Lame Adventure 455: Fifty Shades of Estrogen

Last Friday, the thirteenth, I celebrated Valentine’s Day early, when my dear friend, the cinemaniac, Milton, treated me to the movie adaptation of E.L. James’ blockbuster novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

Fifty Shades of lip biting.

Fifty Shades of lip biting.

Neither of us had read these books, which have sold over 100 million copies and have been translated into 52 languages. Friends have declared that these three novels were terribly written; they’re rife with repetition and dripping with dull dialogue, the epitome of hackwork. Considering James’ wild success, Milton and I respect her achievement. She cranked out a trilogy at warp speed while I agonize over writing a single 790 word blog post for two days that’s destined to be read by 37 people, a beagle and two cats.

My boss, Elspeth, read all three volumes on her Kindle, but she mis-downloaded the third installment, Fifty Shades Freed. She was halfway through reading about a battleship, or possibly it was a paint catalogue, when she noticed that the writing had improved significantly. Eventually, she wondered what happened to the protagonists, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, and why was it taking so long for another sex scene?

Milton and I kept our expectations for the film low, at bottom of the ocean level. He was hoping that it would be a campy movie pleasure like his favorite, Valley of the Dolls. My preferred trashy film is Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! When I told him that Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele, is the daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith, and her grandmother is Tippi Hedren, he began fearing the worst, including that I might reconsider joining him. I remained committed, so off we went to the AMC multiplex on the Upper West Side.

Milton holding our tickets.

Milton holding our tickets.

When we arrived at the theater about an hour before show time, the line was so long, we had to wait in a second line in the lobby outside the entrance. The vast majority were women in their twenties through forties who had come in packs. There were literally herds of women. Standing directly in front of us was a married couple in their seventies prompting Milton to suggest sotto voce:

Milton: There are some nipple clamps in her future.

When we were admitted entry into the theater, a cavernous space that filled quickly, we were able to score excellent seats in the center section. Late arrivals appeared stunned that the theater was jam packed. Apparently, these lunkheads missed the memo that the film of an insanely popular sadomasochistic love story on opening weekend is a crowd-magnet. The energy in the room was pure electricity and female hormones. Milton was the only male, not only in our row, but in the row behind us as well as in front of us. He observed the ladies:

Milton: They’re just so excited about being beaten up!

The ads prior to the start of the film were for Revlon and other products that were geared directly for this audience. The marketing was brilliantly calculated. Most of the trailers were dreadful, but we enjoyed the one for a Judd Apatow comedy due out in summer called Trainwreck.

As for the film, which has garnered predominantly negative reviews, we thought that both leads, an Irish actor named Jamie Dornan, who plays the billionaire boy wonder with a helicopter, hang glider and flogger, Christian Grey, and the aforementioned Dakota Johnson, shared chemistry. Both had genuine charm, but Milton had the impression that Dornan was struggling to suppress his Irish accent throughout. The pacing was long. It could have easily been cut by half an hour. The screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, did a decent job eliminating much of the horrendous dialogue in the book. There was genuine tongue-in-cheek humor throughout. But our loudest laugh was at a line uttered in sheer torment that is a play on the series title. That bit of dialogue was unintentionally hilarious.

Our biggest criticism, other than the slow pacing, was the big build up sex scene that takes forever to arrive where Christian unleashes his dominant side. He’s been yammering about his kink for two hours of film time or maybe it was two days in real time. When it finally happens, it’s so bland. I thought:

Me: He’s got a red room packed with tools of torture, why’s he practicing T’ai Chi on her with a feather duster? Huh?

Milton surmised:

Milton: It’s the Madonna of movies: it promises a lot but delivers nothing.

We left in silence until Milton declared:

Milton: I can’t think of anything more boring than straight white woman fantasy.

There are many pretty grey silk ties like this one.

There are many grey silk ties.

It’s on track to take in $500 million at the box office worldwide. That’s a lot of green.

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62 responses to “Lame Adventure 455: Fifty Shades of Estrogen

  1. As always, your reviews are humorous and insightful. I haven’t read the book. It will likely be years before I see the movie, if ever.

