50 Shades of Grey: Could It Have Been a Great Script?
By Jacob Krueger
Sometimes, even a flawed script can give you tremendous insights as a writer, not only as to what makes a screenplay succeed or fail, but also about the strengths and weaknesses of your own writing.
So, as we talk about 50 Shades of Grey, we’re going to be setting aside the question of whether or not it is a good movie, whether or not you enjoyed 50 Shades of Grey or found it sexy, or even if you thought it was a reliable adaptation.
Instead, I want to look at 50 Shades of Grey and think about what could have made it a great script. And how those lessons can apply to your own writing.
Let’s start off by talking about the things that work in 50 Shades of Grey.
From my perspective, one of the things that works is Christian Grey’s very clear and strong desire. You probably noticed when watching 50 Shades of Grey (or when reading the script) that Christian, from the very beginning, pushes things a little too far. “If you were mine you wouldn’t sit down for a week,” is one of the early things he says to Anastasia. He has these combative and shocking lines that act as strong statements of who he is from the moment he appears.
Whether or not you consider these lines to be good or bad or a little overwrought or a little cheesy – I know when I was in the theater, there were certainly a couple of laughs during times when the movie wasn’t consciously trying to be funny – the concept of allowing a character to introduce themselves to the audience from their purest point of view is a powerful one that can often transcend even the most problematic elements of your script.
Allow your character to come out and make a statement about their view of the world from the very beginning. And you’ll see how much easier everything else becomes.
One of the first things Christian says to Anastasia is “people have said that I have no heart.” She asks him why, and he says “because they know me well.”
These may not be the best executed lines of dialogue, but these are concepts that we can take with us. This is a man with a very clear, strong desire. His desire is to get Anastasia Steele into his BDSM room. That is his dream, that is his desire, and every single thing he does is an attempt to get it.
And to the degree that 50 Shades of Grey works, it works because of Christian Grey’s very clear desire.
But with a little more craft, 50 Shades of Grey could have been a script that did more than just survive its weaknesses. It could have been a great script.
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