I was once told by an older, and much wiser, colleague that the best sex is when reward reflects the anticipation.
While my oversharing colleague was never seen near a work Christmas party after that night, it was a salient point that should have been made during the script writing process for Fifty Shades Of Grey.
I should add in this caveat before I sully my non-existent reputation: I’m most likely not the target audience for Fifty Shades of Grey. Having only scanned through a few pages of a roommate’s copy for key words – all the salacious ones, naturally – I resigned myself to not understanding what the fuss was about and turned up to the exclusive Sydneyscreening with low expectations.
That’s when the magic happens, right? Like all the best party nights that lazily stretch their legs out of the gates and finish at a canter at sunrise in a race against time and BAC to be ready to face another work da... except that’s not how it ended up.
Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) – the epitome of male beauty, as imagined by author E L James – is a HR disaster in waiting. I’m yet to be a billionaire magnate but I’m willing to bet one of the first rules of Super Successful Business School is don’t have the fembots from Robert Palmer’s Addicted To Love as your sole talent pool to draw from.
"You’re mine. All mine. Understand?" Possessive, disturbing and also right from the mouth of Grey. But... but.... but, I hear supporters stutter, the story is about dominance and the struggle for power.
But what about when the same guy breaks into his love interest’s house and wants to take secluded walks in the woods with her after having his dominant-submissive contract rejected? Or he reveals his bondage lust grew from a traumatising BDSM encounter as a 15-year-old with a friend of his mother’s? That’s when you morph from Alert But Not Alarmed into Usain Bolt and run.
Dakota Johnson has been on the receiving end of enough abuse to fill a week of therapy over her apparently vanilla portrayal of Anastasia - a name rarely heard in pop culture circles now that the singer’s career has fizzled (too soon in this writer’s opinion) - but one thing she nailed successfully was the part of the submissive. Find me another university student who willingly gives up a chicken sandwich she has just made – real chicken as well, not the possibly-chicken-but-probably-not lunch meat type – to a roommate without a fight and I’ll be impressed, because that person does not exist.
For all the effort required to suspend belief and temporarily live in a world where the two main characters had chemistry, there are some fleeting real-life moments to grab hold of. Anastasia pre-loading with her roommate before going out drinking, Anastasia drunk dialling a guy she’s interested in and being passive-aggressive in the hope of being alluring – hell, even her mother calling for the seemingly sole purpose of updating Anastasia on her father’s latest medical conditions – this is where the real magic lies.
The build-up is just not there. I’ve been told – chastised if I were to tell the story truthfully – that the anticipation is a large part of what makes sex great. Where is it? While Grey has serial killer Tourette’s masked as dominant innuendo, that’s as close as the flick gets and relies heavily on the soundtrack to build to anything resembling a climax.
The sex scenes had all the rhythm of a drunk man clicking his fingers in the corner of a jazz bar. I should know; I’ve been that guy - and it’s not attractive, no matter what I thought at the time. When Grey broke out the heat and ice routine I thought that maybe all those years of sneaking looks at Cosmo bedroom tips had paid off – I knew exactly where this was going.
But then later he led Anastasia to the Play Room to... braid her hair which, and I’m only assuming here, is much like Flight of the Conchords’ explanation for taking out the trash before bedtime: it’s not part of the foreplay but it’s still very important.
No-one around me seemed to like it, either. The only thighs squeezed together I noticed – without actually directly looking (because, you know, personal space) - was a woman two seats down from me on a desperate search and rescue mission for a Malteser gone rogue. Yet, according to Grey, this is a key indicator of female arousal. (The thighs squeezed together, not the Maltesers).
However, it was refreshing to see Hollywood nudity and not wonder about the methods involved in obtaining those images. While Don Johnson may be wrapping himself in ever-increasing layers of pastel to ward off the realisation that his baby is all grown up, it would have taken bucket loads of panache for Dakota to commit to full nudity for a large portion of the flick while a team of cameramen and crew stood metres away.
I haven’t read book two but, considering the trajectory of Grey’s Stage Five Clinger behaviour, I imagine Fifty Shades Darker will be much like Marky Mark in Fear – chest carvings and all.