With the Fifty Shades of Grey screen adaptation picking up steam, many are wondering just how good a film the sultry book will inspire.
The immensely popular submission tale has sold a whopping 20 million copies, and that isn't because of great writing. In fact, Fifty Shades is known for its cringe-worthy prose as much as for its jaw dropping BDSM scenes. Aside from that, the plot is largely implausible, which is fine for a work of erotic fiction, but which may not translate well to celluloid.
Written by E.L James, the story centers on a 21-year-old virgin, Anastasia Steele, who's lanky, uncoordinated, and beyond average. Nonetheless, she is perused by a gorgeous 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey, who presents her with a contract outlining what is to occur between them sexually. She is rewarded for her cooperation in the form of lavish gifts (an Audi to name a few) and undivided adoration (which borders on being stalked). Just because Christian has an entire enterprise to run doesn't mean he's too busy to engage in sexy e-mail banter all day long or obsess over his smitten paramour.
He's just like Twilight's swoon-worthy Edward Cullen -- actually, he is Edward Cullen. James initially wrote the story as Twilight fan fiction. All of the main characters are variations on ones that Stephenie Meyer already created, and some of the differences are very subtle. For instance, Edward's adoptive father, Dr. Carlyle, is changed to Christian's adoptive father, Dr. Carrick. Many have argued that this constitutes plagiarism.
If the story were pitched to a studio as a script, it would likely be tossed into the slush pile and never given a second thought. Even if it did make it onto an executive's desk, Hollywood typically forgoes female-driven stories and rarely takes on sexually charged films that may foster an NC-17 rating. Yet, somehow, Fifty Shades of Grey not only incited a bidding war between the top studios, highly respected producers also clamored to be a part of the project.
Back in March, Focus Features/Universal (GE) secured the film rights over the likes of Warner Brothers (TWX) and Sony Pictures (SNE) for $5 million. On Monday, the studio chose Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti (the team behind the Oscar nominated The Social Network) to produce Fifty Shades. But just because they're accomplished pros, that doesn't mean they were automatically hired for the job. The two had to win the opportunity after competing with the likes of Brian Grazer and Michael Shamberg.
It seems that the film is being taken rather seriously, and with good reason. The book and its two sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed have sparked a cultural phenomenon. Sex toys are selling out; adult sites and stores are developing products related to the series, and several hotels are offering Fifty Shades packages. The series has brought in an astounding $145 million to Vintage Publishing (which the books were released under) and it led to a boom in sales of erotica and romantic fiction.
I can't think of another trilogy in my lifetime that has sold as many copies in four months, says a statement from Paul Bogaards, of Vintage.
Focus/Universal are no doubt capitalizing on the pandemonium surrounding Fifty Shades, and they are planning to launch the trilogy as Hollywood's next big film franchise (the studio has secure the rights to all three books).
So, how will the film be any good? For starters, the film's basic premise -- two hot people having lots of hot sex -- will be difficult to get wrong. Aside from that, the studio's hiring of a top-notch producing team means they're likely to recruit a respected screenwriter, director and cast.
In terms of the story's content, if you brush aside Anastasia's repetitive inner monologues and the eye-rolling scenarios, Fifty Shades does make for compelling source material.
Unless the film opts for a voice-over narrative (we don't think the team from The Social Network would let that happen), audiences will be spared from hearing about her inner goddess (which she refers to fifty seven times in the first book alone).
As for Christian, his rise from poverty, molestation as a teen, and sex-related coping mechanisms could make for an absorbing film character.
After cutting out a few scenes, the film could actually be an enthralling exploration of feminine desires. How many mainstream films have portrayed female sexuality in a manner that was raw and honest? Aside from the Sex and the City movie, there haven't been many.
Few film's cater to a woman's perspective, but the Fifty Shades adaptation could spur a wave of female-dominated cinema.
At this point, the film is an extension of the book's cultural significance. Much like Twilight, the hype surrounding Fifty Shades almost guarantees a built-in audience for the movie. Franchises reflect an audience's desire to join a community and be a part of something, and Fifty Shades is no different.