Yes, the movie was better than the book. Of course, if youâ€™ve read the book, then you know thatâ€™s not saying much. The bar was pretty low to begin with. And one would hope that with a 40 mil production budget and a feminist director, that bar would inevitably be raised pretty high. Of course, as itâ€™s been widely reported, the author E.L. James did everything she could to keep that bar right where it was, for the sake of her die-hard fans. So the movie was an improvement, but not a miracle.his
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 26%. Ouch. We guess thatâ€™s understandable if you’re judging it as a stand-alone movie. But we would argue that you canâ€™t take it out of its context as Twilight fan-fiction turned historically successful â€” and historically acceptable â€” “mommy porn.â€ť If you judge the movie by comparing it to its literary (and we use that term loosely) origin, then itâ€™s smarter, funnier, and more believable. Itâ€™s also shot beautifully and delivers in the sexy department (though the book will still surely be better wank material for most women).
Before the movie came out, we had a list of ten ways we hoped the movie would improve upon the book. Letâ€™s see how it faired below. Then weâ€™ll cover our pleasant surprises and less expected disappointments.
1.Â No cable ties:Â FAIL
In the first book, when Christian visits Ana at theÂ hardware store and picks up some DIY bondage supplies, itâ€™s implied â€” intentionally or not â€” that heâ€™s hoping to use cable ties asÂ wrist restraintsÂ on his next guest in his Red Room of Pain. Big mistake. HUGE! If used in such a way, cable ties could cause cuts, poor circulation, and a little thing called nerve damage. The only thing they should be used for inÂ BDSM playÂ is organizing all the cords of your various plug-in vibrators. The movie doubles down on the idea of cable ties by having Christian actually explain they are items, in addition to rope and cuffs, that he could use to restrain her. Bush league!
2. Â No explosive orgasms from Ben Wa balls: SUCCESS
In the book, Christian pops them in, spanks away and then itâ€™s Orgasm City. Very unrealistic, at least for the majority of women. They donâ€™t even make a cameo in the movie, which weâ€™re sure disappointed fans (there was no tampon removal either â€” damn, MPAA!). But at least by omitting the balls, the movie did away with another ridiculous sexual expectation most women canâ€™t meet.
3. Give Ana some sexual experience: FAIL
Just a smidge? Nope, not in the book or the movie. Weâ€™re supposed to believe an adult woman whoâ€™s not a member of the FLDS can graduate college with absolutely no sexual interest, noÂ experience with men, and no attempts at masturbation ever? It perpetuates the myth that women arenâ€™t sexual creatures until the right man comes along. Please. Sheâ€™s the virgin and heâ€™s the stud, and they save each other â€” gross.Â And even if we were to believe that such a mythical woman could actually exist, it would be totally irresponsible â€” reprehensible even â€” toÂ dunk her over her head into the world of BDSMÂ (even with a single introductory vanilla cherry poppingâ€™ sesh). At least in the movie, Christian seems as surprised to hear about her sexual status as we were.
4. Full disclosure on theÂ slave contracts: SEMI-FAIL
Christian doesnâ€™tÂ ever clearly articulate to Ana that slave contracts are not actually legally binding â€” you know, thanks to Abraham Lincoln and that whole abolitionist movement. Hereâ€™s a kid, for all intents and purposes, who is not what you would call worldly or business savvy or lawyered up. Not cool for a romantic interest whoâ€™s supposedly falling in love. But we will say this: if this is one of those suspension-of-disbelief things Hollywood requires for the fantasy, then at least they didnâ€™t push it too hard in the movie. And major points scored for making the contract negotiation scene a meeting of the minds, in a boardroom, head to head, with witty repartee and humor and Ana ultimately holding all the control (rather than Christian wining and dining and pressuring her to just sign the damn thing, as it goes down in the book).
5. Easy on the controlling, abusive, stalker-ish behavior: SEMI-SUCCESS
In the book, Christian spies on her and tries to control who she can see, where she works, what she eats, how she works out â€” and she isÂ notÂ down with it. Sheâ€™s afraid heâ€™s going to hurt her; he causes her physical and emotional pain she doesnâ€™t want â€” thatâ€™s not a D/s relationship, thatâ€™s abuse. And whereâ€™s the aftercare? The movie does make him less of a criminal. It eases way off on him obsessing over her food intake and workout routine, which helps make him much less creepy. Â Meanwhile, Ana seems to have a much stronger sense of herself, a greater ability to assert her desires, and a better sense of humor. She basically tells him to cut the shit and open the door when heâ€™s hesitating outside his playroom. However, he still breaks into her apartment and she never says, â€śHow the fuck did you get in here?!?â€ť
6. More well-adjusted kinky characters: N/A
We thought it would be nice if the movie could add a character or two whoâ€™s into kink who isnâ€™t royally fucked up. In the book, itâ€™s Christian the controlling abusive boyfriend, his crazy gun-wielding ex sub, and his statutory rapist from when he was a kid. Not exactly the best advertisement for the kink community, the majority of whom are uber-responsible, law-abiding, stable citizens. The first movie in the series focuses solely on Christian, with his ex-dom, “Mrs. Robinson,â€ť just a mysterious off-screen character.
