So this afternoon I went to see the damn thing. After all, I can’t be writing blog posts and Facebook comments defending it without having seen it. (Although that doesn’t seem to have stopped most of the people who are telling me not to see it.)
My verdict? It was a good film. When I heard that it had been given a 12 certificate in France and Germany I was quite shocked, but now I’ve seen it I can see why. It’s pretty tame, you don’t actually see much sex. I don’t think I’d be too worried about my 14yr old seeing it.
I went into it with an open mind. I tried not to think of all the things I’d read about it, although it’s hard not to take all that into a film with you, as some of it has been pretty strong. For example, letters from psychiatrists advising all women to stay away from it come across as pretty heavy, so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting my feminist shackles to be hauled up at some point.
But actually? It was pretty tame. It seems to me to be just a typical romance story, but with some whips. Yes it’s a bit silly sometimes, and some of the lines they come out with make you giggle, but that happens in most so-called romance films, doesn’t it? I was annoyed by the kind of things that always annoy me in films. For example, nobody ever says goodbye when they’re on the phone, everyone finds a car parking space straight away and nobody ever seems to need a wee. But as hard as I looked, I couldn’t see anything that suggested an abusive relationship, and yes, I’m fully aware of all the different kinds of abusive relationships there can be, thank you, it’s just that this isn’t one of them. In fact, the only slightly manipulative relationship I noticed in the book is the one between Anastasia and her best friend, who talks down to her and treats her like an idiot. But I suppose that’s fine as it’s a woman doing it.
My main impression was that she comes across as the one in charge and I liked her character, she laughed at some of the sex stuff, like most of us would. And as lovely as Jamie Dornan is, (and, after seeing him in The Fall recently, I kept expecting Gillian Anderson to jump out in one of her nice silk blouses, which might have spiced it up a little bit) he does come across as a bit of an idiot; he’s annoying and his idea of relationships is screwed up. But then normal, well-balanced relationships and situations don’t make great films.
I find it quite hard to believe that any woman would come out of this film thinking that it portrays a normal, healthy relationship, and we all know that relationships that start out with one person trying to change the other, just don’t work. I find it very patronising to be told that I shouldn’t like, or even watch this film because of what it’s apparently about, based on what someone heard someone else say about a film based on a book that they haven’t even read. I’m perfectly capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy; I know, for example, that when I go and watch Shaun the Sheep, which I will inevitably be forced to do, that sheep don’t actually wear jumpers or drive cars, so give me some credit.
I came away feeling much more disturbed by the trailers that were shown before the film. The usual action films showing mindless violence and scantily clad women who serve no purpose except to look good; so-called romance films that portray women as manipulative and emotionally shallow. It seems that manipulation in a film is fine, if it’s a woman manipulating a man. Equality indeed.
On a lighter note, whoever decided to show an ad for a lubricant just before an ad for an erectile dysfunction helpline, deserves a medal.
And I will end on the best bit of the film. While you mainly just see some nipples and a bare bottom, you do get a flash of pubic hair, and I can happily report that it is all there, proud and bushy. It seems that grown women actually do have body hair after all, who knew? I bet you don’t get that with Shaun the Sheep. Not that I’d want to, of course, that would be weird.
So I promise never to mention this film again. Until the sequel comes out.