I watched it with my boyfriend, who had not read the books. (Well, that’s not entirely true–he did read large passages of the first book to me. In a Cajun accent, because that actually somehow makes more sense than Jamie Dornan’s broken brogue…)
Regarding the plot/direction: The plot of the books is thin, so I didn’t expect the movie to feel more robust. What I did not expect is how much the movie assumed you’d read the book and knew what the hell was happening.
“Everything feels like a non-sequitur,” my boyfriend grumbled. I was continually explaining to him why something was happening on screen or, “well, in the books, that sentence was a four-page discussion.” EL James was personally obsessed with doing the fans a service, but Marvel can tell you–for a movie franchise to work, it’s got to make sense and be fun for people who don’t know anything about your books. This was a huge mistake. I’ve read all of the books and I was still confused about what was happening with some of the plot points.
Regarding Christian: He is less creepy in the movie, but makes his moves on Ana at a much faster pace, which is just a different kind of creepy. Everything he says and does with Ana feels like it’s on fast-forward while the rest of the movie feels like it’s on pause. Whoa, he’s really forward,” said my boyfriend, whose first pickup line to me was that I should move in with him and live with him “in squalor”.
Jamie Dornan was just the wrong choice for this part. His idea of “smoldering” is to look blank, possibly confused. His accent comes across as somewhat halting and forced. I mean, part of that is definitely the writing. But also the awful accent. Somebody buy this kid some lessons.
Regarding Anastasia: God bless Dakota Johnson. She was really interesting to watch in this role. She’s got a natural awkwardness that was always a part of Ana’s character, but she also has a natural dry humour and sarcasm that she brings to the table and gives Ana a hint of depth. The director intentionally made her stronger and gave her a bit more agency. Dakota giggles and coos like a 12 year-old, but she works in this role.
Regarding the handling of BDSM: Movie Christian is still awful, but it seems like there’s less for him to not-explain in the film. He ties her up and mentions the safe words and says a few things to assure her. The sex is all quick-cuts and flashes, so I didn’t feel much one way or the other as to whether he was being a poor Dom. Honestly, he taps her a few times with a riding crop and smacks her butt bare-handed a time or two. As far as bondage, it’s all pretty light stuff with the exception of some leather cuffs he clips above her head onto some sort of tilt-down notched designer kink décor? The contract isn’t read all the way through and with the quick-cut style of directing, I feel like this movie isn’t going to give anybody any directly wrong ideas about BDSM, aside from the consent side (Christian still emphasizes that it’s all for his pleasure.)
The worst of it is meant to be the worst of it–Ana asks him to spank her as hard as he can. They’re fighting at the time, but he agrees–this is terrible Domming. He spanks her and she leaves him. This is all wrong and bad and stupid.
My suggestions for the next movie, in case an exec reads this: GET EL JAMES OUT OF THERE. SHE IS RUINING THIS. SHE IS THE WORST. GET HER OUT OF THERE. Every decision she went to bat for that I’ve read about was the wrong choice. These movies should be adapted to tell a story–a safe, sane, consensual story.
The entire Georgia plot could and should have been cut. It was pointless and wasted time that could’ve been spent on some explanation. The “plot” such as it is for books two and three contain tons of silly asides that should be dumped if those get made into movies.
Take a hint from Marvel. The books are a guideline, but the story needs to stand on its own, two feet on the big screen.