Mark your calendars: the mega-hit erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey now has a director, British filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, and a release date, Aug. 1, 2014. This means it’s time for us to give the team behind the 50 Shades movie some advice! Here’s how to improve E.L. James’ book, which might have been a hit for its steamy bedroom scenes but really could have used an editor.
1. Consult someone who actually knows about/engages in BDSM: One of the creepiest parts of E.L. James’ book is the way she conflates Christian Grey’s interests in BDSM with practices that feel a lot more like abuse (like controlling Anastasia’s eating habits and who she has contact with). Talking to someone who knows more about the BDSM community might help make the movie’s sex scenes hotter—and as a side note, Fifty Shades really needs to be rated NC-17, or what’s the point—without demonizing BDSM or encouraging women to see abusive and controlling behavior as acceptable or romantic.
2. Make Christian and Anastasia’s initial meeting less ludicrous: In the novel, Christian and Anastasia meet when Anastasia’s friend Kate—who is the editor of the school paper but apparently lacks any reporters on staff or the ability to reschedule an interview—gets sick and sends Anastasia to interview Christian, a wealthy donor to their college, in her stead. Once there, Anastasia conducts the world’s stupidest, least professional interview, but apparently Christian becomes infatuated with her anyway. Why not eliminate the stupid and make Anastasia seem more generally competent by just making her a reporter in the first place, and lend that initial interaction some electricity by making it an actual battle of wits?
3. Find a way to spice up Anastasia and Christian’s interminable emails: James doesn’t just devote pages upon pages to Anastasia and Christian’s email correspondence—she reproduces Christian’s email footer every time he dashes off a note to her. Finding a visual way to represent the emails—Ryan Coogler’s upcoming Fruitvale Station does a nice job making the act of sending and receiving text messages dynamic on screen—or turning them into steamy phone conversations would be great.
4. Ditch Anastasia’s food issues: One of the weirder elements of Fifty Shades is the way James paints Anastasia’s eating disorder. She forgets to eat frequently, eats very little when she does actually remember to make a meal or is forced to attend one, and often loses her appetite when faced with Christian’s gorgeousness. Getting rid of this element of the novel would also eliminate one of the ways Christian acts controlling with Anastasia (he requires her to eat as part of the contract they sign), and would ease the general air of unhealthiness to make the whole thing more fun.
5. Make Anastasia’s friends actual human beings: Fifty Shades started as fan fiction, and these roots are most obvious when it comes to Anastasia’s friends Kate and José, who are rip-offs of already-thin characters from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight franchise. It’s creepy enough when Christian alienates Anastasia from her friends, but given how flimsy her relationships with them are in the first place, the movie could benefit from making Anastasia face an actual choice: between her intoxicating new boyfriend and the friends who are concerned by her total devotion to him.