Earlier this week, as I was taking an evening nap, I woke up suddenly to find myself sitting in the cinema waiting for the 50 Shades of Grey film to start. How do these embarrassing things keep happening to me?!
I’m kidding. I was so impatient to see it that selecting a Pick n Mix in the cinema foyer practically turned into a scene from Supermarket Sweep. Or Gladiators. Women sure do get possessive over those little plastic scoops.
I was genuinely the first to enter Screen 3 (scoop-speed skills!), sporting a cute yet realistic combination of high hopes and low expectations. I’m not going to lie, the 50 Shades of Grey books have become my favourite trilogy since… the beginning of time. And so I was feeling understandably protective of the characters I had grown so fond of.
I would like to point out here that it’s not my favourite series because of all the kinky stuff. Honestly! Is that the reason I initially bought the first book? OK, yes. But it’s their relationship outside of the red room that I became addicted to. The clever wit that’s always being thrown around between them (particularly during their email conversations, don’t miss the email footers!), all the affection that is there from the very beginning, and the way she softens him while he hardens her (stop it.). Plus it’s really starting to grate on me that it’s getting so much abuse. Ironic, yes? But I don’t see Ana as a victim at all. There are people pulling out random quotes from the story, without giving them real context, and causing people who haven’t read it to say ‘Well I’ve heard this and it says that…’. I seriously would not enjoy a book where a woman was victimised. Mind you, unlike her, I would have ran thousands of miles from a guy who wanted me to be the 16th person to sign a sex-contract after seeing his terrifying array of props. She can handle herself and he stands aside to let her do that multiple times, even though it crushes him to see her get hurt in the process.
Anyway, back to the film! The first time I saw Jamie Dornan, the actor who was chosen to play Mr. Christian ‘greyer than a huge draw of grey things’ Grey, my heart sank. He was a guest on The Graham Norton Show and although he was easy on the eyes, he was this awkward, geeky guy who couldn’t even walk smoothly.
I also took note that his fingers weren’t particularly long. So slenderrrrr. (Why is she obsessed with describing his fingers?!). This did not bode well for his role as a sexy, suave control freak. When I was 20-ish, Edward Cullen (Twilight) became the cause of all my unrealistic expectations of love. Now at 26, Christian Grey stands smugly triumphant at the highest point on the fictional podium, in Charlie Tango (his helicopter), on-top of Edward’s crying/glittery face.
Within seconds of Dornan’s first scene my apprehension disappeared. You wouldn’t know he was uncomfortable or unsure of himself at all; the straight face, the stare and the way he leans on his desk instead of sitting behind it… *sighs longingly* well done, Dornan. The dialogue, however, is kind of cringe-y. I understand that it had to be rushed but first introductions are important, damn it. In my head that first scene was a lot more snappy, they were pissing each other off with the interview questions and building tension. Whereas in the film they both seemed to be simply reading from a script; not adding any emotion at all. They were probably directed to act this way but then Ana gets outside and practically has an orgasm, by herself, in the rain. Wayyy too much.
After that initial scene, the acting is much more true to how it played out in my head. Nothing bad or good particularly stood out. I think the major issue is that about 80% of the book isn’t actual dialogue, it’s what’s going on in Ana’s head, and that makes a huge difference to key plot points. When she first sees his sex dungeon (my words not hers) for example, she doesn’t say anything for ages and he has to prompt her to say something. When reading the book you are actually let into what she’s thinking. So you miss a lot in the film.
The same goes for the sex scenes. She obviously doesn’t describe out loud how she’s feeling, so if I hadn’t read the details then I wouldn’t have a clue how much she was enjoying it/not enjoying it. Pleasure and pain noises are interchangeable, and when she’s restrained and blindfolded, you can’t really see her physical reactions either. You need to know what’s going on inside her head! It makes a difference to know she’s actually enjoying it. Plus, alongside a hundred middle-aged women giggling at Dornan’s naked bum, those scenes actually became quite amusing which kind of ruins the mood.
It surprised me that I quite enjoyed some of the changes that were made to the original story. There was a bit more banter (I hate that word) between the characters and Ana was more humorous out-loud, I assume for the benefit of the audience. It was good! In particular I think it ended absolutely beautifully. I won’t ruin it if you haven’t seen it but it was perfectly harmonious to a previous scene, so it felt really satisfying to watch. It also separated the audience into clear-cut groups of those who knew the rest of the story and those who didn’t. I sat proudly amongst the victorious who weren’t left screaming at the screen.
In conclusion, as my title hopefully suggests, it was very close to being what I expected but not quite. When so much of the story happens in unspoken words, you’re missing so much if you watch the film before reading the book. I will definitely watch it again when it comes out, if not only to enjoy it without the childish reactions echoing throughout the room around me, but I’m sure I’ll re-read all three books before then.