(Photo by ©Focus Features)
We’ve had erotic dramas that skirt the edges of propriety for as long as we’ve had motion pictures, but rarely do any of them earn the kind of fanfare and mainstream attention that 2015’s Fifty Shades of Grey attracted. They also typically aren’t based on steamy fan fiction inspired by a series of young adult novels about sparkly vampires.
If you were somehow unaware, you read that right. A British woman named Erika Mitchell became so obsessed with the Twilight films and books that she wrote her own sequel, which eventually morphed into the self-published novel that then became the feature film about a naive coed who enters into a sadomasochistic relationship with a handsome billionaire.
Mitchell, who initially published under the pen name “Snowqueens Icedragon” before settling on the much more respectable E.L. James, admitted that the Fifty Shades books contained “all my fantasies” and were her “mid-life crisis, writ large,” but the success of the series — both the books and the films — would imply that she was absolutely not alone. The first book has been translated into 52 languages and has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, and the film adaptation earned over half a billion dollars at the global box office.
As far as the critics were concerned, well, the film (and the book, for that matter) failed to set their hearts aflutter. Fifty Shades of Grey sits at 25% on the Tomatometer (even Twilight at least notched a 49%) with a higher but not particularly impressive Audience Score of 41%. Looking at its box office haul, whoever was into this movie was really into this movie.
But is there anything to this film beyond its promise of titillation and wish fulfillment fantasies? Were the charms of Jamie Dornan and the guileless depth of Dakota Johnson enough to overcome the inherent silliness of the story? Is it an unexpectedly entertaining and competently filmed if somewhat campy exploration of power dynamics in contemporary relationships? Is it, in fact, more than just mommy porn for dirty housewives, or are its fans just gluttons for punishment?
As a rare treat, regular co-hosts Jacqueline Coley and Mark Ellis do not have a guest with whom to whip these questions around. No, this week, it’s all about the symbiotic, loving, and mutually respectful relationship between Jacqueline and Mark, as they discuss the runaway success of the film, the little things it actually got right, and why, as Jacqueline would have it, it should be Fresh.
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
Check out some more episodes of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong:
If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.