Fifty Shades of Grey Is Tamer Than You Might Think, But It’s a Lot Better, Too

February 11, 2015 3:28 PM

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What a fun, sexy time young Anastasia Steele is having in Fifty Shades of Grey, director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s surprisingly winning adaptation of the runaway Twilight-fan-fiction-turned-bondage-fantasy novel. Anastasia, or Ana, is about to graduate from college when she meets a seriously handsome young billionaire with whom she shares an immediate, intense connection. She’s stepping into the real world and, hey, here’s this gorgeous playboy waiting to welcome her. And so the movie progresses for most of its tidy run, Ana and her billionaire, Christian Grey, treating sex as conversation, he showing her what he knows he’s into, while she, newly not a virgin, figures out what she likes for the first time. The two are polite and witty and even cute with one another, a genuine romance bubbling up underneath all the smooth seduction. The movie has a refreshing, friendly, youthful energy; it’s exciting, and excited, and, for the most part, pretty sex-positive.

Which was, well, kinda shocking to me, as someone who hasn’t read E.L. James’s sex-filled tome, but certainly has heard a lot about it. Like the character who inspired her, Twilight’s Bella Swan, I expected Ana to be meek and featureless and utterly passive, a blank, empty vessel for readers’ and vi...

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