The overall consensus on Fifty Shades of Grey when it first appeared on bookshelves was that it wasn’t a great book. A sexy book? Sure. But not great. Sexiness alone, however (along with some pervasive nationwide BDSM curiosity), was enough to place it in a top-selling slot for what seemed like forever — and more important, perhaps, get author E.L. James a movie deal. Now we're left with this question: Could the movie possibly be better than the book? Well, yeah. Movies often aren’t deemed “better” than the beloved books they adapt, but with director Sam Taylor-Johnson at the helm and really nowhere to go but up, we assumed that the film would improve quite a bit on the pages. Turns out we were correct. Here’s exactly how.
They calm down those emails.
E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is full of emails. They go back and forth for what feels like forever, intended to show Anastasia and Christian hashing out the details of the dreaded contract. They’re flirty and suggestive and are likely meant to show the two loosening up a bit — Ana to the idea of getting smacked around (with given consent!), and Christian just in general because he is cripplingly uptight. But reading emails in a book is extremely boring, and reading emails onscreen, even more so. (Does anyone else equate reading emails with doing work? Exactly.) Luckily, Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel turn the emailing into a bit of a montage, cut with a goofy Danny Elfman score and cheesy innuendo played up for laughs. God bless visual effects!
Ana's "inner goddess" takes a break.
Perhaps one of the book's most ridiculous strategies is giving poor Anastasia Steele an "inner goddess" who reacts to Mr. Grey's advances excitedly (while she can only blush). Ana's inner goddess dances ("My very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba"); she does gymnastics ("My inner goddess is doing backflips in a routine worthy of a Russian Olympic gymnast"); she even gets a hotel room ("My inner goddess has a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the outside of her room"). She's busy, this sentient spirit. Thankfully, the film does not need Ana's inner monologue, so that inner goddess is killed. RIP, you absurd personification.
Christian isn't as obsessed with Ana's caloric intake.
Christian's early years of starvation and neglect make it so that he is constantly harassing poor Ana about not eating enough. In the book, this hankering is not only tiresome (We get it, E.L. James, she's soooooooo skinny), it really turns him into a stern father figure. Ew. There are times she literally has to clean her plate before he'll have sex with her. It's weird! In the movie, there's very little of this. Movie Ana knows how to feed herself.
There's no "Oh jeez!"; "Holy crap!"; "Argh!"
Sex scenes in books are often hard to read, so imagine, if you will, a book that has a sex scene almost every five pages. That's a lot of sex to write! And James's Fifty Shades has Ana Steele so unaccustomed to the whole thing that all she can do is exclaim. "Argh!" she cries. Sometimes it's, "Oh jeez!" Or: "Holy crap!" (And, strangely, "Double crap!") It's difficult to read. Luckily, human sounds don't take the form of these outbursts, and Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades doesn't have poor Dakota Johnson sounding like a 1950s cartoon character.
Anastasia Steele is funny! Who knew.
One of the more pleasantly surprising things about Fifty Shades of Grey's film adaptation is Dakota Johnson. She breathes new life into Anastasia Steele that perhaps even E.L. James couldn't predict. She's able to turn embarrassing lines into funny ones; she can go from silly to coy to sexy on a dime. In his review, David Edelstein writes of the actress: "Johnson doesn’t so much speak her lines as float them, removing the sharp notes so that Anastasia can seem both intelligent and strangely unassertive — the sort of smart, unformed woman who’d be irresistible to a man with a compulsion to dominate." While Book Ana repeatedly says she's smart, it's doesn't ever feel that way. And Taylor-Johnson and Marcel somehow give Ana the one thing that makes her truly endearing: a sense of humor! That's how she pulls of this doozy of a line: "Find anal fisting. Strike it out."
This early Valentine's Day weekend, Fifty Shades Darker premiered in theaters nationwide. The second installment of the trilogy, the film is adapted from E L James's book of the same name. The erotic, romantic drama continues to explore the relationship between recent graduate, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), and billionaire entrepreneur, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). As if navigating their relationship wasn't complicated enough, a crazy ex-girlfriend and a sexually aggressive boss complicate things.