    I’m already resplendent in my own shades of gray, though not 50. Your tags will likely catch a few readers. 🙂

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    • I think you should wait for the release of Trainwreck, Jim. That seems more equal opportunity for both genders and looks like it has the potential to be hilarious fun. I think that most straight guys will find Fifty Shades the cure for insomnia. As a lesbian, seeing Dakota Johnson naked, got very dull very quickly. There’s not enough meat on her bones.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for a Friday night out!

    R.

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  3. We went to see The Imitation Game on Friday night and as we were coming out, the line for Fifty Shades was out the door of the theatre. Loved your review, V. I think I’ll avoid this one.

    On another note, we rented Boyhood via Redbox. Have you seen it? I so don’t get the award nominations for this one. It’s looooong and boring with very active acting – if you know what I mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen The Imitation Game (with Milton at a test screening last year). We both had a lot of issues with it. As gay people it pissed us off that they watered down Turing’s homosexuality. It was another bland, formulaic film about a (an?) historical figure. How that director got nominated for an Academy Award over guys like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan, much less Ava DuVernay, who cleared the fences with Selma, blows the little that’s left of our minds.

      I have made no effort to see Boyhood and Milton repeatedly offered to get me the DVD. The topic has little interest to me, but I’m sure that it is a fine film. I’m rooting for Birdman to win Best Picture. At least that was a fresh and imaginative “big” film. I also loved how Broadway theater is portrayed in it. It’s a film I might actually watch again when it hits Netflix.

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      • We finally saw Birdman last night. I thought it was an excellent film, with an especially fine performance from Michael Keaton, and a primer on direction from Inarritu. We have been especially lax on seeing films the past year; just Gone Girl last month: yawn. Rosamund Pike Beat Actress? Really? But, I guess I have nothing to compare!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jeremy, Milton saw everything nominated (no surprise there), but I’ve been feeling pretty “eh” about many of this year’s Oscar nominated films. Milton and my sister both saw Wild and were luke warm about it. Neither of them thought much about American Sniper, either. As you know, I loved Birdman, but another film I enjoyed very much and thought would be a shoo-in for a slew of nominations was Interstellar. But it only rated a few technical noms! Milton thinks that the Academy dislikes Christopher Nolan. I think he’s another immensely talented filmmaker like Inarritu. I much preferred Interstellar to last year’s crowd-pleaser, Gravity. Maybe it resonated with me so much because I saw it shortly after my dad bought his rainbow. Next Sunday, I am on Team Birdman! About Best Actress: Marion Cotillard blew me away in Two Days, One Night. She doesn’t have a hope in hell of winning. The Oscar is probably going to go to Julianne Moore in Still Alice, one of those scenery-chewing performances that I have little interest in seeing.

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  4. My daughter read all three books and thought the movie was terrible. Grey isn’t supposed to fall in love with her until the third book and showed too much compassion. She thought they had very little chemistry (compared to the book). I heard he can’t stand her off screen and won’t attend promotions together. I will wait until it comes to Netflix!
    Thanks for your review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know nothing about what the actors thought of each other personally, Susie, but if they really do loathe each other, they had better work on getting along fast because the two sequels are already in the works. I’m sure that they’ll both be paid boatloads and this film franchise will fund their retirement handsomely.

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      • From what I understand, it’s all coming from the dude who plays Grey, but who knows? Maybe they had a great Valentine weekend with a little FSOG sexy time!

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        • Or maybe they just worked press junkets pleasantly and he went home to his wife and kid and she, whoever she’s seeing? There’s so much backlash over these books and this film, rumors that the stars hate each other guts don’t surprise me. At the core, I think it’s just jealousy that something so lowbrow and poorly written can be so wildly successful. E.L. James typed her way into winning the literary equivalent of the Powerball lottery.

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  5. The perfect review! I have never read a single line from any of those books and will never see the movie. Much like the Twilight series, it just doesn’t interest me in the slightest.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ll see it when it’s a double feature with ‘Showgirls.’

