Fifty Shades of Grey, review: ‘Use a condom!’ my sister shouted

Deborah Ross is most aroused by Christian Grey’s walk-in wardrobe - but little else

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

Fifty Shades of Grey

18, Nationwide

And so, in the end, I went with my sister, Toni, to see Fifty Shades of Grey and we saw it at noon on Valentine’s Day at the Odeon in Muswell Hill. In the audience on that particular day at that particular time there were eight other women, all around our age, and all on their own. The Fifty Shades phenomenon has been described as ‘soft porn for middle-aged housewives’ and it’s said as an insult, but it sounds rather good to my sister and me. Indeed, after what feels like a lifetime of pairing socks and putting meals on the table and basically performing the role of main drudge at Drudge Central we feel we deserve a little soft porn and who knows, if we like it, we could work our way up to hard porn? My sister and I have never seen any hard porn, but as we understand it, a man comes round to deliver pizza and it all kicks off from there. Is that right? If so, what we’d most like to know is: afterwards, does he tidy up the empty boxes and put them out for recycling, or will he expect us to do it? It’s important that we’re told.

So this is where we are coming from, my sister and I, as we settle into our seats, while resolutely not making eye contact with any of the other women, as seems to be the form. The story, we now know, concerns a young lady, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), who falls in love with a handsome billionaire (Jamie Dornan) who will prove sadistic, albeit lovingly so. They first meet when Anastasia is dispatched to interview him for her student newspaper but the big, clumsy chump — she trips over the threshold to his swish office, can you believe? — forgets to bring a pen and so he offers her one of his pencils. The pencil is shiny and sharp and has ‘Grey’ written down the side of it and she nibbles on the end, almost as if it were a penis, God forbid. Mr Grey then pursues Ms Steele, sending her first edition Thomas Hardy novels. Ms Steele is an English student and self-declared ‘book-lover’ and if there is one thing I will take away from this film — aside from ‘anal fisting’, which I had to look up, and made me quite nostalgic for the simple business of sock pairing — it’s that you don’t need to provide any evidence you are well read, or have even ever picked up a book, to self-declare yourself a ‘book-lover.’ If we had known this, my sister and I agree, we could have saved on reading many, many books over the years.

Ms Steele is sexually innocent; a virgin, in fact, and he takes her virginity in the regular way but does not use contraception, which horrified my sister, the mother of daughters. ‘Use a condom!’ she even shouted, out loud. The deal, as far as I could gather, then becomes as follows: he will teach her about sexual intimacy if she will teach him about emotional intimacy, which he cannot yet offer owing to back-story issues featuring a mother who was a prostitute and crack-fiend, the poor boy. Thus far, his coping mechanisms appear to have included learning to play the piano to an exceptionally high standard — often forlornly, late at night — piloting his own helicopter and developing a taste for bondage.


Mr Grey therefore introduces Ms Steele to his ‘Red Room’, equipped with whips and riding crops and where there is spanking and kissing her belly right down to her panties and yet, such is the lack of chemistry, and drama, all I was thinking was: who cleans this room? And also: do they do it properly, with rubber gloves and bleach? We see Anastasia’s breasts, and are awarded glimpses of her ‘noonie’, as it is known in our house, but nothing of Christian’s parts, which are kept off screen, so you have to imagine. (At our age!) I was willing to go with it, honestly, but was, in fact, most aroused by his walk-in wardrobe, which is just so marvellously ordered, with equidistant gaps between every hanging shirt. I would even agree to be ‘fisted’ for such a wardrobe; I truly would.

Fifty Shades, or even Fisty Shades, as I’m now minded to call it is, in effect, Mills & Boon trussed up with the promise of graphic sex, not that it ever materialises, but whether it serves as a playbook for manipulating vulnerable women into abusive relationships, as has been claimed, I don’t know. I can only say that boredom set in early during our time at the Odeon, Smugwell Hill, and as for afterwards, we visited the big Planet Organic next to the cinema where we gasped over the prices compared with Tesco (hummus! Twice as much!) and which, I think, proves what, deep down, I had suspected all along: some middle-aged housewives are not for turning. And, as for the pizza man, if he’s not going to take out the empty boxes, we’ll probably just skip it, if it’s all the same to you.

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Show comments
  • gerontius redux

    I think I’d be too embarrassed to go and see it, particularly with the mistress in tow.
    Do you have to be a billionaire or would a few hundred in a savings account work?

    • marshallStacks

      wait for the DVD – sales will be huge

  • little islander

    Did the film spell it for you? Couldn’t it be ‘feasting’………….never mind.

  • DazzledQK

    I enjoyed your review, it’s so good! I was laughing out loud and then I reached the part were you refer to the condom issue. Girl, you need to go and see the movie all over again. In every intercourse scene the Grey guy rips off a condom foil with his mouth and though you can’t see it, he obviously takes time to put the thing on before… proceding.

