Although it seemed like a foreordained whipping boy — and not, like, in the fun sense — “Fifty Shades of Grey” has been treated with surprising gentleness by critics so far, often by praising Sam Taylor-Johnson’s movie at the expense of E.L. James book. But Movie Mezzanine’s Charles Bramesco isn’t about to let James and her easily mocked prose slip out of the picture. In his review, subtitled “An Erotic ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Fan-Fiction,'” Bramesco envisions a James-style meet-uncute between a cynical critic and a “dark, brooding, mysterious man with a strong jawline” who turns out to be something of a cinematic populist. The critic, with a habit of taking pleasure from reviewing painfully bad movies, is all set up to give “Fifty Shades” the business, but his companion isn’t about to let him off so easily:
“You know that when you’re the arbiter of what does or does not merit actual consideration, you insulate yourself from criticism.” He continues to manipulate my hand like one of those free-fall theme-park rides. “When you dismiss a movie as an unintentional laugh riot, you deprive yourself the rest of the thematic content it has to offer.” Still incredulous, I scan the theater.
“Someone might see us.”
“The divides between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture are deteriorating. Vulgar auteurism. ‘Pain and Gain’ as an art film. ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ breaking into top-ten lists. Crap-shovelers like you are on the way out.” Without my noticing, he’s removed his hand from mine. I continue regardless, faster and more forcefully.
“I’m not ready,” I whimper.
“Embrace sincerity,” he continues, “and submit to the abolition of the brow. Film students in the year 2050 will study ‘Spring Breakers’ and they will learn things. It will be beautiful, and it begins right now.” He closes his eyes, and I feel his muscles contract and relax inside my grip.
The lights go down.
There is indeed more than a hint of masochism in the way critics queue up to see movies that set their teeth on edge; you might even say learning to find pleasure in pain is a job requirement. Bramesco just pulls it out into the light.