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i’ll take a pass on this one, but your review was a great read, sweetpea! and my hat is tipped to Milton for his great words! xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved this review! You and Milton need to write movie reviews for The New Yorker: “…why is he practicing Tai Chi on her with a feather duster?” And Milton’s comment about Madonna is exactly what I used to say about Nixon. I haven’t read the book and never will. I dealt enough with tight girdles in the early 60’s to have no desire for further bondage, thank you. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You have a beagle and two cats read your blog? I’m jealous. I haven’t read the books, but your review is far more gentle than the rantings I’ve read about partner abuse to unwilling partner and rape. And a feather duster? Was it used? Did she sneeze? Sounds like a ramped up, twisted Cinderella Pretty Woman movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Sounds like a ramped up, twisted Cinderella Pretty Woman movie.” Well phrased, Rebecca! It’s pure fantasy for the over age 18 straight female: being dominated by a beautiful, billionaire straight guy who looks gay. I would bark, “Who thinks up this crap?” But, it’s E.L. James laughing all the way to the bank. Obviously, I’m not her target audience, and it sounds like neither are you, kindred spirit.

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  10. I’m not a fan of erotica. You shouldn’t take that to mean I’m a prude, though. I’m simply uncultured enough to prefer porn.

    I do like the idea (if not the mental image) of the elderly couple gettin’ weird after seeing the flick. I’ve been married for less than ten years, and that kind of thing makes me happy.

    Milton’s comments re: straight women’s fantasies is thought-provoking. I’m not that interested in anybody else’s fantasies, for the most part (although there’s nothing wrong with being into that).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would never think that you’re a prude, Smak! Milton is a connoisseur of gay male porn. Years ago, he wrote a blog (he quit it; got bored writing it) where he reviewed gay male porn. He made it all sound so good, I wanted to see every one of those films! Leave it to Milton to make male on male rape sound like the second coming of Citizen Kane.

      I think that Fifty Shades if E.L. James’ fantasies and I also think that a large portion of her 100 million readers relate to how she thinks.

      Porn doesn’t interest me much, but I like intelligent sexually explicit films, what you might call soft core porn; films with plot like Intimacy, The Stranger by the Lake and Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (part 2 is much explicit than part 1). They’re more hard core than anything R-rated, but they’re not porn. They’re all films with depth. One of my all-time favorite films is Last Tango in Paris which was considered risque when it was released about 42 years ago. If you have never seen it, first watch On the Waterfront. Then, watch Last Tango. Brando’s broken man in Last Tango could be what became of Terry Malloy 20 years later. Both films are masterpieces. They’re like literature.

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  11. I suspected as much! I read the first book and took it for what it was. You got to hand it to James for raking it in and hitting on something that women want. I believe women like the fantasy…this movie could have really captured that. Slow pacing and blah scenes….that’s too bad considering how attractive the leads are! I’m sure they’re talented. I’ve heard that before about his accent. That must take you out of the story, too. Great review, V!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for the review — you are too funny! I do want to see it though, and I agree from what I’ve seen of Dakota Johnson, that she has some charm. There’s something about her that I really like, and I love her look. From the previews it appears that the two leads do have chemistry. There’s nothing worse than a story about lovers where the two actors playing the lovers aren’t igniting any sparks.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I was biting my bottom lip reading this review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think you would have both been happier if you had seen SpongeBob.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Thanks for reviewing this movie for us! I love your writing style!…
    PS: I couldn’t agree more about arriving late to a movie theatre! I get there usually so early that I get a pick of the best seats….the downside is that I eat all my popcorn before the trailers even start!
    Stay warm in all this cold madness!
    Lia

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    • Awwwwwwwwwww, thanks Lia! Popcorn is a dirty word around Milton these days. He chowed down a sack of it recently and has had a husk embedded on a tonsil for the better part of a week. If only Christian Grey could smack it out of my pal’s throat. I’m sure that Milton would find pleasure in that pain. You stay warm, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I have to give it to the author, she has made quite the name for herself. I haven’t read the books, but I have a feeling I will at some point. Just so I see what all the fuss is about. As for the movie, I think Milton summed it up best. Hopefully the sex is better in the book.

