"Wouldn't it be funny if I saw 'Fifty Shades of Grey' alone on Valentine's Day?" That's a thought I had a few weeks ago after realizing I'd be spending Valentine's Day solo. That, and I really did think it would be funny. "Fifty Shades of Grey" is a cultural phenomenon -- no matter what the critics say -- and I was curious to see just how many people would show up to watch Christian Grey flog young Anastasia Steele on the most romantic day of the year. Because nothing says romance more than cringe-worthy dialogue and cable ties.
To be completely transparent, this wasn't my first viewing of Sam Taylor-Johnson's kinky BDSM romp. I, along with several of my MTV News colleagues, had the pleasure (pun intended) of seeing it at an early press screening, where we counted every boob, butt, and grey thing on screen. We even fell in love with Dakota Johnson (Anastasia Steele). The same, however, couldn't be said for Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey). But seeing "Fifty Shades" in a room full of critics and giddy writers was a hell of a lot different than the eager moviegoers I found myself with in Times Square. Some of these people were actual fans of E. L. James' maligned book series, while others came purely for entertainment. Needless to say, we were all in this together -- and by the end, we'd all be changed.
I arrived at the AMC Theater in Times Square about five minutes before showtime. (I don't like to miss the movie trailers; it makes me anxious.) Honestly, I thought I was going to be one of a handful of people crazy enough to see "Fifty Shades of Grey" at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, so I was shocked when I discovered the theater to be about 60 percent full with people of all ages. I'm pretty sure the woman who sat next to me was somebody's grandmother. Who were all of these people? I wanted to meet every single one of them and know their life stories, but there just wasn't any time for awkward chitchat -- we had boning to watch. Also, there were way more dudes than I thought, which was a nice surprise. I'm all for subverting stereotypes.
Twenty minutes into the film and I realized that the most enjoyable part for me has been the "Magic Mike XXL" trailer that played during the previews. And for what it's worth, that trailer is still my favorite part of the whole "Fifty Shades" experience. I spent much of the first 40 minutes -- pre-boning -- watching Dornan. There just had to be something remarkable about his performance that I missed the first time. Unfortunately, I came to the conclusion that Dornan is remarkably unremarkable as Christian Grey. (He does have a nice profile, though.) There's not a single sign of life behind those pretty little eyes, and that makes me sad because I was such a fan of his work on ABC's "Once Upon a Time." Then again, maybe it was his facial hair that truly won me over.
Johnson, however, was still incredible. In fact, I appreciated her performance more the second time around. I felt like she was the Anne Hathaway to Dornan's James Franco, desperately trying to salvage their scenes together with humor and charm. She was a big hit with the audience, too. Her drunk dialing scene went over very well with the ladies because we've all been there, amirite? "Stay away... no, no come back... Go away!"
By the time we got to the actual sex -- when Christian deflowers Ana -- I was high off Ellie Goulding and totally ready for the coitus to commence. This time I was emotionally prepared for the action: they bone, bone again, Ana makes him breakfast (kind of weird, right?), and then they attempt to bone again but they're interrupted by Mama Grey. (Marcia Gay Harden deserved so much more screen time.) On second viewing, his Red Room of Pain actually seemed kind of tame. Where were all of the dildos and butt plugs we were promised in the contract? Christian talks a big game, but how singular are his tastes really? I've seen much hotter sex on HBO's "Looking."
Sure, there's sex in "Fifty Shades." About 20 minutes to be exact -- we counted. And if you thought it would be awkward to watch Christian dominate Ana in his playroom with a group of total strangers, you'd be wrong. In fact, these moviegoers obviously came here on a Saturday morning for one thing: sex. Lots and lots of sex. The theater was completely silent during every sex scene -- personally, I'd like to think we were all too busy getting down to Beyonce to care -- and what was even more perplexing, they didn't find the "serious" dialogue nearly as funny as the critics did. The only exception? When Christian told Ana he wanted to "f--k her to next Tuesday." Who even says that? Is that sexy? But surprisingly, Christian's "I'm 50 shades of f--ked up" was taken completely seriously by the crowd. Much too serious for my liking. How could you not laugh at a confession like that?
That's when I started to feel extremely uncomfortable. I was in a room with people who actually sympathized with Christian Grey, and I was just not OK with that. Say what you want about "Fifty Shades," but there is not a single quality about Mr. Grey that I find attractive -- at least not one that was presented in this film. He's obsessive, short-tempered, and broody. And somehow, we're supposed to find this attractive? Then again, I asked myself how far I would go for free rent and a new Macbook and promptly got into an argument with my subconscious for a solid five minutes. (This was during the scene in which Christian beats Ana with a belt. Symbolic? Perhaps.)
By the time the credits rolled, I was so deep in thought, I nearly missed the pained cries from the guy a few rows behind me. Clearly, he was not a fan of that cliffhanger. So was this funny? Did I enjoy myself? Let's just say "Fifty Shades of Grey" is a film better watched once -- preferably on your couch, in your sweatpants, and with a pint of Ben & Jerry's in hand.