For the most part, Fifty Shades of Grey‘s big-screen adaptation is very true to the book—from Ana and Christian’s interview at the very beginning to a few scenes featuring dialogue lifted directly from E.L. James. (Not to mention the many lip bites and spankings in between.)
But, as is always the case with adaptations, there are minor differences from book to film. We’re not going to talk about how Christian bought Ana a Blackberry in the book, how their visit to IHOP didn’t make the cut, or how the film didn’t mention how Mrs. Robinson is also a “business partner” of Christian. Instead, let’s look at some of the more significant changes that director Sam Taylor-Johnson made when adapting the text.
1. The absence of a few minor characters
Christian Grey doesn’t have a lot of people in his life, but he has a few more in the book than he does in the film. First, Christian’s driver, Taylor, has a bigger role in the novel, mainly via his relationship with Ana—which is hinted at in the film when he picks her up from the airport. His biggest scene—when he drives Ana home and offers her his hankerchief at the very end of the book—was cut from the film.
But most of the people we’re talking about don’t even make an appearance in the film. For example: Dr. Flynn, Christian’s psychiatrist, is a point of conversation for Christian and Ana in the book. (She often references what he should talk to Dr. Flynn about.) Flynn isn’t even mentioned in the film.
Then there’s Mrs. Jones, Christian’s housekeeper/cook, with whom Ana has an interesting morning-after run-in. Honestly, Mrs. Jones was not a necessity for the film—it functioned fine without her. But her character does help explain how Christian keeps his place so immaculate. And Mrs. Jones does play a slightly larger role in the next books, so she might still make an appearance at some point in the future.
And finally, Ethan Kavanagh, Kate’s brother, doesn’t appear in the film. In the book, he only attends Kate and Ana’s graduation—but later, he’ll be a larger player in the story, mostly due to his (spoiler!) romance with Mia, Christian’s sister. Again, the film made the right choice by deciding he was extraneous, though it’ll be interesting to see if he shows up in any future Fifty Shades films… if they’re made.
We could also mention the doctor Christian uses to get Ana on the pill, but they at least nodded to that interaction in the film, so we’ll let it slide.
2. There’s less sex
We knew going into the film that there would be fewer sex scenes in the film than there were in the book. In fact, we knew immediately about one that defiitely wasn’t going to make an appearance. But for the most part, it didn’t feel as though the film was missing anything major, other than a few orgasms (which it didn’t show).
Some of the more notable sex scenes that were missing include Ana and Christian having sex at his parent’s boathouse—in the film, they simply argue about her going to Georgia while standing in what appears to be more of a greenhouse/poolhouse. Then there’s the bathtub scene in the film, which, unlike the book, does not involve Ana performing oral sex on Christian. In the film, the scene happens earlier in their love story, and appears to be nothing more than a soothing bath.
And let’s not forget the pivotal moment when Christian allows Ana to be on top. It doesn’t sound like much, but for a control freak, it’s a breakthrough moment—and it’s just in the book.
And no, there are no silver balls in the movie. Sorry.
3. Kate has less of an opinion
In the book, Kate is not Christian Grey’s biggest fan. Sure, she thinks he’s hot, but she quickly becomes skeptical of how he’s affecting her friend.
It all culminates when Christian spanks Ana for the first time—which does make the film. Afterwards, Ana spends the night crying. In the book, Christian makes his way back over to her apartment, only to be yelled at by Kate before spending the night with Ana. None of that aftermath appears in the film.
4. Ana doesn’t get a job … but does own a computer
In the film, there’s no mention of what Ana wants to do with her professional life; in the book, she not only talks about her publishing aspirations, but also gets her first publishing job. It’s not a huge oversight by the film, but it would’ve helped to establish Ana as her own woman apart from the man she loves.
The film does, however, fix one of the book’s most unbelievable oversights: Book Ana, a college student, doesn’t have a computer. She mostly borrows Kate’s. You know, because that’s realistic.
Thankfully, the film gives Ana a computer—but makes sure it’s a crappy one that breaks often, which still gives Christian a reason to buy her a new one.
5. Ana’s nighttime confession
In the book, there’s a lot more discussion about Ana talking in her sleep. And after Christian tells her that she confessed something one night, she spends much of the last part of the book trying to get him to tell her what she said. In fact, in their final fight scene—which leads to the spanking incident that ruins everything—Christian finally tells Ana the truth: “You said you wouldn’t leave me, and you begged me not to leave you, in your sleep.” It’s that statement that then leads to Ana asking Christian to show her how much being his submissive can hurt. And, well, you know the rest.
6. Third person POV
Unlike the book, the film takes a third-person perspective. At no point is the viewer treated to what Ana’s thinking. There are no voiceovers, and no real way for viewers to figure out what she’s feeling, other than through her dialogue with other characters and Dakota Johnson’s acting. This is probably the biggest change from book to film, considering that the book is told entirely from Ana’s perspective; many of its pages are spent contemplating her feelings toward Christian and his fifty shades.
All in all, the changes are fairly minor. Odds are, book readers won’t leave the film feeling cheated unless they just really wanted to watch Ana and Christian spoon—which also doesn’t make the film.