Sunday, February 22, 2015

@50ShadesCasting Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

There's a lot to like... A lot to dislike... Not the worst movie ever... Overall, very disappointed.

Some of you may or may not know, I started a "casting blog" on Twitter under the handle @50ShadesCasting. This was during the famed "casting wars" to see who would get cast as Christian Grey.

I was different because I felt Ian Somerhalder was too old & one dimensional and Matt Bomer was just too old.

I had the audacity to suggest that 28 year old Garrett Hedlund would've made the best Christian Grey.

Apparently I was right as he, not Ian or Matt, was offered the role but famously turned it down, opting for a 1 movie deal, not a 3 movie deal. To be fair, he wasn't the only reported person to have turned down the role.

That's the Cliff's Notes backstory...

Fifty Shades of Grey

I finally saw the movie on 02.20.15. I purposely chose NOT to relive the book before seeing the movie as that particular mishap led to my dissatisfaction with Twilight. I found that after rewatching Twilight I enjoyed it more than the first viewing, though still consider it the best book and worst movie with the Twilight Series.

So there we were. It was my wife and I. My wife read all 3 books multiple times and was LESS interested in seeing the movie than I was.

Now, I am a movie guy, movie buff, whatever you want to call it. I have nearly 500 DVD/BluRay movies that are all store bought. I grew up with a father who loved movies and we spent countless hours, together, watching movies... all kinds of movies. Drama, Horror, Comedy, Scifi, Classics, Low Budget Indies... all kinds of movies.

I was put off the moment the movie started because one of the first things you see... is Christian Grey. Not close up parts of the man, you see him. This put me off because as a movie fan and watcher of countless movies, I knew from a cinematic standpoint that an egregious error had been made to show him. More on that later...

So we finally get the main character, Ana. I was not a huge fan of Dakota Johnson's casting. Seeing the magazine photos, the trailers, nothing made me feel better about her as Ana. But I will tell you...

Over the course of the movie, I came to thoroughly enjoy her PERFORMANCE as Ana but still feel that she's not a great FIT as Ana.

So we're treated to the opening. So far it's pretty faithful to the book, I feel a little better. I know the interview is coming and know from reading the book how crucial a scene it is.

I was put off again because I felt that getting to the interview was rushed... In the book there's a gradual build up and as you read the words you totally understand that this young woman is getting into something so much bigger than she is and is about to jump in the deep end.

In the movie, you see Christian. You see Ana. You get a brief scene of Ana interacting with Kate. She's at the Grey House. She's in the interview. It was rushed.

Now, the interview is such a critical scene and I feel like they totally MISSED on the scene.

You get next to no impact of the big "reveal" of Christian from Ana's point of view. The entire start of the movie was a rush to get there and it felt like it was forced and rushed to get it done.

The "reveal." The book is told from Ana's POV. The first time she sees him, we see him. We see him through her eyes. Cinematically, we've already seen him. When she fell and he gave the god-awful look over the shoulder, the impact of that moment is lost. Let's go back in time...

Remember Twilight? In the book, Bella first sees him as he enters the lunchroom. They recreated that in the movie... and guess what, it worked! The first time the movie viewer sees Edward is the same time the main character sees him so you experience that impact together on the same level, cinematically.

I don't know why they chose to do it that way in FSOG but the interview stumbled from the start, just as Ana did going into the office.

So... by now you probably think I hate the movie and everything in it? No, actually.

There's A LOT to like in the movie, but it's counterbalanced by the bad stuff.

The Famed Sex Scenes

As a man, I was NOT looking forward to the sex scenes in the movie.

I grew up watching Cinemax Friday After Dark as a young boy. It was actually the highlight of my Friday night heading into the weekend. I always stayed up late. My parents didn't exactly "know" what I was watching, but I was no stranger to mature movies a kid. I would watch them (not A LOT OF THEM, mind you) with my parents and we talked about what we saw in a Parent to Child kind of way.

I don't recommend that as a parenting strategy, but that's how I grew up. Moving on...