Fortunately for fans, the film sticks closely to the plot of the book, featuring a luxurious lifestyle and elaborate gifts, witty banter and demanding behavior (on Christian's end anyway), and, of course, lots and lots of sex. However, it does stray from the books in a few ways. Some small differences include less domineering and possessive behavior from Christian (yes, that's actually possible), the absence of email and text exchanges (which were frequent in the first film, Fifty Shades of Grey), and fewer sex scenes — they have to keep the movie under six hours somehow! To learn of some of the bigger changes, including the absence of major new characters, as well as key plot points, read our list below. WARNING: Major spoilers ahead!
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- In the film, Ana attends José's gallery opening on her own and Christian's attendance is a surprise to her. However, in the book, Christian reminds Ana of the show (which she has forgotten), and they attend together as dates.
- There's no doubt about it — Jack is a major creeper in the movie. His assistants quit abruptly, he openly dislikes Christian, and he eventually assaults Ana in his office. Though his behavior is by no means subtle, it is much more aggressive in the book. He persistently asks Ana to go out with him, comments on her appearance and wardrobe, gives her inappropriate compliments, and he uses her private email exchanges with Christian to blackmail her for sexual favors.
- In the film, though angry at first, Christian and Ana calmly discuss the work conference in New York, which she's supposed to attend with Jack. They eventually come to an agreement, and she decides not to go. However, in the book, Christian (who has already completed the purchase of SIP) freezes the company's accounts so that they can't go no matter what.
- In the book, just Ana and Jack are able to attend happy hour. This makes his inappropriate behavior stand out much more than had this scene followed the books, where multiple coworkers join them.
- In the book, when Christian and Ana attend the masquerade ball, Mia arranges a special dance auction and signs Ana up without her knowledge. After a surprisingly heated bidding war for a dance with Ana, Christian bids $100,000, shocking everyone. This entire sequence is omitted from the film.
- In the book, when Ana and Christian attend the ball, Ana meets Christian's maternal grandparents, as well as therapist Dr. Flynn. Though significant in the novel, not a single one of their characters appears in the film.
- In the film, when returning home from the ball, Ana's car has been vandalized. Suspecting Leila, Christian takes Ana on his boat to keep her safe, not even allowing her into the apartment to retrieve her things. In the book, Christian and Ana are already in the elevator up to the apartment when they learn that something is wrong. After a tense scene between Christian and his security team, the house is deemed clear. However, when Ana recounts seeing a woman in the apartment the night before (which she assumed was a dream), Christian whisks her off to a hotel, using Mr. and Mrs. Taylor (named after his bodyguard) as aliases, to keep her hidden.
- When Christian first takes Ana to the salon he co-owns with Mrs. Robinson, aka Elena Lincoln, he vows to pick her up and carry her down the street if she doesn't obey him. While a playful threat in the film, he actually goes through with it in the book, carrying her over his shoulder for many blocks.
- In the film, Taylor (Max Martini) hardly has any lines. However, in the book, he is a prominent character with a backstory. You would never know that he had a young daughter and Christian pays for her education!
- In the film, Christian explains that the death of Leila's husband causes her to have a breakdown. In the book, Leila leaves her husband for a random man, and it's her lover that dies in the car crash. Subsequently, her husband refuses to have anything to do with her, despite her scary mental state and attempted suicide.
- In the first film of the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian buys Ana a car as a college graduation present. This is seen as an outrageous gift, and it often makes Ana uncomfortable. In the book, Fifty Shades Darker, it's revealed that Christian buys the same car for all of his submissives, so it's not all that special. (In Oprah's voice: "You get a car! And, you get a car! Everyone gets a car!")
- In the book, Christian hires a personal bodyguard just for Ana named Luke Sawyer. He accompanies her to work every day and acts as a partner to Taylor. His character is not present in the film adaptation.
- In the film, Mrs. Robinson interacts with Ana only twice: at their first official meeting, where they have a heated discussion in the bathroom at the ball, and once more after Christian announces his engagement to Ana. In the book, Mrs. Robinson tries numerous times to contact Ana. She acquires her work email, invites her to lunch, and, after receiving no response, shows up uninvited at Christian's apartment. However, Ana's attitude toward her (strong hatred, in case you were wondering) is the same in both instances.
