Film Review: 50 Shades of Missionary Sex
I saw 50 Shades of Grey by myself. During the two or possibly infinity hours of this film, I ate a bowl of pasta, spilled it onto my shirt, and licked the sauce off with my fingers. Like the film itself, everything about it was messy and a little sad. And even though it involved some tongue, rest assured: there was nothing sexy about any of it.
I saw the second movie, 50 Shades Darker, in a movie theater full of women, a small group of Hasidic men, and this one guy that kept leaving the theater to cough. The tone was set almost immediately. The moment Christian Grey, the 27-year-old billionaire who looks like he’s carved out of stone, appears on screen? People started to laugh. And they continued to laugh for most of the film---during the sex scenes, pretty much any time Christian said anything, and especially during the lamest cliffhanger I’ve ever seen a movie end on. It’s the most I’ve heard people laugh since 2016, when life was but a much simpler dream.
The 50 Shades franchise is probably the most sex I’ve watched in one sitting without any of it being sexy at all. I don’t know how they do this. They should bottle this essence and give it to teenagers, since we all know the education system is about to get way more “preaching abstinence” in the next few years and this could help with that. If I were a youthful virgin who had to watch both movies, I’d think: okay, sex is what happens when two people who act like they are always under light anesthesia from dental work get tired of talking to each other. It won't get them excited, that's for sure.
50 Shades of Grey, of course, wasn’t sexy because it made people mostly uncomfortable. It's just your basic tale of a controlling rich dude (Christian Grey, played by a possibly constipated Jamie Dornan) who wielded his power on a young college grad (we will call her Anesthesia, played by a very irritated Dakota Johnson) who worked at a hardware store but also acted like she couldn’t hammer a nail into a wall without asking her parents about it first. They have sex after a VERY LONG and DENSE contract about THE SEX THEY WILL HAVE appears numerous times, because he’s one of those dudes who says he’s hardcore but is actually not that hardcore at all, he just gets turned on by long and boring contracts. Oh, and some bastardization of BDSM that mostly involves not listening and tying knots. Anyway. He doesn’t really respect her boundaries, even though he's the one that wanted the contract in the first place. The film managed to insult people who practice real BDSM, people who know anything about contracts, and people in general. All the while, they flop around unaware like two betta fish who fell on a carpet but also want to kill each other. The movie ended with a breakup and a feeling of relief from the audience: turns out, a film about a rich prick who doesn’t respect his partner doesn't turn most of us on.
Thankfully, 50 Shades Darker is a different kind of animal. It’s also very unsexy, but luckily, unlike its previous film, it’s less about the contracts and disrespect and more about being the funniest movie I’ve seen in a few months.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Christian Gray is still a weird prick, but in this film this mostly comes out via his mommy issues and his dislike of his own nipples, his birthday, and showing his stepmother any love other than naming a boat after her. He's still controlling in many ways, but his leading lady seems more inclined to make fun of him for these things, which is sort of like Dakota Johnson's way of looking into the camera like Jim from The Office and screaming I HATE THIS. So that's a massive improvement right out of the gate.
And this time, there are many sexy things in the movie besides legal jargon and file folders. After all, it does involve more Rita Ora, garters, hot oil, satin blindfolds, shower sex, breasts, panties, and beads you stick up your vagina. All things one might consider sexy. But not in this film! This is probably because I suspect the two main actors would rather rub themselves with BBQ sauce and jump into a wasp farm than kiss each other one more time. There’s no doubt that these two hate being in this franchise, and who could blame them? If it isn't a boring scene at a restaurant, it's a costume ball filled with old white dudes in masks. If it's not a sex scene in his childhood bedroom, it's another boring scene at a restaurant, because there are like 50 of them.
