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Published February 23rd 2015
Stop it I like it
This had never happened. I had just bought a ticket to see a movie on my own. Would I have a choc top too? No. Plain vanilla is more my thing. All I would need was my notebook and pen, and yes, I was wearing my trench coat because this particular film had been touted as female pornography and worse – a combination of sex and violence that has upset former politicians, incited female activists and disturbed those campaigning against family violence. What was I doing here?
In truth, I read the early negative reviews, the bad press and the scathing cry to keep your daughters away, and I resisted seeing Fifty Shades of Grey, almost. It had only been on my to-do list because two summers earlier I read E.L. James' book on long hot nights waiting for the house to cool down, (bad plan, girls). The book I had read and the movie many were describing sounded like completely different entities. I conceded the criticism of shallow characters and a plot line with half a heart beat. That was the book all over. But last night a prominent past politician announced on national television that "Fifty Shades of Grey has not done us any favours." I wondered how many people had jumped in line to sling mud without actually knowing what they were talking about. I decided not to be one of those people.
Copyright Universal Pictures
When you start with a rust bucket you can't turn it into a Rolls Royce, surely, but saying that Fifty Shades of Grey is demeaning or disempowering for women is like saying vampire movies diminish programs to stamp out the AIDS virus because, like one popular vampire trilogy, Fifty Shades is fantasy. Take a good look. Anastasia, gorgeous, innocent and beautifully played by Dakota Johnson is inadvertently before the gaze of Christian Grey, (Jamie Dornan), millionaire bachelor mystery man. They are equally intrigued by each other. Baring in mind that this is a chick flick, Grey has good looks, direct communication, thorough honesty and some childhood secrets that cry out for mothering. Oh yes, he has a penthouse, a stable of luxury cars, he flies a helicopter (the yacht comes later) and he has millions and squillions of US Dollars. When it comes to fantasy, I probably had most of you at communication, (let me have that one, boys).
Compared to the book, there is the teeniest bit of raunchy bondage here, the script demands it, but it is treated with a Hollywood apology – bare, sensual and thankfully brief. It is all, quite importantly, a very Mr Grey issue and Anastasia is given informed choice, assurances of personal safety and an "out" whenever it is requested. Resoundingly, and without including any plot spoilers, no means no in this film and Mr Grey accepts this respectfully. Where is the problem? The greatest danger remains the assumption people will make about the movie without seeing it.
Moralistic America has seen the box office slow down for Fifty Shades, but elsewhere ticket sales were strong.
I have seen Fifty Shades of Grey and my feminist soapbox remains sturdy. Far from normalising violence towards women, the film opens a conversation about healthy relationships. If you liked the book, you'll like the movie much more. If you hated yourself because you couldn't put the book down, the movie is your salvation. Expertly crafted with beautiful cinematography, fine acting (Dakota is brilliant), a poignant script from a clumsy novel (rust bucket to Rolls Royce, remember) and enough light and shade to retain intrigue for a committed audience. Not quite fifty shades of grey, but hardly a story of black and white. The sequels in this trilogy are coming, so as Mr Grey himself likes to mock, "Laters Baby."