Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why The Success of Fifty Shades of Grey is Pretty Great for the Movie Industry.

by Levin Menekse
I recently watched Fifty Shades of Grey. What I thought about it doesn't matter, what matters for me, and for you, is that it probably made 50 times more money than your favorite movie.

"But I'm an artist/art lover" you say "I don't care how much money a crappy movie made!"

Ah, but it makes so much difference. We work in an industry that ebbs and flows on trends. If something makes money, all of a sudden other projects become viable. When Twilight made so much money, an entire generation of vampire movies popped up. When Transformers made so much money, Battleship happened. Now that Fifty Shades of Grey made so much money... What's next? What sorts of movies will its success engender?

... this also happened, apparently.
The Mid-Range, Actually Good Studio Movie

You know this if you work in the industry, but the mid-range "good" Studio movie is a rarity these days. Studios either make massive blockbusters based on IP's (Intellectual Property -- remakes, sequels, adaptations) or low budget horror movies. (Blumhouse) There are a few exceptions of course -- The Social Network, Moneyball, Captain Philips -- but, as a movie goer, you should know that there are a myriad of beautiful, intelligent, challenging movies that are just not getting made because the numbers don't add up.

Now, Fifty Shades of Grey is no Social Network or Moneyball. It's definitely not going to be nominated for any awards. It's based on an IP. But it's a small, dark, challenging drama. The majority of the movie takes place in small rooms with two leads just... talking. There are times where it felt like I was watching an experimental theater performance or something.

And this is good. Dark, challenging movies getting made with adult themes is good.

One of the good ol' industry lingo is the "The TV show/Movie I'm pitching you right now is the popular movie X meets popular TV show Y!" Now, Fifty Shades of Grey is one of those anchors. And there are talented people right now trying to get that challenging movie they've been trying to get made for the last ten years by saying the magic words: "It's Fifty Shades of Grey meets ____"

And then there is also this... apparently.

The Talent Involved

So I was a bit sneaky earlier when I mentioned Social Network, Moneyball and Captain Philips because guess who produced Fifty Shades of Grey? The same people -- Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti -- who made those movies! Between the two of them they also produced: American History X, Magnolia, Pleasantville, Dark City, Boogie Nights, Wag the Dog... and the list goes on.

These are people who have great taste. Sure, they already had clout before Fifty Shades of Grey but the success of this adaptation boosts their profile within the industry. Isn't that a good thing? Aren't these people the "good guys" of the industry?

And then there is the cast. Both Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey, and Dakota Johnson, who plays Anastasia Steele, can now actually get movies made. That's a pretty great thing because they're both extremely talented actors. Dakota Johnson is surprisingly effective in the movie. She's charming, vulnerable, funny and somehow manages to make someone named Anastasia Steele, an English major with the name of a C-list pornstar, feel like a three dimensional person. Jamie Dornan has the tougher job of the two due to the ridiculous lines he has to say with a straight face -- "I don't make love. I fuck... hard", "I'd like to bite that lip" -- and he's rather... constipated through the whole movie but he's phenomenal on The Fall, holding his own across a heavy weight like Gillian Anderson.

Either of these very talented actors might be in your new favorite movie down the road. And you'll be glad they were in Fifty Shades of Grey because that was the reason why your favorite movie got made in the first place.

Don't hate us... please?
A New Demographic

I have made a lot of assumptions through this essay and even if they turn out to be complete horseshit, I hope this particular assumption is true:

"Women love Fifty Shades of Grey because there aren't many other alternatives in the same genre."

It's easy to point at Twilight and Fifty Shades and say that the type of men women seem to want is a jealous, billionaire stalker. But I sincerely hope that's because there aren't many alternatives. If I want to see giant robots fighting, I can see Neon Genesis Evangelion instead of Transformers but if Transformers was my only option? Maybe I'd see Transformers to scratch that Giant Fighting Robot itch. Maybe women who want challenging, erotic dramas are also dealing with a similar sort of drought.

Because we haven't found a good genre for the sexually empowered women yet. Women who use their sexuality to evoke a response are usually either belittled or pitied and the sexual enjoyment is shamed endlessly. So, maybe, the success of Fifty Shades of Grey will start a new trend where we will see actual good movies directed towards this particular demographic. (Shameless plug) I wrote a TV Pilot where the main character is a female pornographer trying to break into the mainstream by making a "better" Fifty Shades of Grey (Shameless Plug ends) and I hope as hell someone actually does that.

I also like how I say "this particular demographic" as if that's not, you know, 50 percent of the entire population!

So, yes, ultimately, I believe the success of Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty great for those who love movies! Or maybe I'm just full of shit. If you have thoughts please feel free to leave them in the comments.

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