Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey: The Book vs. The Film

This time last week I had neither read nor seen the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. I wasn't really that interested - but curiosity got the better of me and I felt that it was only right to read the novel before watching the film.

The Book
I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate Christian 'control-freak' Grey and Ana 'inner goddess' Steele. I was all set to write a scathing review and promote a few alternative novels in the same genre that I actually liked. Which is why you should never judge a book before you read it for yourself. I didn't hate it, quite the opposite in fact.

Billionaire romance novels have never been my thing - I've read a few and just didn't like them. But this one was different somehow. It hooked me from the very start and it still hasn't let me go. I had never looked up the plot - of course I knew the basics - but the majority of the novel was actually more romantic than I expected.

Ana reminds me a lot of myself - which to be honest perhaps isn't the best reflection of me! She's a shy, clumsy English graduate, and even her physical description matches mine. However, the constant references to her 'subconscious' and 'inner goddess' -who I couldn't help but picture as little cartoons like the one in early noughties TV show Lizzie McGuire- did get a little irritating after a while. She had a lot more backbone and spark in her than I expected, and I admired her for that,

As for Christian, 'oh my...'. As I said billionaires don't usually do it for me at all, by E. L James seems somehow to have created some kind of fantasty man (although I'll take him without the playroom thanks). A tragic start in life has left Christian more than a little twisted, but the glimpses into his softer side, the moments when you realise that he really does care for Ana, just made me melt. He's a dark, incredibly hot, brooding hero, but it's his sweeter side that I really fell for. I loved the banter between Christian and Ana, especially their email exchanges which left me with a stupid grin on my face. Sure, the novel definitely had it's dark side, particularly the ending, but there was also a playfulness and humour to it that I hadn't expected.

After reading the book I almost didn't want to watch the film; I can see how loyal readers got protective over the characters - especially Christian - and I didn't want to ruin the image I had of him in my head. I love Jamie Dornan but thought he was an interesting choice to play Christian, and was dismayed to find that David Gandy had turned the role down. Having read the book I now find that neither of them fit the bill in my head. Oddly enough my Christian resembles Aaron Tveit - I've no idea why but you can't deny that he has Christian's grey eyes and disarming smile down to a tee.

The Film
Let's start with the obvious issue - the casting. Jamie Dornan made a smoking hot Christian, especially those smouldering eyes, but he still wasn't quite there for me. I think my main problem lies with the screenplay in that many of the scenes that showed his softer side were missed out - there wasn't enough of Christian's 'boyish grin' to charm me and there was no real chemistry between him and Ana. As for Dakota Johnson, she perfectly matches the book's description of Ana, but - and again this is likely down to the script - she played Ana as far too timid. The banter and teasing between Ana and Christian is my favourite part of the books and this was missing completely from the film for me. It feels more intense, more serious than the books, and it left me a little cold.

The settings, particularly Christian's office and apartment (and, of course, The Red Room), were spot on, and the film's soundtrack is surprisingly impressive. I adore Ellie Goulding's Love Me Like You Do (which is a big thing for me as I've never liked any of her songs before), and Beyonce's reworking of Crazy in Love is just brilliant. The helicopter and glider scenes are very well done too. All of the supporting characters looked very different to how I imagined them, but then that's to be expected.

The problem with adapting books into films is that it is impossible to condense everything in a novel into a two hour film. To me, Fifty Shades is a book worth taking your time over (yes I re-read the emails several times), and in order to fit all the key scenes into the film, some of the other parts had to be sacrificed. I also wonder whether it would have been better to have the entire film from Ana's point of view - maybe even using a bit of the inner monologue that played such a huge part in the books, though with that there is always the danger of straying into Bridget Jones territory.

In short, if I had watched the film first, I wouldn't have bothered with the book. Of course I'll watch the sequels when they eventually come out, but I think I'd rather re-read the book than watch the film again - and re-reads are a rarity for me. Now if you need me I'll be over here reading Fifty Shades Darker.

What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades? Love it, loathe it or couldn't care less?

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