Year 8, Day 133 - 5/12/16 - Movie #2,333
BEFORE: As sort of a follow-up to "American Gigolo", I may have a theme going this week with the kinky stuff. But I got this to go on a DVD with "Secretary", which seemed like a natural fit, and I was able to work one film into the February romance chain, but not the other, because this didn't link to any other films in that chain, and "Secretary" did. But the best thing about getting the watchlist down to 130 films is the realization that I've got about a four-month response time now - this film premiered on cable in January, and I'm getting to it now, because I could theoretically clear my whole list in four months, if I could just stop adding to it. And anything being added to the bottom of the list will be scheduled for August at the earliest.
Marcia Gay Harden carries over from "The Hoax".
THE PLOT: Literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.
AFTER: I didn't even realize that I put two films about billionaires next to each other - one real, and one fictional. But this film was a hot topic in popular culture about a year ago, and I figured it's high time that I saw what the fuss was all about. I can't really weigh in on what the phenomenon was all about, or what it means to have a whole bunch of older ladies reading dirty books again, I can only watch the film and weigh in with my opinions, which are affected by my personal experiences.
And as luck would have it, this got scheduled one day after the anniversary of my first time, twenty-something years ago, and since the lead female character here is quite inexperienced, naturally I was sort of flashing back to that day, when a woman first took me by the (let's say) hand, and showed me how the whole crazy thing was supposed to go. (Oh, I'd had plenty of experience at that point, just never before with another person in the room.)
And as these things tend to go, quite often one person is more experienced than the other, and so even though I was so happy that I was finally getting laid, a month or so later when I heard her describe her previous sexual experiences, I got extremely jealous - even though they had not gone well for her, and she'd gotten her heart broken. Still, I was upset that she hadn't waited for me, which was ridiculous because at that point she hadn't even met me, so it made no sense for me to be jealous and angry, I was being completely irrational.
Fast-forward five years to a time when both of us were having fantasies that didn't include the other, and that's pretty much a sign that the clock is ticking, and the relationship is doomed. But I wonder how much of the inequalities went back to that first time, and the tone was set by the realization that one of us was more experienced than the other. And to a certain extent those scales can never be balanced, so for a while there was a lot of jockeying for position, like a contest to see which one could gain the upper hand over the other and/or outlast the other one to get what they wanted. None of that is healthy - at some point it began to feel like a form of mental abuse, in both directions. So we parted ways, and she became part of my backstory, and I became part of her backstory, and we moved on to other partners, and such is the way of the world.
But my point is that at some point you need to realize when you're in an unhealthy relationship, and take steps to get out of it. In this film Anastasia Steele ignores a TON of warning signs and starts a relationship with Christian Grey. Too many to list here, but let's start with his propensity for buying cable ties and rope, and go forward from there. Plus he's bossy with a capital "B" and has the money, resources and inclination to show up anywhere unannounced - it's under the auspices of "rescuing" Anastasia from dangerous situations, like, um, drinking too much? Something tells me, however, that over-imbibing is a situation she'll probably live through, but a relationship with Mr. Grey is a little more questionable.
Then we've got the way he treats her, almost with a callous disregard, and he's super-aloof when he says he doesn't have "normal" relationships, he doesn't "sleep" with women - it's all a very coy way of trying to make his bondage-contract deals with submissive women seem perfectly normal, and guess what? It's just not. OK, maybe there are celebrities and business moguls out there who ask women to sign NDA's, or get them on camera stating that they consent to sex, but that's just rich people covering their bases, since we live in a litigious society. Asking a woman to sign an extended contract that gives a man control over her diet, her exercise, her other sex partners, however you slice it, this is a form of slavery, and I thought society made that illegal at some point.
On one hand, I pick up on his deal - most women don't like the direct approach, so if he acts all aloof and unavailable, they'll see him as a challenge. Or if he seems incapable of having "normal" dates, they'll see him as a problem that needs fixing. But most of the time, he's just plain rude, and I don't see the point of portraying Mr. Grey this way, one day he's saying - "I'll give you all the time you need to read the contract." and then the next day Mr. Bossy Pants is texting "WHY haven't you signed the contract? I'm getting old here!" Umm, what was that about all the time she needed? Did he forget saying that, or is this another control issue?
Speaking of control, I'm not even going to fall back on my standard joke about why S&M wouldn't work, because they don't even use the terms "sadism" and "masochism" here, they use "dominant" and "submissive", which does seem to be more accurate - but I've heard it said that the doms would have you believe that the subs have all the power, but this seems like the kind of bull that the doms would say. Then why don't we call the submissives the dominants and vice-versa? Do you think that just because there's a safe word that the submissives have the control? I kind of doubt that, because look at who's holding the whip.
However, because Anastasia never gets around to signing the contract, it does seem like she's exercising some control over the situation - because as soon as she's signed it, then the relationship is established regarding who's got control over whom, and as long as she DOESN'T sign it, then it becomes a game, a constant jockeying for control. So now we're left wondering who won the game, and in fact, when did the game start and when did it end? Mr. Grey found that he had to change his tactics with her, precisely because she didn't sign immediately, and instead started negotiating the terms and crossing off things she wouldn't do from the list. (Really, isn't the contract just a blatant metaphor for the unspoken agreement between any two lovers, since each has their own likes and dislikes, and things they just find icky?)
Ladies, I don't get you - does this really represent the sort of fantasies you have? During the day you're all about demanding equal pay and equal rights and saying that a woman shouldn't need to rely on men for financial support, and then you secretly dream of getting involved with a billionaire who surprises you with fancy dinners and sports cars? Really? The two dreams would seem to be at cross purposes with each other, no?
I can't think of a proper reason for anyone to watch this - certainly it can't be for the nudity and the sex scenes, because anyone can see much more graphic stuff, just with a couple of clicks on the internet. But I guess the takeaway tonight is that it takes two to tango, even with the dominant/submissive stuff thrown into the mix. I'm sort of reminded of the film "Whiplash", which featured a different sort of abusive relationship, but what kept the relationship going was the fact that Andrew, the drummer kid, kept coming back to practice and enduring the teacher's insults for the sake of the music, I guess. But then even after he left the school, he met with the teacher again, and joined his jazz group - for the love of God, WHY? He put himself right back in that old position, willingly, he must have known what was going to happen. Draw your own conclusions about that.
Also starring Dakota Johnson (last seen in "The Five-Year Engagement"), Jamie Dornan (last seen in "Marie Antoinette"), Jennifer Ehle (last seen in "Robocop"), Eloise Mumford, Luke Grimes (last seen in "American Sniper"), Victor Rasuk, Rita Ora, Max Martini, Andrew Airlie.
RATING: 3 out of 10 text messages