Below is a review by Sherri Wiebush for Fifty Shades of Grey, someone who read the books and saw the movie. I haven’t seen the movie, probably won’t until it’s available for free on Netflix or Amazon. I read the books. Yes, they needed to go through two more rounds of editing, a couple rounds of spit and polish, and for the love of God, someone buy the woman a thesaurus! But, since I’m used to being a beta reader and wading through the rough stuff to find the story, I could appreciate the story that was there. I wasn’t distracted by the supposed BDSM (I wouldn’t call it a true representation in any sense but just shadings of such), and I was able to tune out the needed-to-be-edited form to get to the gist of the story. Here’s the review, and then I’ll post a few thoughts afterwards:
Guest review by Sherri Wiebush
There’s been plenty of coverage of the “Fifty Shades” series by British author E.L. James, with a number of reviewers dismissing it as “mommy porn.” There must be something to the claim, as it is very popular with women. As is most often the case, such excitement catches the notice of Hollywood, who has started putting out the filmed versions of the novel.
As the film opens, we meet naïve, young English major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who is the product of a hopelessly romantic mother and multiple father figures. After her roommate (Eloise Mumford) falls ill and is unable to interview the enigmatic Christian Gray (Jamie Dornan), a successful billionaire, Ana takes her place.
Christian becomes interested in Ana, and soon follows her to the hardware store where she works. Hearing that she is about to graduate, he sends her first edition copies of “Tess of the D’Urbervilles.” At a graduation party, Ana impulsively calls him before passing out, and is surprised to find herself waking up in his hotel room, but relieved that he didn’t take advantage of her.
Ana seems to be intrigued by Christian’s desires and wants to know more. They begin to date. After having her sign a non-disclosure agreement, Christian admits that he only enters relationships involving bondage, which is her first hint of the world that he inhabits. Ana tries to understand why while submitting to his requests, which grow darker as the relationship progresses.
Ultimately, I give this movie thumbs up. It really made you feel each of their deep emotions and how they felt, feeling sorry for each at different times. As the story continues, you realize that they both attempt to please each other. I loved the choice of actors for the characters of Christian Gray and Anastasia Steele and felt they had chemistry.
I would weigh the film a lot more on the romantic side and not as heavily on the pornographic side, despite the media reports. Maybe there’s a bit too much sex for some people, but it comes nowhere near porn for others. This movie more than met my expectations, even after reading the book. I think even the darkest scenes were tasteful and the set was very stylish. I am looking forward to “Fifty Shades Darker.”
I think the above review is spot on as far as the storyline goes. Like I said, I haven’t seen the movie and wouldn’t try to critique it because, well, I haven’t seen it. The same thing would go for a book I hadn’t read, I wouldn’t give an opinion on it or critique it since I hadn’t read it. I’m not going to go on hearsay to form an opinion. The whole phenomenon around Fifty Shades of Grey was a curious perfect storm. You have a woman writing fan fiction for her own amusement/entertainment. Her friends love it. She posts it for people to read. Other people love it/are intrigued by it/are shocked by it/______, take your pick. She morphs the story from fan fiction into something that stands on its own, self-published it as an ebook and print-on-demand, before the publishing rights were acquired by Vintage Books. The rest, as they say, is history.
Did she expect it to become popular? No. She was writing basically for herself, not as a means to earn money, etc, hence the fan fiction start. Is it her fault people liked it? No. She put it out there–if there wasn’t a large segment of people who liked it, the books wouldn’t have sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, as well as set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. The movie so far has earned $568.8 million worldwide. Is it because it’s an intellectually fascinating Academy Award winning film? No, not at all, but it intrigued people enough to part with their money.
I find the criticism kind of funny. There are ones who trudged through all three books and offered their opinions. There are ones who read some of the books and offered their opinions. There are ones who never touched the books yet critiqued them anyway. The writing could have been much better, very true–editing would have taken care of a lot of that if it had been done properly. Some of her phrasing really needed working on, but what is truly hilarious are some of the quotes being posted from the book…well, alleged quotes. I’ve found several on the internet purporting to be quotes from the books, but they’re not. The alleged quotes are so absurd and over-the-top it makes the actual book look like Shakespearean literature. Some are offended by the BDSM, saying it’s pornographic, while others are offended by the BDSM because it isn’t BDSM. Others say it’s torture. Very few of the opinions/critiques focus on the actual storyline, the true foundation of the books, not all the shiny stuff that gets some people distracted. There is a good story there in addition to a romance, but you have to be of hardy stock to get through to the end of the series.
Hey, if you liked the books, good for you. If you didn’t like them, good for you. To each his own, no big deal. I’m sure the author doesn’t care about the opinions one way or another. She wrote it for herself, not trying to please the masses. In return for her efforts, in 2013 alone she made $95 million dollars.
My opinion is what I stated above–the books could have been polished/edited better, the story fine-tuned, but at the base of it I enjoyed the storyline as well as the romance. I think, if anything, E.L. James serves as an inspiration. She shows you can start out writing fan fiction, put a story together, self-publish, and if it appeals to the public in general you might end up financially secure for a lifetime. But first and foremost when writing fiction, you should write for yourself, for the enjoyment, not in pursuit of the almighty dollar–the perk of financial success should be the icing on the cake.