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    • As much as I respect and admire James’ one-in-a-million achievement, the closest I will ever come to reading the actual books, barring short of finding myself a hostage alone in a cell with her trilogy and forced to read them under duress (“or the puppy will die!”), is seeing the film. The older I get, the more finicky I am about what I do with my time. Blowing two hours of my life watching a movie adaptation alongside my always entertaining best friend rates an enthusiastic yes. Blowing many more hours of my life slogging through a terribly written trilogy is an adamant no. Think about it: wouldn’t you rather take a long, leisurely walk with Miles than read tripe?

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  17. Just saying hello. I’ll stick to my binging on the Walking Dead and Archer. Has Milton ever watched Archer? You? Outrageously wrong and hilarious. Trash but better trash than Fifty Shades of old ladies blushing

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  18. Oh, for Pete’s sake. That’s all I can think of. What in the world? And I can’t believe you went to see it! hahaha

    Back to “Scandal” for me.

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  19. That Madonna line was priceless! And I think I will just consider your review of the movie enough and NOT see it for myself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I was unable to read the first book, it was so bad. I doubt I will ever see the movie. Thank you for helping me confirm my decision.

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  21. I once won $25 at a writers conference for a little ditty called “Fifty Sheds of Grey.” It was about a man relieving himself in an outhouse after eating too many jalapeno peppers. The dialogue was quite snappy (if I do say so myself–one man screaming in pain) and the plot featured a tremendous build up followed by an earth-shattering blowout at the end.

    I think Johnny Depp would be excellent in the lead role.

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  22. Sounds like a good movie to avoid.

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  23. V, just getting around to this and to blogging. Out of sorts, but trying to get back in it. Anyway, I’m just not sure I could sit through it so I’m going to take your review as it’s most likely not worth the effort. I heard the same thing — that it was a letdown (the sex scenes) and some are dissing on the guy who plays the dude in the book.

    Like A, I do binge-watching and go to the movies when I really want the big screen experience. But kudos to the lady who wrote it. I’m certain she doesn’t care what any of us think!

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    • Brig, I am sure E.L. James is following Liberace’s lead. Possibly you recall what the pianist once wrote to a critic who panned his performance: “Thank you for your very amusing review. After reading it, in fact, my brother George and I laughed all the way to the bank.”

      Until seeing the film, Milton and I have steered completely clear of all the pro and con Fifty Shades hoopla. But having seen the film, we were predominantly entertained when we weren’t bored. As for Jamie Dornan who plays the title character, Milton pronounced him “cute” and I thought he was fine in the role. Financially, he’s someone else who will very likely be laughing all the way to his bank over this cash cow of a series. ABC News called it “Fifty Shades of Green” when they reported how successful it was at the box office on opening weekend.

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  24. You are the new Siskel & Ebert. You crack me up 37 people and a cat. You know, I’ve never read any of the books, nor do they interest me, and now that you’ve given them a hell-to-the-no thumbs down well I’m glad my instinct was right. You should do more movie reviews, I like your play reviews too, you seem to have knack for it. I wondered how the movie was,glad my boy Charlie Hunnam dropped out of it. And you know this is the first time I hear that the movie is better than the book. Oh! And I’d never heard of this dude but before the whole 50 Shade movie blowout he came out on this Netflix original series with Scully from the X-Files. The Fall…he’s totally creepy in that one.

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    • Ha! Thanks for the high praise for Milton and me taking one for all you Lame Adventurers, Guat! I heard that Jamie Dornan plays the bad guy in a TV series, but I didn’t know that it was on Netflix. Thanks for filling in that blank, buddy. I get Netflix and tune into it maybe once or twice a month. I’m not much of a TV-watcher overall. It definitely seemed to us that the adaptation of this literary mess resulted in a decent screenplay and it was also well cast. Jamie Dornan seemed suave to both of us, albeit suave with a ferocious appetite for ass beating.

      Liked by 1 person

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