Monday, February 16, 2015

My thoughts on FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

No surprise that FIFTY SHADES OF GREY opened big this weekend. There was tremendous curiosity about whether this masterfully written book could possibly be adapted for the screen. Could all the subtlety and subtext somehow make the transition? Could the complex themes resonate when the story was put on its feet (or on it's back)?

And what about the task for the actors? There was so much depth and dimension to Christian and Anastasia, would any actor – no matter how well trained or naturally gifted – be able to pull it off? Maybe Meryl Streep but alas she can play everything but young.

Based on the boxoffice, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding YES.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are virtual locks to win Best Actor & Actress Oscars next year.

The real battle will be for Best Supporting Actor & Actress. All of the roles in this movie were challenging. Each one was so well-drawn and specific on the page. Like “best friend” or “guy who works with her.” I fear the sterling performances will cancel each other out and someone less deserving from another movie will win those Oscars instead. Thank goodness for the Golden Globes. We can at least count on them to get it right. And the AVN’s.

The screenwriter wisely decided to keep the sex scenes. What a courageous move! There is always the danger that nudity, graphic sex, and kinky sex will detract from the poetic dialogue. Especially when it occupies half the movie. Credit as well to the director. Bold choice to show as much as the MPAA will allow.

The ultimate success of a chick flick is whether the studio can lure guys in as well. And this one does, even without major explosions or comic book heroes. The story twists and turns are just so riveting. It’s a master class in filmmaking.

I haven’t seen the movie myself yet. Yes, I’m sure it’s glorious on the big screen. (Size does matter in IMAX). But I worry that I won’t get the full appreciation of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY if I can’t hit pause, rewind, and slow motion. Yes, I’ll be tempted. That’s what the movie is all about, isn’t it? But hopefully, I’ll be able to see it in a couple of months. In the meantime, thank God for the internet.

38 comments:

Dan Sachs said...

I see you're trying for a pull quote in the ads.

Aces said...

I love you so much Mr Levine for this blog post, not many people will get it. Oh, and I also love your body of work with all those amazing shows!!

Bill O said...

Seems unfair, and heavy handed, to pick on it for things it isn't - and never intended to be. Like that attack on Lena Durham, another woman profitably catching the cultural zeitgeist, it seems petty and vindictive.

Oat Willie said...

Great deadpan.

Jim said...

@aces Do you really think the readers of this blog are that dumb?

mmryan314 said...

I`ve read and heard the same things you have about the movie- ugh. Well done satirical piece today.

Hamid said...

Great post! And you pretty much sum up what the general consensus around the movie is.

I've not seen it yet but the response I've heard is that it's pretty tame. And that's the problem with adapting this book from the get go. Since you know they're not going to make an NC-17 film, then you also know it's not going to push the envelope in any meaningful way. The films Shortbus, Nymphomaniac, 9 Songs and Intimacy featured the cast having real sex. Once you've done that in a non-porn film, where else is there to go? And Blue Velvet and Secretary already did S&M.

Still, I'll check it out for the cinematography and production design. And maybe Dakota Johnson too.

Kosmo13 said...

I refuse to pay full price to see this film. I'm going to go to one of the kiddie matinee showings to save money.

Tom Quigley said...

I'm only going to go see it for the lighting and special effects...

Anonymous said...

I never heard that the book was such a good read but now that I've read your review I'm hooked! So nice to see such positive language for such an uplifting story. Well done.
Johnny O
Sweetspotthebook.com

YEKIMI said...

I'm waiting for the porn version "50 Shades Of Gay"

YEKIMI said...

I'm waiting for the porn version "50 Shades Of Gay"

Matthew Petersen said...

"Size does matter in IMAX" The NBC news gave the show a free five minute plug last Friday and everyone they interviewed who had bought advance tickets were obese. Apparently size does matter to the movie goers.

chuckcd said...

I am waiting for the porn version.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been in a theater in years. People are just so obnoxious, and I mean people of ALL ages. Between the talking and cell phone usage I can't deal with it anymore. I think the last one was Mystic River which I saw in a packed movie theater and had to listen to the 40+ couple behind me talk to each other and on their phones the entire length of the movie. I wait to download or rent.
Oh, and stay off my lawn!!!!
Janice B.

BigTed said...

Seeing this movie is better than a sharp stick in the eye. (Unless you like that sort of thing.)

Cap'n Bob said...

I'm with you, Janice B. I've haven't been to the theater in at least two years. As for 50 Shades, I have no interest in the book, movie, or board game if they come out with one.

Anonymous said...

Saw it. Oh no, it's very lame.
I am done with movies like this.
Wonder if the writer got a deal
to write more?

chuckcd said...

I had to check the calender to make sure it wasn't April 1st.

Diane D. said...