Luckily, we don't have to worry about Dakota and Jamie having fun, because we are having fun, albeit a mild amount of it and all at the actor's expense. Do you want to watch Christian balance himself on a pommel horse to the tunes of The Police? Do you want to watch a long bit about how long it takes waiters to open up a bottle of wine? How about a few butthole jokes? An extended boardroom meeting about an author’s online presence with the 18-24 demographic? Rita Ora shopping for paisley ties? A makeover scene? A light-up key chain of Seattle? Marcia Gay Harden? Kim Basinger getting a martini thrown in her face? An entire poolhouse filled with roses? A Chronicles of Riddick Poster in Christian Grey’s childhood bedroom? What about the term “sea widow?” Do you want to hear that? Of course you fucking do!
What about missionary sex, though? Because those infamous raunchy sex scenes are 90% missionary and one quick doggy-style flash, just so we can be reminded of the sex we're all probably having, as that's DEFINITELY the point of THIS KIND OF MOVIE. Uh.
Now, I don't want you to be confused, here: when you take away the missionary sex scenes and the Vin Diesel poster, 50 Shades Darker is a very long movie about a very boring relationship nobody would ever want to be in and nobody in the audience should root for. So in the long run, while I did laugh, it's mostly exhausting. The issues of the film involve moving in together, relationship boundaries, angry and frantic texting, and an increased frustration about Anesthesia’s love of working. Yes. We already know from the last film that these two slices of toasted white bread barely have any personality at all. Christian's core humanity is two-sided: he's rich and he's probably a psycho. These things both keep getting beat over our head with whatever cheap dildo you bought at Adam and Eve last week. He says things like, "I own a place in New York" and "I'm a sadist." He keeps trying to give his girlfriend a VERY SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF 24,000 dollars. He wants to buy the company his girlfriend works at, which is the richest thing a psycho can do.
And that's the real conflict of the movie. Not his sadism. Not his stalker ex-lovers and ex-subs, who have guns and/or are Kim Basinger. The main conflict of the film is that Ana likes her job, likes to occasionally put her job above Christian's very neurotic and constant needs, and does all of that despite the fact that her boss is kind of hot.
That's the shit we get for watching this turd hole of a movie! That's the plot they're giving us! Fuck her for having a job! Her boss is Vanderpump Rules Bravo TV hot!
What makes this film unique is it decides to pepper two very specific types of scenes throughout the whole 2 hours of this, "my girlfriend has a hot boss and I'm rich so I don't get why she even WANTS TO GO TO WORK" comedy fest: 1) heavily-soundtracked sex scenes 2) completely dangerous situations that get resolved almost immediately. That’s how you get through all the drudge you've voluntarily stepped in. You add a scene where Ana tells Christian she’s “too dressed” so he rips off her pants. You add a scene where he fingers her in an elevator next to an old rich lady who, in any other situation, would DEFINITELY HEAR THEM, but in this case does not. You add a scene where Marcia Gay Harden has some masked party that looks straight out of the Purge but where Ana also wears vagina balls inside of her while she sits down for a silent charity auction. You add a scene where Christian binds her ankles together and shows her what nipple clamps are. And you add a gun. A scene where (spoiler alert!) her boss turns out to be a sexual maniac because everyone rich and powerful in this movie is a sexual maniac with no goddamn boundaries. You add a HELICOPTER ACCIDENT, OKAY?!?!?!?!?
Because everything is so boring, none of these add excitement. They seem spliced in from other different-but-still-awful-movies. They are brief interludes before the movie gets super boring again. They are brief moments of zen before somebody starts FUCKING TALKING AGAIN. And they always do and it's always boring. But isn’t that what love is really about, anyway? Boring relationships nobody cares about, stuck between missionary sex and arguments about who works too much? So maybe this is a movie about straight white rich people... love?
God, I hope that's not what they think. That just makes me sad. But at least 50 Shades Darker can provide something real: the laughter of a group of women, a few Hasidic men, and that one guy who I think kept leaving to refill his soda, just so he would have another reason to get up again.
Nothin’ sexy about that, but a small amount of fun just the same.