7. Drop Anaâ€™s issues with eating:Â SUCCESS
With Ana forgetting to eat all the time, not being hungry and being forced to eat by Christian,Â itâ€™s like sheâ€™s got an eating disorder. Maybe EL James was just playing around with a womanâ€™s ultimate fantasy of never being hungry, but itâ€™s a distracting issue â€” let the girl have a healthy appetite. Fortunately, in the movie, she enjoys making â€” and actually eats â€” food.
8. HaveÂ Ana enjoy the kink more: SEMI-SUCCESS
She can be conflicted about it, sure, but she should ultimately love it, embrace it and not be so afraid of it. In the movie, weâ€™re spared Anaâ€™s original wishy-washiness: visually, she seems to be thoroughly enjoying every kinky sexual experience, at least up until the walloping climax. A truly novel ending would have had Ana, through tears of pain, grinning in ecstasy, in spite of herself.
9.Â Make the sole minority character less date rape-y: Â SUCCESS
Jose, basically the one minority in the book, is on a clear path to sexual assault as he tries to take advantage of Ana when sheâ€™s super drunk outside the bar. In the book, he tries to kiss her even though she keeps saying no and trying to push him away. He continues to hold her in a bear hug and is about to commit a crime before Grey breaks it up. Criminal tendencies arenâ€™t a great quality in a â€śreally good friend.â€ť Fortunately, in the movie, they softened this scene by making it clear Jose and Ana are both drunk and by having Jose basically go in for a single kiss thatâ€™s more â€śIâ€™ve been in love with you for a long time and am so pathetic I can only admit it when weâ€™re both wastedâ€ť rather than â€śIâ€™ve wanted to fuck you for a long time and now Iâ€™m going to take advantage of your inebriation to get what I want.”
10. No Ana narration: SUCCESS
Thank the Inner Goddess, the movie dispenses with Anaâ€™s insipid internal dialogue.Â There are no voiceoversÂ about the â€śghost of a smileâ€ť on Christianâ€™s face or her rather communicative Subconscious. Thereâ€™s just a single, quiet, understated â€śHoly cowâ€ť uttered after she leaves his office â€” itâ€™s manageable, just barely.
THE PLEASANT SURPRISES
1. Ana has pubic hair!Â
We were pleasantly surprised to see some real bush (or even just merkin) in the movie â€” in ANY movie. In an interview, the director Sam Taylor-Johnson says Anaâ€™s pubic hair goes on a journey with Ana throughout the movie; if that means Ana doesnâ€™t have any pubes by the end â€” implying Greyâ€™s insistence in the book on down-there-hairlessness â€” we didnâ€™t notice.
2. No â€ścrackwhore.”
Fortunately Christian doesnâ€™t call his mother a crackwhore â€” instead, he refers to her as a crack addict and a prostitute. A small but still significant victory.
3. More funny jokes. Â
There were some nice, unexpected moments when the movie had the audience laughing intentionally.
4. Dakota Johnson wasnâ€™t half bad.
We were braced for a cringe-inducing performance (akin to that of Drew Barrymore in â€śMad Loveâ€ť), but Johnson (aided by Taylor-Johnsonâ€™s attempt at giving Ana more control and agency) actually made Ana bearable, likable even.
1. Too many terrible lines from the book.Â
With all the control given to the author over the movie, we knew a lot of the worst writing would have to be included, but we still hoped for heavier editing. There were quite a few times when the cheesiest lines from the book elicited loud laughs from the movie-going audience. Â And when Dornan has to say â€śIâ€™m fifty shades of fucked up,â€ť he turns away from the camera and lowers his head â€” we have a feeling the shame he was emoting was NOT acting.
2. Wet-noodle flogging scene.Â
The scene with the rope and the flogger in the Red Room of Pain was pretty mild, and didnâ€™t do much to convey how pleasure and pain can mix erotically.
3. Jamie Dornan was pretty flat.Â
After his great performance in the BBC series â€śThe Fall,â€ť in which he plays a serial killer, we had high hopes for what he could do with Christian. But sadly, heâ€™s more charismatic, sexier, more soulful even as a soulless murderer.
4. Not enough male nudity.Â
Hello? Women are the ones going to this movie. We want to admire Christian Greyâ€™s body! While we appreciate the realism and subtlety with which Dakota Johnsonâ€™s nude form was shot, we really would have appreciated a heavier female gaze when it came to Dornan’s bod. Weâ€™re not even asking for full frontal. How about a quick side shot? Hey, if Ben Affleck can do it…
5. That hairpie!Â
Oh, how can you make Jamie Dornan not hot? Somehow, the stylists managed to give him a hairdo that conveyed more â€śdorkâ€ť than â€śdreamboat.â€ť And the occasional mussiness resulting from t-shirt removal was not enough to fix it.
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