REVIEW: Shady tale not so bad
WATCHING steamy encounters unfold on a TV show, even if it's just in the company of the dog, can still leave you feeling awkward, so you can imagine what it is like witnessing similar pursuits on a two-storey high screen with 300 people surrounding you.
That was a whole new world of cringe this week when the premiere of 50 Shades of Grey piqued enough intrigue to forgo a little public embarrassment at Grafton's Saraton Theatre on Thursday night.
Around the packed cinema, the nervous cackling was coming in Mexican waves, and that was even before the film started rolling.
There were women of all ages and a handful of fellows, the wall of chattering signalling the anticipation this film had been hotly stockpiling since it was announced last year.
The 50 Shades trilogy has been a worldwide phenomenon, tapping in to the sexual psyche of women (and men) like no novel had done since perhaps Lady Chatterley's or The Story of O.
I was flying blind though, not having read the book (nor likely to), but no one is trying to dress this up as English literature. It is apparently a rollicking read, full of clichés like virgins and good-looking rich people, Mills and Boon-style longings, and plenty of descriptive sex scenes that delve into a world well beyond the missionary position.
So it's escapism, pure and simple, even side-slappingly funny as you appreciate how amusing it would be to be introduced to something bizarre by your standards by a potential suitor who looks at it as an everyday activity. The detailed contract scene makes light of otherwise stomach-churning suggestions to the uninitiated.
And for DIY fans, if you are keen to see the stuff you pick up at Bunnings on the weekend shown in a whole new light, then this story will be right up your proverbial alley. And who'd thought pubic hair would be back in fashion for a film like this? Bonus points for that and also for the condom packet being torn open in the throes of passion, a safe sex message that often gets ignored in Hollywood.
Banter aside, the film has been criticised for inciting domestic violence, something I'm the first to trumpet, but on this occasion I think - and for lack of finding a better expression - there needs to be some slack cut in this instance.
There was almost an over emphasis on the consensual part, possibly to allay this kind of criticism. One scene towards the end was rather brutal but it was consensual and illustrated the turning point of this less traditional relationship.
There's no question the guy is a mixed-up, control freak but there is back story that includes his own introduction to the world of dominants and submissives courtesy of his mother's friend when he was a teenager. That seemingly inappropriate behaviour hardly rates a mention in all the backlash (sorry, can't help myself).
It might be a simplistic view, but to deny consenting adults any form of MA15+ fantasy entertainment because it could allude to people doing something inhumane or against the law is the same argument the censorship board and art world have to deal with every time someone pushes a boundary that doesn't meet society's expectations of appropriate behaviour.
There are probably 50 shades of grey when it comes to deciding what that is, too.