her feelings from him. As a person who used to do this a lot, I know how that can eat at you. If she had been honest with him, it could have changed the outcome.
I like how the film portrayed how it takes a lot of compromise and honesty to make a relationship work, with or without a BDSM component. The humor that occurs as two people come together was a nice reality as well. Sex is funny. If you make it too dramatic and too serious, it’s just not fun to watch.
I’m not here to break down how the general public perceived BDSM. This movie was about a relationship and two people who couldn’t compromise what they wanted from it. The D/s aspects of this movie were tasteful, but they were not actually that important. I know that those scenes were what a lot of people focused on, but Christian revealing his abuse to her while she slept and Ana crying on the phone to her mom said so much more about their relationship than a riding crop.
My take away was that considering it’s budget and constraints by the author, I thought it was a good adaptation. I wish the director and actors had had a little more freedom to interpret. I don’t have huge complaints about the actors, thought Jamie Dornan needs to work on his accent as it clearly came through at various points. I will be curious to see if the rest of the series stays in the same direction as the directors will be different. We’ll see if the actors can keep the fluidity of the performance as the budget increases, but the screenwriter changes. The fans have put a lot of pressure on this trilogy to succeed, the first installment was acceptable, but bar will continue to rise.