Sex Made Simple
What began as a humble erotica novel by fan-favourite E. L. James, quickly skyrocketed onto the doorsteps of Hollywood. For the longest time, this was every middle-aged woman’s go-to novel while their husbands were out of town, so essentially, they were cheating, just with the raunchy fictional Christian Grey. In the space of two years, audiences were left to imagine what the supposedly “world’s hottest man” would look like, until we were introduced to Jamie Dornan. He fit the profile. Smouldering good looks, brown hair, and my god, his jawline. Another two years later, after a bunch of seductive promos, Fifty Shades of Grey makes its entry to our 2015 cinema.
Don’t get me wrong. There is almost nothing on a cinematic front that makes this film good. What fantastic cinema can you possibly create with “He’s naked except for those soft ripped jeans, top button casually undone. Jeez, he looks so freaking hot. My subconscious is frantically fanning herself, and my inner goddess is swaying and writhing to some primal carnal rhythm.” from the novel? It is, however, the story that we look forward to.
I have this theory that all English majors have some sort of kink involving black latex and leather. Enter, Anastasia Steele, a shy, reclusive girl, about to graduate as an English literature major. Like Dornan, Dakota Johnson matches the description she gives herself in the novel. Brunette and apparently, blue eyes too big for her face. Whatever that means. In the eyes of Christian, she is beautiful and irresistible, even though she does not work much makeup, and kind of feels like a tomboy initially with her mismatched clothes. I’m sorry, but this girl basically knows nothing about sex appeal, which could be a good thing, considering how studious she is instead of going out every weekend. Yet again, truth be told, she is a prude. I’m sorry.
Their first encounter with each other is nothing short of dramatic, as one should expect from a modern-day Romeo and Juliette story. Anastasia, or as we nickname, Ana, literally falls through his door first and then over her words. Darwin would be the first person to prescribe natural selection to Grey’s genetically-enhanced good looks and “good at people”. The man plays people like he plays women, unequivocal, while maintaining a straight face.
In her thick, musty, literature books, Ana draws comparison to Jane Austen from Northanger Abbey, taunted for being so damn pessimistic all the time. This is where she has a totally unexpected rendezvous with Christian once again. The scariest thing about a guy is not how probable he will cheat on you, it’s actually how hot he knows himself to be. Grey knows to the full extent the voracious appetite women have on him, and he takes advantage of his genetic superiority to put the “w” in womanizer. Some people were quick to hate on his shaven looks, but I swear it makes him even hotter. Christian Grey is Seattle’s wealthiest bachelor. Ladies, let’s be honest here. He is that rare Pokemon card you simply have to have, even a prude like Ana can say amen to that. The Adonis could most likely crumble any woman’s defences away, even the lesbian ones. However, everyone has a secret to hide, something that would give them the wrong kind of attention. Christian goes to great lengths to hide this secret from the press, and after making his women, Ana included, sign non-disclosure agreements. No, the quandary is not gay, that much we already know.
Sexuality has come a long way since man first discovered intercourse, the straight way. Today, you have a rainbow (literally) of different sexualities that have evolved as humans explore and express their love for one another differently. Although conundrums such as homophobia still exist, it is safe to say that the LGBTQ community is no longer a taboo idea. Despite that, the prospect of BDSM can be a relatively tricky subject. On paper, bondage, dominance, and submission/sadomasochism, the acronyms expanded, is definitely not the most pragmatic method to arouse someone. In porn, it’s always stashed away in amidst a list of categories, because it just is not as popular as what people are accustomed to. There is this belief that BDSM is some sort of “secret underground network”, like the assassins from John Wick, so a sense of curiosity follows right after we ask how anyone could possibly enjoy being tortured like that. Plot twist, this is Christian Grey’s world. Like the assassins mentioned, there are rules, regulations and all sorts of incredible realities to digest. For vanilla people like me, this is a challenge to accept, for prudes like Anastasia Steele, this looks like an abomination.
Down a twisting alley on his luxurious penthouse, the atmosphere eerily identical to a well-lit version of Irréversible, the antagonist hides his playroom. He’s nice enough to give Ana a heads-up before unlocking the door to the chamber of secrets. Ana, understandably confused by this mystery, says the most naive line in the history of cinema.
Like your Xbox and stuff?
I died. Prior to watching the film, I had read the first novel of the trilogy, so Ana asking this made me go “Oh honey” instantly. Doused in a deep sensual red and fully equipped with automated medieval torture devices, the cushioned crimson walls act as soundproof measures for the cries of his submissive. Whipping, cuffing, hanging from the ceiling. Christian Grey is like Hannibal Lecter in the way he emasculates his women, until they give up their wills obediently.
I’m incapable of leaving you alone.
If not for his spellbinding good looks, this would probably warrant a restraining order for the next mortal man. We succumb to the tasty maniac standing before us, and we reluctantly obey. This discredits decades upon decades of feminism, where a woman’s rights to her own body is basically shunned.
You want to leave? Your body tells me something different.
Now where’s that anal bead?
A good chunk of the film is spent discussing the sex contract that she has to sign, which informs the Dominant, Christian, of what she is capable of receiving. To the film’s credit, the story is not too bad. In between every sex scene, there are a few comedic moments that give audiences a break from the hot, passionate, nude sex. Special mention has to go to Dakota Johnson for her performance. After all, it really is not easy to play such a provocative role. The scene where they discuss this contract will either make or break this film for you. It shows that Christian is not the romantic guy but rather someone who can fuck your world up. It also hints that Anastasia is not that much of a prude. Even though BDSM is extreme, she is still willing to try it out, hop on the sex swing and go explore the limits of her sexuality. The clauses and subsections are straightforward and awkward for the audience to tolerate, couples staring sheepishly at one another while the temperature visibly reaches a boiling point. My concern here is, who were the lawyers that drew this contract up?
I don’t do romance.
How ironic was it, that Fifty Shades of Grey could be released around Valentines Day of 2015? This was the most antichrist film of the year, arguably anti-romantic. Watching it for the sake of romance would be like showing The Death of Stalin to a communist. So naturally, when Grey accidentally gives Steele more than she can handle, shit hits the fan and we remember that this is not a romance film. Don’t be fooled by IMDB’s romance categorization of control freak and innocent schoolgirl.
All in all, for all the hate that the film has received, there are certainly strong and weak areas. The lines are cringe, yes, but they are extremely memorable. This is where E. L. James’ novel shines. And don’t even get me started on 365 Days.
The film’s greatest strength is without a doubt, its soundtrack. The most iconic song is from the trailer that took the world by storm, the remix of “Crazy In Love” by Beyoncé. There is a good mixture of pop, R&B and jazz, really reflective of the film’s rhythm. Outwardly elegant, “I Put a Spell On You” is catchy for its retro-soul burner whilst “Undiscovered” makes you want to challenge yourself with the whole bondage commotion. The Weekend’s throbbing “Where You Belong” glues Anastasia into Christian’s grasp, negotiating the cutsie lovey return.
Fifty Shades of Grey is our modern day Madame Bovary, daring in its approach to taboo subjects, and memorable at it. We understand that Christian is some kind of tormented man with a broken childhood as the propellor of his Dominant instincts, setting the perfect stage for the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. Warning, there is a lot more sex and nudity.
But seriously, where’s the butt plug?