We Shade to Grey: my Sunday Business Post column, 8th February 2015

Truly, it is the love that dares not speak its name. People might not have been discussing it in their more hipster gatherings or at elegant dinner parties (in fact if the subject comes up, they’ll loudly decry their interest), but all around the country women have been slipping away to block-book tickets to see Fifty Shades of Grey, the film adaptation of EL James’s S&M global erotic romance smash, starring Irish actor Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, which emerges, with deliberately cutesy timing, on Valentine’s weekend.
Speaking to one cinema owner before Christmas, he expressed doubt about how well Fifty Shades of Grey would do in Ireland, unsure if the book’s success would translate into bums on seats. But recent advance bookings have proved that the interest is there: the trailer has become the most viewed in movie history, and women are snapping up tickets at a rate of knots.
But that’s the deal with Fifty Shades of Grey. Everybody loudly condemns it, and then they download it onto their Kindles, sneak away with it on holidays or purloin their friends’ copies of the book. I used to own Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s long gone, disappeared through a chain of people who “wouldn’t read that rubbish”, but nonetheless asked if they could borrow it. One of the reasons for the novel’s initial ascent into mainstream popularity – leaving aside EL James’s mind-boggling feat of welding S&M to the type of sugary dialogue you’d find in a Sweet Valley High novel – was the fact that it could be bought on a Kindle, so no one could see you reading it. When it became mainstream fodder, Fifty Shades became acceptable to buy in shops, on the grounds that everyone else was buying it. But it still came pre-loaded with a sense of mortification, which continues to linger around the film.
Would you want to be spotted going to Fifty Shades of Grey? Let’s face it, it’s not like telling people you’re off to watch Birdman. I’m going to a reviewers’ screening soon, so I can justify the entire thing on the grounds that it’s for work. While I’m happy to go to the cinema on my own ordinarily, there’s no way I’d venture to Fifty Shades solo. I’m not sure I’d see it with a date either: you’d want to be pretty comfortable with your beloved to sit through those Red Room of Pain bondage scenes. (Advance word has it that a full fifth of the film’s running time is given over to sex scenes.)
But I am curious about it. So I can understand the reports that there have been 80 per cent block advance bookings for the film by women – they want to see the film, but they’re embarrassed, and there’s strength in numbers. “Will we go for a laugh?” they’ll say to each other, and “the laugh” will be justification enough.
Still, even as a guilty pleasure, the movie has to justify their time, and advance details to date don’t look inspiring. It has an odd choice of director: Sam Taylor-Johnson, best known for her work as a visual artist. The previous lead actor backed out of the project, leaving Jamie Dornan to step up. Some scenes have had to be reshot on the grounds that they weren’t “sexy enough”. In the trailers I’ve seen, Johnson looks to be massively overacting, coming over like Kristen Stewart in Twilight times 100 (a terrifying proposition).
Much of the problem stems from a confusion around the book’s success: no one suspected it would become such a hit – and people still aren’t sure exactly why it has been. In recent interviews, Dornan has sounded uncertain about the project, and he’s right to be. There’s a lot riding on this film, his career included.
Could it become the biggest turkey in history? Will it be a smash hit? Either way, expect illegal downloading of the movie to be rife – after all, if you’re going to watch a film in the privacy of your own home, with no one else to see you, Fifty Shades is a perfect choice.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s