50 Shades of Mortification: A Review By Roisin Kiberd
Oh Capel Street. I'll never get tired of you. It's Friday the 13th and I'm rushing past noodle shops and pet shops and charity shops on my way to a Cineworld matinée. And of course sex shops, their windows given over to promoting one particular film.
Because of course the merch for Fifty Shades of Grey includes limited edition handcuffs.
Time for a disclaimer: I haven't actually read the book. I must be the only one. The film's poster, though, intrigued me with its post-apocalyptic dystopian stock imagery vibes. And I'd developed a morbid fascination with the origins of the story, the idea of a blockbuster romance based on dodgy Twilight fanfic.
I arrive to a giggly half-full cinema (later screenings, I'm assured, are completely booked out) and take a seat at the back with my fellow deviants, where no one will notice my Tesco fizzy rosé and the lit-up phone screen where I take notes.
So did it live up to the hype? How decadent and depraved wasFifty Shades, really?
Not especially, is the answer, though I'd not advise anyone to sit through it with their grandmother.
The film has the look of 90s 'erotic drama' to it, all glassy corporate interiors, kisses in rain and tailored suiting. More time is spent fetishizing Christian Grey's wardrobe of silk ties than his actual sexual proclivities.
Though there is sex in it. I feel compelled to acknowledge this one third of the way through my review because, as somebody who brought a stopwatch to a screening for the Telegraph found out, the sex doesn't happen until forty minutes in (the film runs 125 minutes overall). It is graphic, but not especially shocking. The contract-signing scene gains a certain humour given this context, with all the more risqué scenes cut from the book: Anastasia reads through a list, ticking off what she will and will not do, and the film literally edits out its own possibilities.
There's something very knowing about the Fifty Shades film, delivered some time after the literary phenomenon dropped off and charity shops filled up with copies of it. It could never really have been any other way than schlocky, but at least it has a sense of humour about itself.
As mogul Christian Grey, Jamie Dornan seems to grit his teeth through the endeavour, and he has that blonde, 'Business Ken' cleanliness that only very wealthy people have. It renders him oddly sexless but acceptable as eye candy. Dakota Johnson, meanwhile, is convincingly awkward-pretty as Anastasia Steele, though her expression rarely wavers from one of put-upon confusion.
Fifty Shades left me intrigued about why people liked the book so much, and why it still apparently signals scandal. I think it poses little threat to the fight for sexual equality- it literally fetishizes consent, spinning the negotiations between Anastasia and Christian into one protracted, thinly-spread plot.
There is something inoffensively gormless about Grey. He's a de-fanged Patrick Bateman, a corporate Heathcliff, following Anastasia around in his helicopter and forlornly gatecrashing her appointments. Sitting in his glossy ambient-lit apartment, its hard to imagine anything goes on in Grey's life beyond Anastasia's fleeting appearances.
If anything, I see this film inspiring women to not settle for less, to abandon their milquetoast partners en masse and go gold-digging at local hardware shops in the hopes of meeting billionaires stocking up on rope. Or to at least to convene in loud, giggly, slightly inebriated groups at cinema screenings, turning Dublin into a raucous communal hen night.
Because this is romantic pantomime. If you're expecting this generations Basic Instinct, you'll end up with something more like Showgirls. But who's not a fan of that? It's camp, self-aware, and unexpectedly straightforward for something produced in Hollywood.
My advice is go in a group, consume lots of the aforementioned Tesco fizzy wine, and giggle your through the film release of the year. And if you see it at Cineworld, take a detour via Capel Street on the way home, stop and look in a few shop windows and giggle some more.