I grew up watching the Emanuelle movies with Laura Gemser. I knew who Joe D'Amato and Andy Sidaris was and knew their films. I knew that on Friday nights there would be almost as many sex and nude scenes as there were "story" scenes.

I knew going in that the sex scenes in FSOG could potentially ruin the movie, knowing all to well how much they were a part of the books. Honestly, I was tired of them in Darker and SKIPPED them entirely in Freed.

What I saw made me happy. The sex scenes were NOT overdone. They were shot and cut very well. They were intermingled in the movie so the timing of them were right on. I never felt they came "too soon" and never felt they went "too long" and that was refreshing.

Obviously, the first sex scene was the most important, as it was in the book, and they obviously devoted a lot of time and attention to it. What upsets me is that they didn't *seem* to devote the same amount of time and attention to the interview scene, which is almost just as important.

The second sex scene was the best, my wife thought so too. It was the "I'm going to show you how good it was." scene and was a good one. They all were, really.

Each sex scene advanced the plot and further developed the characters. In the scope of cinema, that's exactly what you want! So all the famed sex scenes worked and were not overdone.

Christian & Ana

As I stated before, I was not a fan of the Dakota casting but upon seeing her in the movie, she gave a really good performance. I still feel that she doesn't "fit" the character. In the book, Ana is described as early 20s, pale, brown hair, blue eyes too big for her face, and mousy.

What I saw when I read her description was Amanda Seyfried.

In an interview she said she talked to the producers but declined interest because doing 3 movies was a big commitment. This upset me because I was the biggest proponent for casting Garrett Hedlund and was the only one (THE ONLY ONE) who made any kind of videos, ala the Ian & Matt fan trailers, with Garrett and they also featured Amanda because I thought she was the best fit for the character.

I think she's a phenomenal actress. I thought she matched the physical description to a T. She's comfortable doing nudity... and looks GREAT naked!

As a man, I naturally see the movie through Christian's POV. When he tells Ana that guys must throw themselves at her, it's laughable to me.

And, YES, I find Dakota attractive.

She's pretty. As I found out, a really good actress. She has a bright future and studios should line up to cast her in their films.

The tragic flaw with Dakota is that I simply don't find her sexy.

The root word of sexy is sex. To me sexy should define, in some way, you're desire to have sex with someone and seeing her nude throughout the movie, I had NO sexual desire towards Dakota. She's pretty. She gave a good performance. All those sex scenes had no effect on me.

Jamie... Oh, Jamie.

He had the totally unenviable task of being the man cast after several actors "declined" the role, actually had someone cast and then leave in Charlie Hunnam, and then had to be the one to follow all that hoopla. And it was crazy!

From the trailers I was intrigued by him. He looked pretty good as Christian. I had watched him in Once Upon A Time and liked him from there. The more I saw of him, pre-movie, the more I liked. It was the opposite with Dakota.

After seeing the movie, I thought Dakota's performance was good and thought Jamie was, ok.

Just ok.

Thankfully he wasn't totally one dimensional as I feared Ian would've been. And, yes, I watched a lot of Vampire Diaries seasons and saw him in Lost to come to that assessment. But I don't feel Jamie quite captured the varying degrees or shades of Christian.

His accent was pretty good. I actually felt to was almost too happy at times as Christian but kinda understood why the powers at be may have wanted to soften him up. I have no idea if it was a Jamie thing or a Sam T-J thing, but the performance as Christian was just ok.

The Supporting Cast

I essentially gave up nearly a year of my life to "helping" cast this movie. As an aspiring screenwriter I even adapted the entire first chapter of the novel into screenplay form in the hopes that I could somehow be a part of the production because I believed in the source material that much!

I suggested 5 people for all the main characters. In total, I suggested over 100 actors to the production to help cast the movie. I never asked for anything in return. I never wanted run or pub, I just wanted to help the movie be the best it could be.

After the craziness of the Christian & Ana casting and recasting, the names started coming for the supporting cast.

