(Posted retrospectively on Feb. 17.)
Roger Ebert once said that good movie reviews were good, but bad movie reviews were fun. Anthony Lane's review of the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey falls into the latter category:
Who could conceivably play Christian Grey, the awkward young billionaire with the extensive neckwear collection, let alone Anastasia Steele, the English-lit major who is also, as we gasp to learn, one of the leading virgins of Vancouver, Washington? Many combinations were suggested, my own preference being Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand, who made such a lovely couple in “The Prince of Tides,” but in the end the lucky winners were Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. Good choices, I reckon, especially Johnson, who, as the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, knows everything about predators who stare and swoop.
“I’ve always been good at people,” he says, as though people were Scrabble or squash. He is interested in “what motivates them—what incentivizes them.” Any woman should run a mile from a man who uses the verb “incentivize,” but things could have been worse, I guess. He could have said “monetize.”
I have tried—really, I have tried—to read the book after two people I like very much recommended it to me (though for radically different reasons). I just...I just can't. I can get through four or five Kindle screens at a time, which, depending on the time of day, any eye-strain I'm feeling, and the type size, could be a page or two of a printed book. After about that much, I'm either laughing too hard to continue or my mind begins to wander to more interesting pursuits, none of them prurient.
Even as a how-to manual, the book lacks a certain...sexiness. Seriously, Dan Savage has more (and better) things to say about BDSM than Fifty Shades, as do a score of other authors I've read over the years, starting with Alex Comfort (who wrote his classic book before I was even born). And I'm pretty vanilla. I can only imagine how bored a living, breathing D/s enthusiast would feel trying to get through what passes for a racy section of the book.
And I'm not even discussing the writing. As Lane says, "No new reader, however charitable, could open Fifty Shades of Grey, browse a few paragraphs, and reasonably conclude that the author was writing in her first language, or even her fourth." Yes. The sheer unsexiness of the book might be excusable if the prose were better—or, even better, vice-versa.
Anyway, Lane's review had me laughing out loud on my flight home. Fifty Shades had me falling asleep.