    Also I just want to say I liked the movie but it makes my day to read fun trashings like yours. I really believe if you’re going to put down a very mainstream non-oscar aspirational movie, you have to imprint real humor in your words, instead of looking at it from a snob-purist pretentious point of view 🙂

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    50 does blur the line between actress and whore. But I’ve nothing against whores in their place.

    • Affected not offended

      What’s a whore’s place?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Thought you’d never ask. Face down on the bed in her underwear. Although, to each his own.

      • little islander

        In a place better than someone who’s worse than a whore?

    • MacGuffin

      What is this ‘line between actress and whore’ of which you speak? Has someone told Hollywood?

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Model, escort, stripper, adult movie actress, whore. It’s all one jolly stream.

  • My_Oath

    So, would the story still have worked if he lived in a trailer park instead of a mansion?

    • little islander

      Yes, if he’s played by Ms Ross’ performer of the year David Oyelowo. Roles, of course, would be reversed.

  • Affected not offended

    “My sister and I have never seen any hard porn, but as we understand it, a man comes round to deliver pizza and it all kicks off from there. Is that right? ”

    No that is not right. That is the lie that the porn PR machine puts about to foster its image as the benign little guy, rather than a multibillion dollar abuse industry run by 5 commercial behemoths, to protect itself from criticism and regulation. Hard porn is generally about coercion and sexist hate crime, no pizza men make an appearance, more likely 3 thugs and a dead eyed girl using genital anaesthetic. 88 per cent of pornographic scenes that men m*sturbate to contain physically aggressive acts towards women – slapping, gagging, choking, amongst many others.

    Just type the word into Google and see for yourself, it’s just a click away There’s no excuse for being ignorant of what abuse is being churned out for profit.

    • Carolyn

      Whoa there,
      There’s no doubt some dodgy porn out there, but “hard porn” is not all ‘sexist hate crimes’. Plenty of ethical hard porn out there, especially from queer production companies.

      • Men control the media

        I’m not talking about dodgy p*rn in hard to reach places, I’m talking about totally mainstream free p*rn on the Internet. Type the word “p*rn” into Google now, go to the top site that is returned, go to it’s home page, scroll down and there is a video called “watch the wh*re gasp for breath” with a photo of a man strangling a distressed young woman as he has sex with her from behind. Below it are advertised sites called “18 and abused” and “17 and punished”. The Hentai section where men can really go to town with their fantasies shows cartoons of women being gang raped by monsters, with the nasty little addition serrations on their pen*ses. You can see which videos have the highest number of hits and up votes. This is what our men are watching several times a week, and all this “phnar phnar, plumbers, fun and games” nonsense is a childish deflection from what is hate speech, incitement and actual sexual abuse on camera on a massive, industrial scale. Let’s start growing up and talking about what is really happening.

        The “ethical” hard p*rn is the stuff that’s hard to find.

    • MacGuffin

      How is it ‘abuse’ if the women are performing voluntarily? Genuinely curious.

      • Men control the media

        Yeah and people voluntarily work in sweat shops or in freak shows, or donate their kidneys for money or to sell you their kids. Just because some people will allow you to abuse or exploit them for whatever dark or sad or desperate or unjust reason, doesn’t mean you aren’t an abuser or an exploiter if you do so.

      • John

        You are genuinely retarded.

    • Pootles

      ’88 per cent’ ? How did anyone arrive at that percentage?

  • MacGuffin

    No doubt my life will follow some strange and winding paths, and not all my choices will be good, nor my endeavours invariably successful, but at least I can be certain that I will never find myself sitting in the Muswell Hill Odeon on Valentine’s Day watching anodyne, overhyped, demographically-targeted soft-porn rubbish, and for that I am truly grateful.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Banned here in Malaysia, even via unofficial channels.

    • little islander

      You have the Malaysian Alps to go to. They don’t watch BDSM. They just do.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Ah, you mean Mt. Kinabalu, just over 4,000m.
        Always raining.

        • little islander

          Cameron Highlands. I have some apartments for sale there. Not so rainy. No head-hunters (the deadly kind).

  • Retired Nurse

    Its title is ’50 Nuances de Grey’ in France and ‘Cinquanta sfumature di Grigio’ in Italy – but it doesn’t really help….

  • Billie CJS

    I enjoyed reading this review and laughed out load a few times. However I did begin to realise that the writer of the piece probably didn’t see the movie at all. Just as DazzledQK mentioned…Grey rips his foil condom packet with his teeth before they….well you know!. Also the article says he takes her virginity then shows her his Playroom.

    In fact he is unaware of her virginity when showing her his Red Room. He is then shocked to find the level of her innocence and eventually .