- In the book, Kate's brother, Ethan, visits his sister and Ana. Since he's supposed to be staying in the apartment that the two friends share, Ana isn't suspicious when someone buzzes her into her place . . . only to find Leila. Ethan, who is a large character in the books (even dating Christian's sister, Mia), is absent from the film adaptation.
- In the film, there's no mention of Ana's car after it's found vandalized. However, in the book, Christian takes Ana to a car dealership so that she can choose a replacement.
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- In the book, José visits Ana in Seattle and, very awkwardly, stays with her and Christian in their apartment. This explains why he's with the family after they gather at the news of Christian's helicopter crash. This entire scene is omitted from the movie.
- In the first film, Christian sends Ana to a Dr. Greene to get a birth control prescription. Had the sequel followed the book, Ana would have met with Dr. Greene again to have a different kind of birth control administered. Ana tells her that she went off of the pill after she and Christian broke up, and Dr. Greene fears that she could be pregnant . . . which foreshadows events in the final chapter of the series. However, Dr. Greene doesn't make an appearance in Fifty Shades Darker.
- In the book, as their relationship progresses, Christian takes Ana to view a house that he wants to buy for them. In the film, while Ana and Christian are sailing on his boat, The Grace, she spots a house on the shore and takes an interest in it. However, these are just passing remarks and there's no direct suggestion that Christian will purchase it.
- In the movie, Ana is at a bar with José, Kate, and Elliot when Elliot relays the news that Christian's chopper is missing. In the books, Elliot is replaced by Kate's brother, Ethan. Absent from the party, Elliot calls Kate on the phone and asks to speak with Ana, giving her the bad news.
- In the film, while Christian's friends and family are watching the news for information about his crash, the reporter mentions that Christian is an expert pilot. However, viewers never discover what exactly happened to make Charlie Tango go down. In the book, Christian and his team openly suspect sabotage, making it more obvious that Jack Hyde is likely responsible.
- In the movie, Kate's presence is sorely missed (by Ana, as well as audience members). In the novel, after returning from her trip with Elliot, Kate finds the contract that Christian had originally drawn up in hopes of making Ana his submissive. Now in on the secret of their BDSM past, Ana confides in Kate and assures her that their relationship has changed.
- In the film, Taylor drives Ana and Christian to her former apartment so that she can retrieve a few things before moving into his apartment. When she arrives, Leila (who snuck into her place) threatens her with a gun; Christian and Taylor come to the rescue when they hear the gunshot. This sequence of events strays from the book in a couple of ways. First, Kate's brother, Ethan, is staying in their apartment during his visit; Ana goes to check in on him, not to gather things for her move with Christian. Secondly, instead of a gunshot, it's Ethan's eventual arrival that signals a problem to Taylor and Christian — someone other than himself must have let Ana into the apartment.
- In the film, after Christian forces Ana to leave him alone with Leila, she defies his orders and wanders around the city to clear her head. Afterwards, the only thing she learns of Leila's situation is that she's been hospitalized to get the care she needs. In the book, however, Ana and Ethan go to the bar across the street from her apartment to watch events unfold; Christian's therapist, Dr. Flynn, arrives and (with hospital orderlies in tow) places Leila into a car to the hospital.
- Aside from the off-putting initial interaction between Leila and Christian, the movie doesn't show much of their encounter. However, in the book, he bathes Leila to soothe her, which thoroughly upsets Ana.
- In the book, Christian and Ana constantly argue about her diet; she eats rarely and numerous people remark on her weight loss. These exchanges, however, are missing from the movie.
- In the film, Christian proposes to Ana after waking up from a nightmare. In the book, fearing that he will lose her after telling her about his mother, he proposes while kneeling before her submissively. (This scene is briefly shown in the film.)
- In both the film and the book, Ana is hesitant to marry Christian. However, in the book, it's only after she speaks with his therapist, Dr. Flynn, that she feels comfortable enough to accept.
- Lastly, although it may seem like the couple is constantly getting it on, there are a few key sex scenes missing. The book includes a pool table scene, as well as a Red Room birthday celebration.
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Image Source: Everett Collection