Fifty Shades of Grey on Ash Wednesday

I waffled for a week or so, debating internally whether watching Fifty Shades of Grey would be morally conscionable. In the end, I determined that the experience could be a behind-enemy-lines sort of mission, and if nothing else, a Lenten exercise in the virtue of obedience toward my assigning editor.

So, with an apprehensive soul and my best Clark Kent disguise (useful also, when removed, for blurring things best obscured), I went where no Catholic with an emblazoned Ash Wednesday forehead smudge (my favorite shade of grey) has gone before. I sighed with relief that this particular theatre had a self-service ticket kiosk, though in a neurotic panic (mixed with guilt at financially supporting such smut) I purchased a ticket to American Sniper, lest evidence of my licentious activity be found apart from this article as an alibi.

I sat near the closest exit, be-hooded. Fellow film-goers, mostly female, to whom I granted furtive glances, came in giggling with awkward apprehension. The giggling continued throughout the whole movie, and erupted into full-blown laughter during the most ill-fated steamy scenes, comedic in their absurd exaggeration.

Maybe it was all the bedroom scenes and the sleepy Seattle setting, but this movie was seriously a yawn. I felt like having some booze and a snooze right there, but alas, my penance was doubled that day by a rash decision to give up alcohol for the next 40 days and 40 nights. I would have left mid-way except that it was cold outside and I was determined to get Clint Eastwood money’s worth.

I accepted that Fifty Shades is erotica masquerading as “romance” as a means to get pornography up on the silver screen. Sex sells, yeah, yeah…but really?This is the best you could do? DID YOU EVEN TRY?!!!??!?!

The movie opens with protagonist Anastasia Steele getting last-minute instructions from her sick roommate on how to conduct an interview on her behalf. “Ana” seems moody and disgruntled and like she has some leftover teenage angst, and I immediately wonder why her bubbly, way-cuter roomie is friends with her.

The questions just kept coming.

Ana arrives at the Grey Enterprises building where she will interview the illustrious Christian Grey. She somehow manages to score a parking spot directly in front of the skyscraper in the busy downtown district, an incident that remarkably repeats itself multiple times throughout the next 120 minutes and which stuck with me as one of the more memorable take-aways from the film.  

Ana falls down as she enters Mr. Grey’s office, just to assert that she’s a graceless creature, in case you didn’t catch the drift from her frumpy outfits and gawky way of moving. The pair then has an incredibly stilted conversation that oscillates between painfully awkward and soulmate-style soul-bearing. I think it must have been sexual tension the director was trying to portray. Maybe all the awkward interactions that define my existence are really romantic affairs waiting to blossom?

After the interview, Christian stalks Ana at the hardware store where he somehow found out she works and goes there to buy some “gear” for his BDSM hobbies.  Ana makes an off-handed joke about him having all the right equipment for being a murderer, then immediately agrees to spend several un-chaperoned evenings with him at his sterile penthouse in Cloud City where they alternate between having sex and talking about having sex.

Christian spends the entirety of the movie trying to get Ana to sign a contract that will bind her (literally and figuratively) to performing experimental, accessorized sex acts in his “playroom” in exchange for the use of a well-appointed bedroom. One such act requires her to lie naked while her lover tickles her with a peacock feather.

Like all binding contracts, Ana is free to negotiate what she is and isn’t willing to try, and Christian inevitably agrees to “control” her on her own terms and to stop when she says so because he is a randy, robotic creep with no social skills desperate to touch a female (though he claims to have convinced 15 previous girls to agree to this set-up). He’s also disturbingly preoccupied with a collection of metallic neckties he apparently bought at Sears.

Ana never even gets around to signing the contract, and eventually she decides that no matter how handsome or rich a man is, being that dull just isn’t worth it.

The movie ended abruptly. 

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