I Saw 50 Shades Darker On Valentine’s Day And It Was Awesome
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It was my girlfriend’s Valentine’s Day idea. “We don’t have to be super romantic. Let’s just do something fun.” Then she paused. “What if we went and saw 50 Shades Darker? Would you be into that?”

One of the benefits of having a girlfriend is that you have a beard to go to things like 50 Shades Darker. Perhaps that’s a little sexist, though I think the desire to see this movie probably relates less to gender than it does to one’s tolerance for crap. Personally, I like crap. Also I figured what the hell, 50 Shades is one of those pop culture phenomena that I’ve let pass without a glance but this could be a fun date.

And then the pièce de résistance of the V-Day plan: “What if we snuck booze in?” It’s moments like that you cherish, when you feel like your significant other really gets you.

At first the idea was to get sodas and pour some airline bottles of whiskey in them. You know, because we’re wicked classy. But then she changed her mind. “I want champagne.”

This made my inner straight A student altar boy nervous. Bring in a bottle? We might get caught! And then it’ll go on our permanent records! But I decided to go with it.

I didn’t want any heads to turn by popping the cork in the theater, so, I had the idea to open the bottle in the men’s room. I took my girlfriend’s purse, which contained the bottle, into a stall – the place where people poop –  and did just that. I emerged from the bathroom with an open bottle of champagne clutched between my elbow and ribs underneath my jacket, my hands awkwardly folded in front of me.

I saw a movie theater employee and felt a flash of panic. He might see my awkward pose and ask what’s under my jacket. Suffice it to say that the moment I feared getting my bottle of champagne confiscated at a screening of 50 Shades Darker will not go on the highlight reel of my manliest moments.

We took our place in a line that snaked down one wall and into another hallway and I said, “Go get us some water so we’ll have cups.” My girlfriend came back with two plastic cups of water and I noticed that the group of three girls behind us had done the same thing and they were laughing and filling their cups behind a corner. Others had plastic water bottles not filled with water in their bags. It really hadn’t occurred to me that this plan had occurred to everyone.

We all file into the movie theater and I realize that I’m one of ten, maybe twenty men in a theater of several hundred people.

I usually watch movies on my TV or laptop so I had forgotten the energy of a packed movie theater. I also didn’t know what 50 Shades fan are like. How seriously do they take it? Are they as devoted as Harry Potter and Twilight fans?

The quick answer is no. Everyone knew what we were there to watch: girl porn. It’s the other side of the “cool girl” coin. Much like in Beautiful Girls when Uma Thurman tells Timothy Hutton when pitchers and catchers report to spring training while throwing back whiskey shots, we were watching fantasy. But who cares when it’s a fun fantasy? Sure, this twenty-seven year old billionaire – those guys exist and don’t all look like Mark Zuckerberg – chose this particular bookish woman who could finally change him. Also, she’s independent enough that she doesn’t care about his billions but she ain’t gonna turn down a ride in a yacht either.

Coincidentally, the yacht ride scene was when I started to really love the crowd. The movie’s theme song “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” played and a good number of movie goers threw their hands in the air and danced in their seats.

The group of friends in our row freely passed a bottle of wine back and forth to fill their coffee cups. They made no attempt to lower their voices to make comments. Everyone knew this was cheesy and everyone laughed at all the unintentional comedy.

At one point the unmistakable noise of an empty wine bottle hitting the floor made everyone in the theater laugh. When Dakota Johnson, upon receiving a promotion tells her assistant, “I don’t expect you to get me coffee unless you’re getting some yourself,” a woman in the back row shouted “Working Girl!” And then a gay guy in the front yelled back to her, “Yup! That’s Working Girl!”*

*I caught it too and thought it was bullshit to steal that line until it occurred to me, hours later, that the speaker of the line in Working Girl – Melanie Griffith – is Dakota Johnson’s mother. Then I kind of dug it.

It wasn’t as crazy as a showing of Rocky Horror or anything but it was fun. As for the actual movie, you already know exactly how good it is. They’re cagey around each other, he let’s his guard down, there’s a twist that makes her reconsider everything, then there’s a reconciliation, and a brief teaser for the next movie. Also, yeah, there’s S & M stuff in it but it’s 2017 and I have an internet connection, so, it was all relatively tame.

I can’t guarantee you’ll like this but if you’re going to go, take girlfriends, preferably several of them, all of whom like drinking wine and have recently been broken up with.

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