Do I go? Do I not go?
Fifty Shades of Grey is playing at 9:00. Will it be filled to the brim with gaggles of women? Should I see it with them in attendance?
Maybe they’ll be drunk and obnoxious. I won’t go.
No, Julius, fight that instinct. Embrace your inner trash hound. If they’re drunk, they’ll provide amusement if its bad.
I decide to go.
Walking down to the theater, I get there 10 minutes before the movie starts. Some women are around, but it is hardly the estrogen-fueled throngs I was expecting. This was more third week in the theater remnants than The Phantom Menace-style camp outs. Maybe they’re already in the theater.
I saunter up to the box office, being manned by a swarthy college student with a short buzz cut. His uniform is mildly wrinkled, but I choose to ignore that for his infectious smile.
“May I help you?”, he asks in a medium flat tone.
Do I do this or not? Come on, Julius, you know you want it. Embrace your inner trash hound. This is trash as cultural phenomenon. You need this as much as E.L. James needs the half a cent from your admission.
I stall. Deep breath. Should I reveal my perverse trash hound to this hot young stud? The box office attendant looks at me intently, burning holes through my clothes as if he was stripping me of my dignity. Maybe he’ll join me if I asked.
He sighs, dejectedly. Apparently this was not the answer he wanted.
I pay and get a ticket in exchange. Now, I have to enter the theater. A teenage black girl is tearing tickets. She will know my inner self too. Judging me for going by myself.
I didn’t mean to go alone, but nobody I knew wanted to see this. They have taste and dignity, two qualities my inner trash hound doesn’t have.
As she tears my ticket, she tears a piece of my soul in two.
“Straight back and to the left.”
Straight? Hah. If she only knew. I’m not here for Anastasia. I’m here for Christian, even though he contractually has it in his contract to not show his todger, his tallywacker, his manthing, his junk, his penis. Any number of things I could call it.
“Thanks,” I mutter.
I wander in to the auditorium, which is strangely silent for what should have been a packed house. Far from it. It was well over half empty. Scattered groups of females dot the landscape, but the back two rows are completely empty. Thank god. I go all the way up and to the back center.
Shortly, a pair of French women, talking excitedly, join. As does a group of high school seniors – 2 girls, 3 boys, one a cute tall piece of basketball-playing jailbait – and a group of 6 women.
The lights go out. Trailers go on.
OK, Julius. You’re in this for the long haul.
The titles start over a generic pop song. We’re introduced to Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) frantically gathering supplies to go on an interview. Strike that. To interview Christian Grey, some rich head of a company. She’s wearing a boring outfit with a flower print that would go for $5 at Dress Barn. Her and her roommate live in a very run down apartment. One would think she’s poor. But, we later find out she comes from a solidly middle class upbringing, despite her run down VW bug.
Holy cow! That’s the movie we’re in.
With a quick cut to Seattle traffic (it’s actually quite clear compared to normal), Anastasia makes it to Grey House in Seattle, which is a 3 or 4-hour drive away from Portland, to interview Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). In his office, she trips as an introduction. She forgot her pencil. He gives one to her. She holds it against her lips in closeup. The pencil has Grey Industries on it. It’s a symbol for his penis, despite the fact that she never gives a blowjob (forced or otherwise) during the whole movie.
He turns the tables and asks her if she’s a romantic. “Who got you into English lit? Bronte, Austen, or Thomas Hardy?” “Hardy. Tess of the D’ubervilles.” Ugh. This girl should fail English lit, because Thomas Hardy is one of the most cynical romance writers in history. The Return of the Native is all about a guy who comes back to town, only to pine after a girl who plays games and marries somebody else to make him jealous, and it becomes a super twisted novel of emotional game playing before they both end up dead.
These two characters are boring. Maybe they’ll die.
These are two of the most boring people ever. Anastasia mousy and playing up her insecure mousiness. She looks like Fern Mayo (Judy Greer) from Jawbreaker before the makeover. As Anastasia “grows” through the film, gaining her sense of womanhood through emotional game playing with Christian, her clothing gets more daring and her hair gets more bouncy. Apparently womanhood comes with conditioner. But, Johnson emotes well enough. It’s her movie. But, that doesn’t make her character any more boring.
Christian, on the other hand, is just a dude. He’s not the usual generically handsome stud, but he’s so average that he might as well be. He stares at people a lot. Blankly. Not like staring into her soul, but just staring. Like he’s wondering what she’s thinking. Since this originated from Twilight fan fiction, Christian is a boring, empty vessel of selfish desire, a damaged soul just waiting to be fixed by a good-hearted woman. As played by Dornan, he’s just boring. Dornan is so lifeless, he can’t make “I don’t make love. I fuck…hard.” into a sexy dominating statement of passion. It’s delivered so lifelessly, he might as well have said “I like pancakes. With…syrup.”
Holy cow, am I bored.
After Christian rescues a very drunk Anastasia from being sexually assaulted by her friend, he sleeps with her. In bed. Just sleep. No sex. Zzzzzzzzzz. I wish I was sleeping.
Somewhere around the 40 minute mark, Fifty Shades finally gives us its first sex scene. And, holy cow! I am bored. So is the audience. I can’t tell if anybody is actually getting excited, but none of the couples snuggle into each other for it. If you thought Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson had no screen chemistry, you haven’t seen Johnson and Dornan, a couple who are edited for maximum sensuality but still manage to look like robots going through the motions instead of two people who are expressing their repressed burning desire for each other.
There are about 5 sex scenes in the entire movie, and only one of them is worth a damn. The rest are boring and robotic. The kink is kept light, with the final punishment caning even looking dull. After the caning, director Sam Taylor-Johnson obscures Anastasia’s supposedly-injured behind. This mirrors how Fifty Shades obscures any attempts at characterization. Christian has a secret past beyond becoming a submissive for six years as a teenager. He tells it to Anastasia while she’s sleeping sometime around the end of the second act. She never hears him because she’s fucking sleeping, and goes through the final act continuing to ask why he won’t let her in. Meanwhile, she won’t sign the D/s contract he wants her to sign, leaving him to constantly pester her about the contract for 90 minutes of the movie.
Ugh, I’m so bored. Not even the amazing cinematography can entertain me because all but the unlit meeting room – they do the negotiations in a room lit only by a glowing orange wall – and the Red Room of PainTM are filled with shades of grey. Boring fucking grey. Holy cow, do I hate how grey this is. It’s so lifeless and dull.
The audience is restless. I’m not in the minority. This is no Body of Evidence. This isn’t even 9 1/2 Weeks. This is just…boring. Everybody seems to recognize this. It just drags on and on. Sign the contract. Don’t sign the contract. Play the piano in a pair of sweatpants. Just…no.
There isn’t even a lurid “OMG, he’s a stalker and abusive boyfriend” aspect because she goes to see her mom and her dad. She is allowed freedom for now. She dedicates herself to him as much as he dedicates himself to her. And, they negotiate the terms of their agreement. The Boy Next Door has far more lurid storytelling and is far more engaging because of it. Sure, The Boy Next Door is sex negative while Fifty Shades is sex positive, but at least Boy was never this boring.
I walk out of the theater. Ready to fall asleep. I don’t even look back to see if the ticket boy is still there. There are going to be two more movies of this. I cry a little inside. Yellow.