In perfect honesty, I felt these characters were so poorly cast that it COMPLETELY robbed me of my desire to see the movie... again, my wife had less desire to see the movie than I did because of the entire cast. I still wanted to see the movie because I'm a movie fan and wanted to reserve final judgement until AFTER I saw the movie.

I liked the 2 mothers when they were cast. Jennifer Ehle looks like she could be Dakota's biological mother and her performance was good. She felt like Carla. She FIT.

Marcia Gay Harden is a great actor and was the best casting out of everyone. To be honest, she came off way too snooty, so I didn't actually care for her in every aspect but she was still really good, just way too snooty.

Jose... WTF, he looked like he was 30 f-ing years old, not a fresh faced college kid. But Sam T-J thought it'd be a good idea because she had worked with him previously. SMH.

Kate came off like Kate. Except that fact that Eloise is cute and not jaw dropping gorgeous that can turn men stupid with a glance. Eloise probably also has a very bright future but I couldn't honestly look at her and think, "Holy shit, she's the sexiest woman I've ever seen, so much so that I can't form coherent thoughts."

Am I being too harsh? Need some perspective?

Twilight NAILED the leads. Rob was perfect for Edward, gave a great performance. I don't particularly care for Kristen, but she was perfect as Bella.

I liked Cullens, for the most part. They couldn't have found a better Carlisle. Loved LOVED Ashley as Alice, she was my favorite character in the movie. Kellan was great as Emmett. I really liked Jackson as Jasper...

I couldn't stand Nikki Reed as Rosalie!!! Same problem with Kate. She was written to be impossible to cast. In the book, Rosalie is written as a 5'10" Marilyn Monroe. She doesn't exist in real life!

I liked what Nikki did as Rose in Eclipse during the flashback scenes, she nailed those. I never could totally buy her as Rosalie.

But you know I think Twilight is the worst movie in the saga. What about movies I like.

I am a Trekie! I LOVE Star Trek! I watched countless hours of Trek with my Dad. It was one of our "things" that we shared. J.J. Abrams made 2 great movies! I had a love/hate feeling about Star Trek because of the story but freaking LOVE Into Darkness!

I thouht Chris Pine was better as Kirk in the second one. Couldn't have cast Spock better. I was leary about Karl as Bones, but he won me over... but the others didn't.

Zoe Saldana. Great actor. Has nothing in common with Nichelle Nichols. To me, she didn't represent the total physical embodiment of Nichelle, which is what these movies were SUPPOSED to do. That is their very nature.

Don't get me started on Simon Pegg. Funny, yes. Good accent, yes. Does he look or make anyone think of James Doohan? Hell, no.

Moving on...

Then there's the rest of the cast...

I have absolutely NOTHING to say...

You see these people for like 5 SECONDS. You have absolutely no screen time to which you can emotionally attach yourself to these characters. Could you if you read the books? Yes.

By the middle of the book, you LOVED Taylor! In the movie, Taylor was just a guy, damn near a glorified extra. They all were!

There was no time given to developing these terribly important characters. Did they know how BADLY they had cast these people and is that why they chose not to show them very much? I'm being completely serious!

I never even talked about Elliot. Who? The guy they caught with Kate and who apparently likes Jose. I just summed up his ENTIRE screentime!!!

I felt like there was 30, 45, 60 minutes of the movie that wasn't shown that would've allowed you to connect to these people. Another fail from a cinematic stand point.

But There Was So Much Good

And this is NOT a terrible movie!!! There's some really good stuff here.

That one shot of him at the piano, Ana walks over, he picks her up and carries her off. Love it!!!

The board room scene where they discuss the contract. Probably THE BEST scene in the movie!

And thank God that the "story" of the books was protected! The talking heads can talk all they want about how no one read these books because of the story. It's just "mommy porn," right?

I'm a guy. I like good literature. I loved the books. Fifty Shades Darker is the best one of the three.

I would be first in line to buy Fifty Shades Born if E L James ever decided to write a prequel novel that delved into the Elena & Christian relationship that exposed him to BDSM. I think that would be GREAT!!!

