Look, I'm not a Fifty Shades of Grey guy. I'll never be the kind of guy who is into bondage-themed fanfiction that becomes weirdly mainstream, if we're being honest. I just have a block when it comes to accepting this kind of stuff. But this is a big phenomenon, and I'm curious about it. Curious enough to write a little bit about the footage shown to exhibitors at CinemaCon. And this was a big deal, because it was the first footage ever shown to any audience.
What struck me the most about the footage we saw was how wooden every performance was; the stiffness of Dakota Johnson's Anastasia Steele (imagine hearing her introduce herself - it's as silly-sounding as you think) is ony eclipsed by the bordering-on-serial killer detachment of Jamie Dornan's Christian Grey. Every exchange seems stilted and underplayed, like a particularly serious porno exposition sequence.
But it all builds - in the footage at least - to what plays like a horror movie reveal. Christian meets Anastasia and they begin to fall in love; her friends and family warn her about getting involved with a rich and powerful man (he has his own helicopter, natch) because they're so controlling. And Christian is like King Control, and that only intensifies as he leads Anastasia to a secret room. We see the door open from within and she steps in and there's a look of shock on her face...
If Eli Roth directed this movie she would have discovered Christian's slaughter room, but since this is S&M Twilight fanfic, she discovers Christian has a sex dungeon. But we don't get to see much of that dungeon, or the sex that is the draw of the whole thing (clearly it can't be because of the story, which is ripping off an already bad story). There's a shot of a soft horse hair whip, and Anastasia laying in ecstasy, wearing a blindfold, but that doesn't seem as saucy as one hopes from a book that's essentially porn.
If there had been more sex and more edgy lifestyle stuff on display I might have been into it, but this footage looked like a boring basic cable romance. Maybe this is Audition, with all that first act boring blandness getting yanked out from under you. I understand why Universal didn't highlight the sex - this is a trade show for theater owners who tend to be conservative and who like family movies because they make more money (as per a slideshow demonstration minutes before this presentation), but that ends up neutering the entire thing.
So it's unclear just how explicit this movie is going to be, or just how boundary-pushing it will be. Nothing I saw made me think this movie would be anything but a milky, safe bore.