Aces said, "not many people will get it." Seriously? There is not one person who won't get it. Unfortunately, the satire drifts so far into sarcasm, it loses any sense of amusement for me, but that is a very individual thing and I'm sure many people loved it.
I didn't read the book and won't see the movie, but I wish I could make myself go for one reason only. When a cultural phenomenon is talked about and referenced (and satirized) so much, one feels a little lost in being ignorant of it. However, time is just too precious to spend in that way.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Janice, Cap'n Bob: It may be a long trip for you, but the place to see movies in a theater with a perfect audience is Roger Ebert's Film Festival, held every year in April in Urbana-Champaign. 12-14 movies in five days, a beautiful giant screen with perfectly clear (and not too loud) sound, and an audience that knows how to behave. Ebert actually wrote a journal posting about "the perfect audience" at the festival. It's worth the trip, the hotel room, the lines, and the time-constrained food breaks. :)

wg

Barbara C. said...

The interviews with the actors sound like they were traumatized by making the film. The lead actually compared it's popularity to the popularity of Hitler.

I just found it rather ironic that at the Grammy's they had a ten minute schpiel against domestic abuse, going on about how true love does not degrade another person.

And then the biggest movie being promoted tries to normalize degradation and psychological abuse as part of an "epic love story".

VP81955 said...

When writing this, Ken's tongue was so firmly in his cheek that the trilogy's author may employ that as a sexual special effect for part 4.

Dan Ball said...

Idiocracy, here we come!

Rebecca said...

Friday question: who do you thnk are the best writers in comedy today? Any up and comers you keep close tabs on?

Angry Gamer said...

"I haven’t seen the movie myself yet."

Translated means... "I don't know what the hell I'm talking about" ???

Well I have seen the movie. And.. it's actually pretty good. But then again I sleep in the top bunk on coed campouts. I even express male centric opinions counter to my feminist friends thoughts on gender equality... gasp!

And Ken... I just have to say this. Would you like someone taking apart a movie that you worked on without the critic having seen it?

I mean it's not like Mr. Grey brainwashed Anna into wearing terrible knockoffs of Chinese military uniforms and reciting Communist slogans or anything... oh wait.

It's just too funny seeing all of the left minded types getting all "wee wee'ed up" about this little book and this little movie.

What happened to not preaching in the bedroom? Only apply to same sex marriage does it?

I mean if this had been a movie about two females and the red room implements were switched to fem appropriate toys... would you still feel the same righteous indignation? Would you demand a puritan trial?

Are adults allowed to express their sexual desires without society being judge or not? I'm confused.

cadavra said...

I've said this before but it bears repeating.

If you want to see a movie in a theatre, do what I so: wait!

The mania for seeing a film right away has become so strong that by the third week, most people have moved on, and you can watch the movie with a handful of others in peace. (Sometimes I'm the only one in the theatre.) Of course, with monster hits like AMERICAN SNIPER, you might want to hold off a little longer, but it's worth it to see a film on a big screen, which is where all motion pictures should be seen, at least the first time.

VP81955 said...

Heard the news this afternoon that Lesley Gore, one of the legendary voices of the mid-sixties, has died of lung cancer at 68.

A true story: When I first came to Los Angeles in June 1989, I was put up for a night at one of the nearby airport hotels before going to where I had reservations the following day. Upon entering my room, I dug out my portable radio and turned on KLAC, airing its Saturday night oldies show. The first song I heard was "California Nights" by Lesley Gore, and I thought to myself, "They do believe in the myth out here." Well, now that I'm a local, that myth has got me too, and I thank fellow easterner Lesley for introducing me to it.

Mike said...

You've missed your target. To the surprise of many, the filmmakers dumped the source material and made a decent film, given the limitations of the Hollywood mainstream (or so I'm told).

In the psychological thriller The Fall (UK, 2013-14), Jamie Dornan plays a bereavement counsellor & serial killer, pursued around Belfast by Gillian Anderson's independent & promiscuous police detective. She needs to understand her quarry, he doesn't like successful women. The two become fixated on each other...

Barry Traylor said...

For a nanosecond I was afraid you were serious.

iconoclast59 said...

I just looked up "snark" in the dictionary and found a link to this article.

@Aces I originally read "your body of work" as "your body work" and thought, "Wha--? Ken was a stunt double in the movie?!?!"

@Wendy An added bonus of going to the Ebert Film Festival is the possibility that Tilda Swinton will lead a conga line through the theater: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPBBrLHDsYc

Johnny Walker said...

What more can be said. Hilarious.

Tudor Queen said...

One of your funniest columns, which is saying quite a lot.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I saw on the news that this was the biggest February opening since "The Passion of the Christ," which whipped audiences into another kind of frenzy. Not to flog a dead horse, but you can't beat those numbers.

mmryan314 said...

Ken, please - don`t keep us in suspense. SNL40. I have my thoughts (:

Jeff Baldwin said...

The “things it is not” are why the book and movie supposedly suck (they probably blow too).  There is a reason, or to read the reviews, reasons why it only has a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Even giving it an extra 10% to make up for the baseless haters it still gets the green splat.  Of course I have not done the book or movie, so I guess I shouldn’t be talking smack, but there seems to be a pretty overwhelming consensus on them sucking….artistically.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

If anybody is interested here is Gilbert Gottfried reading 50 Shades, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkLqAlIETkA

pallas said...

" There is always the danger that nudity, graphic sex, and kinky sex will detract from the poetic dialogue"

You know what else had masterful, poetic dialogue? A little show called Cheers!