Kim Kardashian may have been the first to review Fifty Shades of Grey (“Girls night watching a private screening of Fifty Shades of Grey!!!!!! OMG it's sooooo good!!!!!” she humble-bragged on Twitter), but she’s not the only one panting over the steamy R-rated film.
Sneak screenings of the E.L. James adaptation starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson had fans gasping and giggling Friday in New York and L.A., a week before the Universal and Focus Features film spanks its way into theaters.
The sensual saga of virginal college student Anastasia Steele and her tortured billionaire playboy-slash-BDSM fetishist lover Christian Grey started as a Twilight-inspired mommy porn phenomenon. Now the bestselling basic gal’s gateway erotica is gunning so hard for mainstream saturation, it had the Today show crew talking The Red Room of Pain over a weeklong marketing extravaganza.
In early screenings Friday on both coasts, diehard fans saw Dornan and Johnson bare it all in the name of bondage for director Sam Taylor-Johnson. So who cares what celebs think of Ana Steele’s kinky sexual awakening? We polled ten fans, from a Twilight fanfic author (and her Collie, Leo) to a 15-year-old boy and his unsuspecting mother, moments after they saw the film in downtown Los Angeles.
The Cal State Fullerton student has read all three of the Fifty Shades books, and “it didn’t disappoint, it was awesome. It’s a funny movie, surprisingly—they know what we like.”
Best Scene: Christian Grey shows up in a helicopter. Also, the ending. “I was literally like, ‘WHAT?!’”
Mal (aka fan fiction author Mostly A Lurker)
Mal goes way back with E.L. James to the good old days, when James was just another amateur writer penning Twilight fanfic under the nom de plume Snowqueens Icedragon. “She was the first friend and author I met and made friends with in the Twilight fandom on Twitter in 2009,” said Mal.
“There’s a huge amount of humor in the original story. It was interesting to go, ‘Oh yeah there’s that note, and she hit that point, and oh, that’s how they’re showing that! I’m very satisfied and very happy with it—I’m already seeing it again next week.”
Mal’s dog, Leo
The Collie with a lion cut sat quietly through all 100 steamy minutes. “He totally laid over and crashed out, which means he was very comfortable and felt safe,” said Mal.
Rebecca (aka RebAdam7)
“They really captured the right spirit of it,” said the Twilight fanatic, who came to the special screening with fellow fans she met online. “You can’t bring every last link from a book to a movie but the most important parts were there. The way his brother was portrayed was different from how I had it in my head, but I really liked it.”
Roberta Curry, 48
“It was definitely what the fans were expecting.” And yet: “I was shocked every time they flashed a little pubic hair. There were a couple times when I was like, “Oh, THAT’S why it was rated R!’”
Curry drove three hours to come see the first West Coast screening of Fifty Shades. “I’ve been the first person I line for Comic-Con two years in a row, so I am a legit fan,” she said. “As a fan, it pretty much hit all the pleasure spots.”
She praised star Dakota Johnson for her “funny, believable” turn breathing life into what some critics of the book consider an aggravatingly passive wisp of a woman. “My husband has read the books and I think he may be a little… intimidated. I mean, Christian Grey kind of raises the bar.”
The lone teenage boy in sight came with a group of fellow teens, chaperoned by his mother. He shared his reviews of both the book and the movie: “I only read the first book. It was okay but it got pretty boring because the sex was repetitive. I wanted a story to be told. In the movie there’s a story, although there’s kind of a lot of sex scenes.”
Jeancarlo’s mom, who did not know what movie she was taking the kids to
“It’s not age-appropriate for them, but they’re gonna see that everywhere anyway,” she told me. [Jeancarlo] told me about the movie but I didn’t know what kind of movie it was. Then when I was watching it I was like, OH MY GOD. I can’t believe it! I would watch it again.”
“It reminded me of another book called After, it’s really similar. It doesn’t have the same conflict but it has the same emotions. I read a lot.”
How did she first get into Fifty Shades of Grey? “I found them through school, especially the teachers. One girl would sneak her mom’s copy into class and tell us, Oh my gosh Christian Grey this, Christian Grey that. My parents didn’t know what it was about but they saw the trailer.
Best scene: “I really liked the elevator scene.”
Name withheld, 34
One 34-year-old female Los Angeleno was surprised by how much she enjoyed herself. Lowered expectations can do that. “This movie knows what it is,” she said.
“I came into it thinking the book was so poorly written but weirdly hot that it could only go up from there. It’s really tongue in cheek, it has a camp quality to it.
“Dakota Johnson has a great body, a butt like an apple, and she made that nothing character come alive,” she said. “Bella Swan is always like, ‘I’m nothing, I’m not worth it,’ but Anastasia knows her value. One thing I’m happy they abandoned from the book is the ‘inner goddess.’”
The big problem, aka the elephant whip in the room: “It is a weird endorsement of a horribly abusive relationship, which sucks because on one level it could be a Dan Savage kind of aspiration where these two people meet, they make rules, they execute them and don’t hurt each other. But she had more power in this than she had in the book. As garbage as the book is, the sex scenes are really hot. Even if they feel like Cinemax.”
Name withheld, 29
“The S&M is lazy,” said another millennial who did not want to be identified. “The idea that it’s built around a character who is interested in an S&M relationship only because he’s a broken individual who was abused as a child completely diminishes the idea that anybody would be interested in this kind of pleasure as a choice. “
“But the movie is not as bad as I thought it would be, and it still makes me want to have sex.”