John Wayne once said, paraphrasing, it all starts with the story. If you've got a story, then you've got a picture.

The great thing about Fifty Shades is the STORY! It's a story with very complex characters and interesting situations and dark pasts. It's great. That's why I believed so much in the movies.

There is good in the movie!

All's Well That End's Well

I F-ING HATED the ending!

It was structured like the book, but didn't deliver the emotion!

Ana's world had come to an end. Her LOVE turned to HATE!

That spanking scene should've been brutal and ripped your damn heart out and the first shot almost got us there! The build up to is was really good! Then he kept spanking her... softly.

There was no tension. He was just doing it. She was just taking it. It felt like a slap, not a visceral gut punch that rocks you the way it rocked her character.

When you read in the book, "shocked by the savagery," "dark morning of the soul," "an anguished and broken spirit to show for it." These lines dictate a visual response that may have been beyond Sam T-J.

Did it have to be a recreation of a famous flogging scene and become "The Passion of the Anastasia Steele" so to speak? No! Should it have had a greater impact, yes.

She was in "anguish" at the end, crying on her bed, clutching the hopes and dreams of her first and greatest love. That's pain! There was no pain on screen. You weren't left with your heart ripped out.

The ending FAILED.

Where To Go From Here

You know how bad the reviews have been. A lot of that is probably ignorance.

But there are a good deal of cinematic flaws in the movie. The question is... will they keep the "movie crowd" from watching the sequels?

It possibly may. That's the problem.

The producers wanted to follow the Twilight handbook and they did. The problem is, they didn't nail the leads.

Now, is my next suggestion a wild proposition... absolutely.

They seriously may want to think about recasting the whole thing and rebooting with what many consider to be the best novel in the series with Fifty Shades Darker.


Once upon a time there was a movie made about a great literary character by an accomplished director, though he wasn't at the time, and an accomplished DP.

It wasn't terribly successful so after about 6 years, they made a movie to the follow up novel with a different leading man... The movie was 1 of 3 to win the Academy Awards for ALL FIVE TOP CATEGORIES.

The first movie was Manhunter. Directed by Michael Mann. DP was Dante Spinotti.

The character was played by Brian Cox, who most people know as Stryker in X-Men 2.

He played Hannibal Lecter.

Of course years later, Jonathan Demme would direct Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal.

Now, Fifty Shades is probably never going to be considered Oscar worthy.

But my 1st suggestion to E L James, if she reads this, would be to write the script herself as it was reported on the internet... of which, I APPLAUD her!

Then she needs to pick up the phone and call DAVID FINCHER!

I wanted Fincher to direct FSOG because he's simply the best.

Oh and he did direct Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and was heralded as being true to the book and made a profit AND was nominated for 5 Oscars and WON 1 of those!

Oh and he did direct Gone Girl which had the screenplay written by its author Gillian Flynn and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and was heralded as being true to the book and made a profit AND got an Oscar nomination for actress Rosamund Pike.

Fifty Shades Darker is the best and DARKEST of the novels. It needs a MASTER director at the helm and the ONLY PERSON to do that is David Fincher.

Just look at his body of work. He EXCELS with this kind of subject matter and NO ONE does it better! He's one of the best in the business. He's ESSENTIAL to taking the next step in the series.

They don't need to find the best WOMAN to make the movie, they need the best PERSON to make it.

Even if they don't do a total scrape and recast of the movie, the next movie desperately NEEDS David Fincher to direct it.

Then get Kathryn Bigelow to direct Freed. I also thought she'd be a good one to direct FSOG but what the hell do I know.


Should they or shouldn't they?

That's the real money question.

It would cause a stir. Universal would still have 2 incredibly valuable actors under contract for 2 movies in Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

Another casting craze may cause enough of a stir the same way the first casting war did.

No one knows or cares about the other cast members.

If they recast and it goes well, they can revisit FSOG with the new cast, after the fact, the same way Anthony Hopkins did for Red Dragon with Edward Norton.

It's something to think about...