Normally, this is because I like to let the dust settle and the hype die down before making up my own mind about something without all the noise.
However, in this case, my reason can be summed up in two words.
We share a love of romantic fiction – in fact it was her books I used to borrow (is it still borrowing if I did it secretly) as a teenager. We like some of the same authors now and she occasionally lends me books. I wasn’t surprised when she said she had bought 50 Shades from a charity shop, although I wasn’t sure it was quite her thing, or when she asked if I wanted it next.
It was the fact she then added: “There isn’t anything shocking in there, it’s very tame.”
Tame? TAME! Waaaaaay too much information between mother and (prudish) daughter on so many levels. Given the hoopla surrounding some of the themes of the book, which I had been led to believe were anything but tame, it put me off reading (or even thinking about) them for a good while.
After having Freya, though, when actually having “relations” was The Last Thing I wanted to do ever again, I thought I might as well give the books a go – well, the first two at least, I never got round to the third but that’s not because I didn’t like them.
I wasn’t expecting much. Lots of Facebook friends had complained about how badly written they were and how some of them paged through the sex scenes after a while etc but I was quietly surprised. Yes, they are a bit repetitive but I actually really enjoyed the way the characters developed and almost the way the tables are turned on Christian Grey. Far from being a helpless character lured into a world she wasn’t ready for and didn’t want, I actually felt that from pretty early on it was clear that Ana was the one in charge.
When a friend asked if I would go and see the film with her, I had no qualms about saying yes. We decided there would be less chance of being surrounded by giggling teenagers if we went to the art cinema. We arrived a couple of minutes early and two dozen or so people were waiting outside the screen, including a priest/vicar in floor length black robes and dog collar who was flicking through a magazine. My friend and I exchanged glances, wondering if he was there as some sort of protest or if he just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. When he waited outside while everyone filed in, it appeared to be neither of those reasons.
Anyway, just as with the books I was quietly surprised by the film. I haven’t read any of the reviews, although couldn’t help but see some of the headlines – many of which declared it not very good. I always feel when something is hyped this much that people are just waiting to knock it down.
I thought Dakota Johnson was very good (such beautiful eyes) and the Jamie Dornan wasn’t quite what I expected (I didn’t like the way his suits fitted and he didn’t seem like someone in charge of anything let alone a huge company) but maybe that’s because I had a fairly clear idea from the books about who he was and the type of person he would be and no actor could fill his shoes? I was amazed at Jennifer Ehle playing Ana’s mum, wasn’t she just Lizzie Bennet?
I think they pushed the limits of what would be accepted in an 18 film but to me the sexual scenes didn’t feel out of place or badly done (shows how our attitudes have changed over the years, I think). In fact, I thought the whole film was well shot with some beautiful locations and sets, which I’m sure had much to do with Sam Taylor-Johnson.
I was actually quite surprised when, 20 minutes in, three people walked out. Nothing had really happened then. It was more like your average chick flick – although maybe that was the problem? There has been such expectation about the film and its content. It also seems that a lot of the negative comments I’ve been reading are from people who haven’t actually seen it.
Of course, as with everything, our own baggage has a huge part to play in our experience of something. I have never (thankfully) been in a physically abusive relationship or experienced BDSM and maybe if I had my view would be entirely different. As I said, both in the books and in the film Ana, to me, is a strong, fun, intelligent and beautiful character who changes Christian for the better. And it is also clear that the woman who lured Christian into that world at 15 is viewed as an abuser – at least by Ana. My friend had never read the books and she felt the same.
Would I want Freya in a relationship like that at 21? Just because it isn’t my cup of tea doesn’t make it wrong. Obviously I wouldn’t want Freya in any relationship that caused her pain but then again, she won’t be dating until she is at least 25 maybe 30, so I have a while to instil the same sort of spirit, independence and intelligence in her that Ana has.
Will 50 Shades win any awards? No, probably not any mainstream ones. Does it deserve to? Well, the trailers were for Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston and Still Alice with Julianne Moore. Even from the tiny bits I saw of them, there was no comparison.
But it is what it is.
Maybe I will read number three and see how it all ends.
Have you been to see it? What did you think?