Sunday, February 15, 2015

Haven't read the book nor seen the movie, but enjoyed this review written by friend, Shone Kirkpatrick...:

Took the missus to the movies last night for “50 Shades of Grey” and as a disclaimer, no unnecessary pain or punishment was inflicted. My safe words were “Yellow” (this movie can’t last much longer, right?) and “Red” (this is the end of the movie, right?) Nevertheless, the evening offered up a wealth of zeitgeist nodules. 
First, the theatre was definitely not packed. 7 pm show opening Friday night Canyon Country movie house, not even half-full. Nan said that is this was the opening Friday night for one of her Twilight movies she would have been in the bathroom throwing up; I told her I would have been right beside her. The young lady (Asst. Mgr?) who watched me go out and smoke cigarettes told me that Saturday’s showings- Valentine’s Day itself- was pretty much sold out. Still, I was surprised by how few people were there- mostly older couples such as yours truly and the missus. (Older guys are canny, wily veterans. We have learned from hard-fought campaigns of miscalculations and dashed fantasies to embrace the path of least resistance.)
(Speaking of Valentine’s Day, it is a fake, made-up holiday that I have railed against since the fifth grade when I only got five valentines in the little envelope taped to my desk at Jefferson Elementary school, Beeville TX. There were at least a dozen of girls in that class! That’s another thing about older guys: we remember everything!) 
We settled into the seats of our choice with a tub of popcorn and a large diet coke for dinner (capped by dessert at Cold Stone!) and the movie began to unspool…
Seriously, it wasn’t the worst movie I have ever seen by any stretch. It was a little boring but then I’m not really the gender-target audience. In fact, if seen through the female prism, the movie delivers at a consistent level. The photography is lovely and the helicopter and glider shots make Seattle pretty to look at… Dakota Johnson (Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson’s daughter) is fine, and considering her lineage, remarkably intact. The guy- Jamie Doran- whoever that is- reminded me of David Hasselhoff, which is problematic in and of itself. Now normally I’m impressed when actors can deliver horrible dialogue in ridiculous situations- as a testament to their craft- but watching 50 Shades it occurred to me that what is much more likely is that the actors are acting up a storm! By that I mean both these actors could quite conceivably be doing the best work of their lives. This is it; this is their pinnacle! And if that is true it shifts the entire paradigm. (I guess, sadly, not everyone can be Brando or Streep.) Let’s leave it at the acting is not particularly cringe-worthy, although I do wonder what the director said to Ms. Johnson (“A little more ecstasy; now, not that much, more guttural moaning I think…”
But all this is beside the point. The real message is the story.
When 50 Shades became a publishing phenomenon, I thought I should read it just to see what all the fuss was about, but neglected to do so. But then I never read any of the Twilight books either, a sin of omission frankly, in regards to how much hard currency they put in my pocket (thanks to the wife, but more on that in a bit.) The story is a classic feminine trope: love-struck girl tries to tame/heal the emotionally wounded outcast guy with love. (It’s a real life scenario that’s repeated ad nauseam to the despair of parents everywhere.) The twist in 50 Shades is the S&M angle which is pretty tame, i.e. restraints, feathers, ice cubes and later a whip which breaks the camel’s back so to speak… But there are two more films so… get ready. But why so many “normal” women would be entertained by an S&M fantasy is puzzling. You could argue that living in a patriarchal environment (which we do) causes some women to develop a self-hate which causes a need to be dominated, etc. Some also argue that the rape fantasy- which is quite common for women apparently (see Wikipedia! Boy, the fact that Wikipedia is our go-to source… disconcerting) allows them to engage in sex without feeling guilty, etc. But honestly, I’m not concerned with the S&M part of the story because I think it’s a bit beside the point which is this is a fantasy. In fact, in some ways the movie reminded me of kid’s sports movies where the bench warmer finally gets to play and scores the winning goal/touchdown/home run/whatever. Think of “The Sandlot” or “Bad News Bears” meets the Marquis de Sade. Kind of like that. It also reminded me of “9 ½ Weeks” from 1986, a very similar story with a very hot Mickey Rourke (pre-whatever the hell he did to himself) and sexy Kim Basinger (seemingly nuts then, definitely nuts now.) (The only things I remember well about the movie is her striptease to Joe Cocker’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and she said that kissing Mickey Rourke was like kissing an ashtray. As a smoker, I took offense to that characterization, knowing it was probably very true. Oh well. We all have our crosses to bear.) But “(9 ½ Weeks” was a commercial flop, so why is Fifty Shades a hit? For that you can blame my wife.
Shone! We always suspected you of being delusional, now we are sure! But not so fast suspectors…
As many of you know, my wife was the head of marketing for Summit which released the Twilight movies. The Twilight franchise changed the landscape of Hollywood. The first Twilight revealed a huge, previously untapped market of films for girls. Before Twilight young males ruled the B.O. and girls had to be content with modest hits like “10 Things I Hate About You” but Twilight changed all that. But the genius of Twilight was my wife recognizing all the adult women who responded to the books and would respond to the movie if given a chance… And history- literal Hollywood history- was made. In fact, 50 Shades was originally a Twilight-fan story with Bella and Edward doing the S&M thing and Summit had to tell the writer to knock it off so she changed the names and retooled it a bit and voila! Stunning success. You can easily see the ties between the two. So that’s cool, you go S&M fantasizing ladies, go!
Which brings us back to the movie theatre. I’m watching the film, watching these young, hard bodies supinely writhe and clash… and I’m wondering when I found kissing and (kind of) sex on screen to be so boring. But everybody was watching (Nan accused me of going out and smoking cigarettes during the sex scenes but it just happened that way; it was not particularly by design) and I’m sitting there watching, thinking and, suddenly inspired, I grabbed Nan’s hand. I moved it forcefully towards me; I could glimpse her consternation as I thrust her hand on to my firm… folded knee. More specifically, the $19.99 Rite-Aid knee brace that I have taken to wearing since the doctor told me my knee was too far gone for arthroscopic surgery and I will need to have the knee replaced but to try and delay it as long as possible because the knee replacement only lasts twenty years and you don’t want to go through the procedure twice.
She smiled wanly, and patted my knee brace reassuringly.
I can only hope that your Valentine’s Day is as memorable!

An admired teacher posted this  "Psychiatrist's Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey on fb. It reminds me of the Steve Martin line from the old album The Jerk...  "Sure, it's fun, but..."  Like I said, I don't even know the plot of the movie (then, why don't I just shut up, you might legitimately ask), but this article does raise reasonable questions.  The effect of the media on thought and perception is fascinating.

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