Fifty Shades of Great Cinema… Could it work?

About five minutes after literotica phenomenon Fifty Shades of Grey hit the shelves, movie execs up and down the land were wringing their hands with glee and trying to outbid each other for the movie rights, which just proves that there is no depth to which movie execs won’t sink to make a quick buck.

Bret Easton Ellis has shown an interest in adapting Fifty Shades of Grey for the silver screen.

The novel has been soundly panned by many in the literary world, criticising the vomit-inducingly awful writing style, the unvelievable nature of the characters,
and sex scenes which start off shocking but ultimately fail to smoulder. Then again, it did take the Twilight saga as its inspiration, and you can’t get blood from a turnip.But is is possible – even just fractionally – that the movie could be good? The obvious answer is, of course, no. Again, look at Twilight – even without Kristen Stewart’s single facial expression and Taylor Lautner’s infuriating obsession with tearing his clothes off, the problem is that bad literature cannot be made into great film. And yet, some are arguing that with the right combination of talent, E.L. James’ story may yet be saved by the big screen. But who would it take?

Firstly, you need a scriptwriter, and one candidate springs clearly to mind: Bret Easton Ellis, author of the brilliant American Psycho, who has actually expressed an interest in adapting Fifty Shades to the big screen. Obviously, it’s easy to link Christian Grey with Ellis’ own protagonist, Patrick Bateman: both are very rich, very young men with chequered pasts and a taste for ultraviolence and a bit of the old in-out, in-out.

But there’s a crucial difference: Bateman had depth. He was obviously a very tormented soul who at times even seemed to scare himself, and hated the  phony lifestyle he had created. Christian Grey, on the other hand, is about as deep as a puddle in the Sahara. But with the help of Ellis’ magic touch, the tale could be transformed from simple softcore S&M to a deep, emotional work about relationships and the human psyche. Or something.

Once you’ve got a writer, you’ll also need a director, and again an obvious choice springs forth: David Cronenberg. His films have always had a running theme of exploring people’s physical and mental relationships, often using quite hedonistic scenes of sex or violence: look at Crash, or Cosmopolis, or his Freudian drama A Dangerous Method – all of them very well-recieved by the critics. Of course, if you wanted to go the opposite way, you could just hire Quentin Tarantino and turn the film into a modern-day Caligula, but I doubt that would go down as well. Either way, remove all references to lip-biting or the protagonist’s “inner goddess” and you’ve got yourself a half-decent movie.

50 shades of grey

Finally, of course, every movie needs actors, but who can make Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele compelling? There are some good candidates for Grey out there. Christian Bale has effectively already played the part, portraying Patrick Bateman in the film adaptation of American Psycho. Michael Fassbender is another good choice – he’s young and attractive enough, and his performance as a sex addict in Shame was brilliantly gripping. However, a choice more off the beaten track would be the brilliant Michael C. Hall, easily one of the most underrated actors on TV today. He needs more time on the big screen, and Christian Grey would be a natural progression for  him considering his stellar performance as the titular serial killer on Dexter.

Steele would be more interesting to cast, especially given the heated debates as to whether Fifty Shades of Grey is feminist or misogynist. If the writers choose to play Steele as the quiet, doey-eyed type of heroine, then Michelle Williams and Carey Mulligan would both suit the bill very well – Mulligan especially considering her role in Shame alongside the aforementioned Fassbender. If they give Steele more of a tough streak, then actresses like Emma Watson, Emily Blunt, Ellen Page and Olivia Wilde would suit the bill very well.

Of course, this is all wishful thinking, and it’s more than likely that any movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, like the book, will focus on providing cheap sexual thrill and leave important things like casting, writing and direction to somebody else. In that case, all I hope is that Gilbert Gottfried can voice Anastasia Steele’s inner goddess.

It could be the comedy film of the year.

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