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Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) versus Secretary (2002) or Trash versus Delight

Why did I put these films against each other? (Well, I am not the first to do it and won't be the last). But let me explain in case you don't know about Secretary. Both feature BDSM and both have a character called Grey. There are far more similarities. And in this article they go into more detail about these two movies. I will review both films and then compare them more generally but with my personal take on them.

First film I am going to review knowing fully well it is going to be torturous will be:

Review Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

genre: drama, romance

Oh my, where to begin. Fifty Shades of Grey, the book started out as fan fiction of Twilight. No matter how you look at it Twilight is trash. Fan fiction usually means a depiction of favourite characters of a book, film or tv show engaged into sexual acts. Very explicitly written and basically porn. So in essence we are dealing with a porn version of Twilight. Correction, porn for women. Meaning more descriptive form where women can use their imagination more than visual stimulation. Seeing how Hollywood is very prude and hypocritical when it comes to sex you already can tell that no matter how much people would want it to happen the film will not show what fans want to see. Which in itself might have been challenging if not for the BDSM. Most of what appeals men and women to this can be portrayed by actors in a very tasteful manner but at the same time make it very erotic as long as the core of BDSM is understood. Despite Fifty Shades of Grey being trash it did have scenes described that appealed and aroused women of all types and ages. It's the number one reason why the damn book is so popular in the first place. There are elements in BDSM that easily can trigger the imagination. You don't have to show a lot to imply of what is going on. 

And Fifty Shades of Grey (the film) gets BDSM wrong on all counts. I am not an expert by a long shot but I do know a few things and Fifty Shades of Grey simply doesn't get it. Very important is trust and consent. Christian Grey as portrayed forces his way on Anastasia and while she gives in she doesn't really want it. She is hoping it will lead to genuine love and love making.  It was very embarrassing to see how this was handled in the film. If you did not know anything about this type of sex before then I can imagine people would think it wasn't fun and exciting at all. And they would stay clear from it. The film takes everything far too seriously. And the relationship looked more like abusive one than a healthy one. People who partake in these sexual acts do it because they do get enjoyment out of it. Anastasia went along but was she enjoying herself? Read this article from a dominatrix and her view on it. I will list a few of the elements I mentioned above and then some. Core of her perspective (using her words) is that the depiction of S&M in this film reveals either a lack of research or a lack of understanding.

However even if this film got all of this wrong it still could have made some effort to create something truly sensual and arousing. It really puzzles me why they didn't. Or it could be they simply did not care and they are very confident they will get away with it. Sadly this seems to be true as the gross already is twice the budget they used to make this movie. Are the sex scenes really that bad? Yes, they were. The sex scenes were rushed and hardly erotic. The main characters had zero chemistry. There was nothing between them that even remotely could be seen as spark or connection. They first scene with Anastasia and Christian Grey should have set the tone. It should have made us look forward of what would happen between them. But before you can go there you there has to be some kind of sexual tension. There was none of that. Only after this scene had ended and when Anastasia is outside she gasped for air to which we have to assume she was completely taken away by Christian Grey. Not only was the interview scene badly acted, it was badly directed. I never have seen an interview scene done this poorly. The director should have watched more softcore porn and see how they set up characters. Lot's of close up shots of faces in particular eyes and lips or other body parts like legs, hands or feet showing reactions after asking a certain question would have created the sexual tension. Even if the actors couldn't act if their lives depended on it you could hide it and make it appear something was going on. But from here it becomes infinitely worse. There hardly is any story and I could not figure out why Christian was so interested in Anastasia. I could kinda accept that Anastasia was charmed by him since he was that handsome and very eligible bachelor after all. If we weren't sure about this fact the movie makes this clear to us several times. Again we have to accept that for some reason both Anastasia and Grey have an interest in each other and that they are getting into something. When Grey reveals his darker side to her, it is like he is talking about decorating a wall or something. Anyway Anastasia is intrigued and lets herself be seduced by Grey. What should have brought us to the best parts of the books leads us to scenes where even the most prude would say, is that all? This is what all the fuzz is about? Watching dogs in heat is more arousing than this, honestly! What more is there to find in this film? Nothing, there is nothing, at least not noteworthy. Lots of worthless and meaningless dialogue interchanged with some crappy sex scenes, ok, there is some skin like stiff nipples and a butt shot and very quick junk shot. Some spanking and something I have to assume was supposed to simulate rough sex or even rape. All I can say it was all very laughable and never stimulating. And then it ends. Even the ending is incredibly stupid. But I guess we were lucky it wasn't drawn out. Now I am very certain that a large group of women is going to love this despite the warranted criticism. I already have seen representatives of that group defend this film by saying that it will all improve in the second and third films since the books do that also. And I am astonished and flabbergasted that even after seeing such an atrocious film (that does not even come close of what was depicted in the book or delivered of what people were expecting from it) they would even consider going to watch the sequels. I am sorry to say but that makes me quite sad. 

