WELL, THAT HAPPENED: 50 Shades of Grey: The drunken review

By on February 17, 2015
Image composite by Andrew Munz

Image composite by Andrew Munz

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – After two Moscow mules and an entire bottle of red wine (not sorry), I suddenly was overcome with a whimsical desire to saunter over to Twin Cinema this weekend to see 50 Shades of Grey. I never read E.L. James’s novels and didn’t know anything about the plot, other than the fact that it involved a young woman named Anastasia Steele getting spanked and lashed by a billionaire named Christian Grey, who may or may not have been shady.

If you’ve stumbled upon this review, you likely already know what’s coming. Tales of lewd sexual acts and poor writing have drifted from the mouths of abashed readers and into our virginal ears. These accounts either made you cringe and comment on the downfall of humanity, or inspired you to do a little creative Internet searching. Regardless, 50 Shades of Grey has inserted itself into our lives, with or without written consent.

Upon stumbling into the theater, I realized that I appeared to be the only solo male viewer in the audience. Everyone else was either with their significant other or part of a gaggle of giggling girlfriends clutching Nalgene bottles filled with wine. I found a seat against the wall and tried to make myself look as uninterested as possible while the theater lights were still lit.

Luckily, the alcohol I had consumed did its job, and I sat in an unresponsive languid state well after the lights dimmed and the trailers commenced.

I spent most of the film tapping out notes on my iPhone, spelling out various annoyances and observations inspired by the crap I was seeing on screen. To get to the point of this review, 50 Shades of Grey is the most unromantic, non-arousing, vapid, frustratingly inconsistent soft-core porn film I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen Showgirls. Yes, one could blame my criticism on the fact that I was intoxicated and had a predisposition to hate the film before I purchased my ticket, but I’m pretty sure I was no different than anyone else in the theater. My only concern was if I was drunk enough.

Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is the film’s heroine, though there is nothing really heroic about her. She’s a student. She works in a hardware store. And she sports ponytails and floral prints. If I had to describe her character using three words, they’d be: uncertain, uninteresting, and Mennonite.

Within the film’s first few minutes our virginal damsel meets the awkward, handsome billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a man who uses phrases like, “I enjoy various physical pursuits” in regular conversation. It’s clear right off the bat that Johnson and Dornan were not cast for their chemistry, but for the fact that they were willing to take their clothes off on camera. I can’t imagine Internet porn casting sessions being much different.

Sure enough, Ana falls in love and begins dragging oversized pencils with “GREY” written on them across her lips. This kind of unabashed symbolism is prevalent throughout the entire film. I could be wrong about this, because wine tends to make me overanalyze things.

After 40 minutes of poor dialogue –

Anastasia: I feel intimidated.

Christian: You should. (he passes her a muffin) Eat.

– we finally get a sex scene in which Anastasia loses her virginity. Christian Grey could have anyone he wants, and yet he picks her. Her! The boring chick who sells hammers for a living. Like any dude after the first night, Christian makes his intentions clear: he’s not into romance or relationships. Anastasia is maybe kind of OK with this because he is bizarrely secretive (red flag), is never photographed with women (red flag), and stares at her like a serial killer would (red flag). But he’s hot and rich, so she can look past all that.

Then Christian leads her into a creepy sex dungeon and introduces her to a toy he calls “The Flogger.” Yep, turns out all this creepiness has nothing to do with murdering women, but rather strapping them to what looks like unfinished IKEA furniture and smacking them with various pain-inducing instruments.

Ain’t he a sweetheart?

Christian explains that he is a dominant and is seeking a submissive. He mocks up a contract for Anastasia to sign, but she’s still gunning for this whole romance thing. Weirdly, Christian is along for the ride. Why? It suits the plot. Even when Anastasia heads down to Georgia to see her mother, Christian shows up like a crazed lunatic practically begging for sex. Maybe this goes to show that it’s not the super hot, big-breasted supermodels who are amazing in bed, but rather the frumpy, uninteresting English Lit majors who think biting their bottom lip is the crux of sensuality… (long pause). Anywho.

The sex scenes that take place in Christian’s dungeon are tame and ridiculous. We never really see Christian enjoying himself while he’s smacking Anastasia. Instead, she is the only one gasping and sighing. This is his thing, the one thing that really gets him off, and he’s still wearing his sweat pants.

In my drunken stupor, I wanted Christian to wail on Anastasia. I thought that’s what S&M dominants were all about. But this film is a far cry from Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Secretary, and in Grey’s world, The Flogger is meant for light tapping rather than real sexual violence. There is one punishment scene in which Anastasia gets six spanks for being naughty. But, again, it’s tame and uninteresting. The slaps don’t even sound that hard. But by the time the film is over, nothing has surprised us. There’s nothing in the plot or the character development that was at all stimulating or appealing.

I was hoping that at one point Anastasia would grab that riding crop out of Christian’s hands, and begin hitting him with it. She could throw him on his stomach and begin lashing him. It would add a badass element to their relationship. She could bust out of her frumpiness and really show Christian she too can be in control. Now, that is a character I could get behind. Instead, we must endure two long hours watching a painfully average, uncharismatic woman be physically and emotionally throttled by a character who, in the real world, probably would have ditched her body in a dumpster somewhere.

In the lobby after the film, I spoke to a few people I recognized. One girl, clutching her tired boyfriend’s arm shook her head.

“It was OK,” she said. “I think they spent too much time developing the romance.”

About Andrew Munz

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