We actually missed the very start, as we were too busy finishing off our pints in The Black Sheep beforehand and I overestimated the usual twenty minutes of ads before a film starts in Cineworld. (Fucking ADS like, not even trailers.) As we arrived, Dakota Johnson was in the middle of shyly interviewing Jamie Dornan at his desk, so I don't know if Ana fell arse over tit into his office like she did in the books, or if she began the film by staring glumly at her reflection in a mirror, moaning about her eyes being too big and how hard it is to be a beautiful skinny white woman.
In any case, to be fair to Dakota Johnson (and to my complete surprise) she actually managed to make Ana, a highly unlikable fuckwit, into someone tolerable and even kinda funny at times. And considering the fact that EL James was constantly on set wrecking everyone's heads, they were probably the times when she was looking the other way, distracted by something shiny. Film Ana was actually entertaining in places, such as when she drunk-dials Christian and takes the piss out him by putting on a gruff voice and mocking his idiotic indecisiveness. "Stay away from me Ana...no, wait, c'mere...no, no, go away." And she has the self-preservation instinct to be disturbed rather than overjoyed when Christian tracks her down in Georgia to berate her for having a few cocktails with her mother, which made a nice change.
However, Book Ana would still manage to elbow her way into the film every so often, perhaps most notably during their sex contract negotiations (during most of which Film Ana showed 100% more wit, backbone and general cop-on than EL James's pathetic lip-biting twat) when Dakota Johnson was presumably coerced into saying the line "What are butt plugs?" I mean, of all the many and varied devices that you can either attach to, or stick inside a person, butt plugs are probably as straightforwardly named a thing as you can get. IT'S EXACTLY WHAT IT SOUNDS LIKE, GODDAMMIT. THIS HAS EL JAMES WRITTEN ALL OVER IT.
Jamie Dornan had his work cut out for him, playing irredeemable prick Christian, and when it came to delivering ridiculous lines like "I don't make love...I fuck. Hard.", instead of collectively swooning, the cinema audience burst out laughing. Upon hearing the line, Tess actually folded herself into a tiny ball in her seat, quietly whimpering "Christ...it's so cringey." She was not having a good time.
Speaking of the audience, there was a weird, giddy atmosphere in the cinema, with high-pitched squeals of laughter at completely random moments and one guy theatrically clearing his throat every time Ana's knickers came off. It was like we were all on holiday from accepted cinema etiquette, but the movie was so stupid, it was actually fine. Distractions were welcome, if anything.
Unfortunately, there's no getting away from EL James's shoddy dialogue and barely-existent plot, so for the most part, it's actually quite a boring film to watch. Dakota and Jamie are both good-looking people, but their complete lack of chemistry makes the sex scenes about as titillating as watching two shop mannequins repeatedly bump into each other.
It also means that the decision Ana makes towards the end, i.e. allowing Christian to wallop her with a belt even though she wants no such thing, makes just as little sense onscreen as it did in the book. Particularly when there was so much emphasis on the agreed safewords in the run-up to it. JUST SAY RED FOR FUCK'S SAKE.
At this point, Tess was checking her emails, something which would be unacceptable were it literally any other film, but as I said, regular cinema etiquette had gone out the window and I just didn't care. It would have been nice if the girl in the row behind me stopped kicking my fucking seat though.
Anyway, the film managed to gloss over a lot of Christian's utter dickishness and because we're not hearing Ana's thoughts, which is mostly a relief, as it means we're spared her infuriating inner goddess fuckery, we also don't hear how constantly afraid she is of Christian, how she doesn't trust him and how she considers escaping out of her bedroom window when he LITERALLY BREAKS INTO HER HOUSE TO FUCK HER.
Unsurprisingly, it's not a good film. But it doesn't even have the decency to be the fun type of bad, like Showgirls bad. It might have had a shot at that particular brand of cult movie status had they included the tampon scene (which was really the most outrageous sex-thing in the entire series), or Christian throwing a big-boy tantrum when Ana tries to pay for their pancakes, so instead we're landed with a below-mediocre, boring sex film.
But then again, that's pretty much what I expected.
Tess's verdict: "Well that was shite."
- When Ana wakes up in Christian's hotel room and he says he "had no choice" but to undress her before putting her to bed. FUCK. RIGHT. OFF.
- Also, the bit when he crawled up onto the bed and bit the toast out of her hand was hilariously stupid. Dude, what are you doing. Fuck away off from her toast.
- I'm not sure why the film wanted us to hate Kate, but they pretty much immediately turned us against her when she declines Ana's offer to make her a sandwich, then changes her mind and TAKES ANA'S SANDWICH OUT OF HER HAND LIKE SOME KIND OF FUCKING ANIMAL. RUDE.
- Rita Ora! With Louise Brooks hair! For about four seconds.
- Just when we thought we were safe from the book's interminable MOTHERFUCKING EMAILS, they go and include them in the film. BOOM, EMAILED RIGHT IN THE FACE. Although at least they're streamlined down to name and message, but I'll just bet EL James was there in post-production, looking over everyone's shoulder and making the case for including timestamps and subject lines and dumbass signatures.
- Ana's old-ass flip phone. Girl.
- TAYLOR! My hero. Also about a thousand percent sexier than anything else in the film. Just like the books.
- Jennifer Ehle, I'm not mad, I'm just disappointed. I even deployed your disapproving face as a means to tell Ana to shut up back in my first few recaps of the book. And now you do me like this.
(Also, last week, I was on 96fm in Cork for a chat about the books, which you can listen to here, should that be of interest. I turn up around the 30 minute mark.)