For all intents and purposes I have given Fifty Shades of Grey a fair shot. But as you might have gathered. It didn't deserve it. Fifty Shades of Grey is a travesty. Even when everyone knew it was going to be trashy they could have at least tried to turn it into a guilty pleasure. The premise calls for some real creativity and excitement which was not hard to imagine since you just had to pick scenes from the book (whether it was poorly written, the scenes were there). And the director left them out. Why? Because he did not get what attracted the women to this tale in the first place. I never expected this film to be good, but I did not expect it to be this bad. It pains me to say, and I will regret saying it right after I have done so but Twilight is a masterpiece compared to this. And Twilight was bad. Real bad. Without a doubt one of the worst movies ever made. Please ladies and gentlemen, don't go watch these films (this and the sequels). Film making of this kind has to stop. Hollywood is not even trying to make good films any more. Let us force them to at least deliver of what is promised.

Which brings me to the delight and epiphany that was Secretary. Let me tell you, it's a movie that will get to you even if you aren't into BDSM. 

Review Secretary (2002)

genre: drama, romance, comedy

The tone of Secretary is much lighter and infused with a lot of humour although it does handle the topics more maturely. I have to admit I am not that fond of Maggie Gyllenhaal but her portrayal of Lee Holloway was amazing. At times you could feel her agony and desire and it has been a long time that it was depicted in such a believable way. James Spader is equally as good and brings to the table of what is needed into this somewhat strange romance. At first glance that is. If you look deeper into the characters and what is going on with them you will discover more. They both seek a special kind of love but haven't found it yet until they meet each other. Their love might not be your conventional Rom-Com stuff but at it's core is a very romantic tale. Secretary shows how you can build up sexual tension and make a film very sensual without actually being too explicit or graphic. It shows a relationship that is build on consent and trust where each partner knows the rules and are enjoying the roles they are playing. From the first moment between Edward Grey and Lee Holloway you can feel their chemistry. They see something in each other and where they both explore that. It actually was compelling to see how this relationship unfolded and a lot of scenes were incredibly sexy and funny. Especially when Lee wanted her gratification and Edward was not giving what she wanted. At times the film seemed surreal but yet it felt grounded in reality because of how the subject was being depicted. A lot of care went into this and it shows. I had a feeling I was going to like it but I absolutely loved it. WOW! That is the first word that came to mind when the credits rolled.

As I told earlier there are too many similarities between Secretary and Fifty Shades of Grey too deny that author E.L. James is not inspired by Secretary. But even if that is the case Secretary is the superior film through and through. Secretary shows a far more balanced understanding of BDSM and at the same time is incredibly romantic and touching. It's sexy and serious when needed but also is not afraid to make us laugh. The performances of the whole cast is stellar and the way the story is told and directed is excellent. From start to finish it's a joy to watch it and it never lets up. But more importantly it wraps up the story nice and neatly even when substance wise it has more to offer than Fifty Shades of Grey and upcoming sequels. Is that a bold thing to say? I don't think so. Secretary is a beautiful film that deserves far more recognition and praise than the whole travesty that is Fifty Shades of Grey. In fact this one is so good that it easily can be watched over and over again without losing any of it's strength. One I can recommend wholeheartedly.

In short: 
Don't waste your time with Fifty Shades of Grey. It's trash and incredibly boring. Instead go watch Secretary. Not only does it handle the BDSM much better, it's also very touching and romantic.

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