The 50 Shades of Grey adaptation has finally found its leading couple. "Sons of Anarchy" star Charlie Hunnam will star as Christian Grey, and former "Ben and Kate" star Dakota Johnson has been tapped to play Anastasia.
This is good news in that these two are solid, charismatic, charming actors, but that doesn't change the fact that the source material is terrible. A fun read, maybe. A cultural phenomenon, clearly. But terrible all the same. I mean:
"'Are you ready for this?' he mewled, smirking at me like a mother hamster about to eat her three-legged young."
We can do better. Here are 6 erotic (or romantic, or pervy) works of literature we'd rather see adapted for the big screen.
Delta of Venus, by Anaïs Nin
Not only is the title one of the loveliest euphemisms for female genitalia ever conceived, but Delta of Venus is a classic example of how intelligent, visceral, emotional, jarring, offensive, complicated, and beautifully-written erotic literature can be. If rough hook-ups in an elevator and allusions to cannibalistic hamster MILFs are shocking to you, stick with 50 Shades. This collection of short stories, mostly written in the 1940s for a private collector, tackles truly taboo subject matter like incest, pedophilia, and -- taboo at the time, at least -- homosexuality and women's desire.
A movie version of the work was released in 1995, but it's as good a time as any to revisit the work with a new big screen adaptation.
Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong
Erica Jong's 1973 masterpiece was so influential that it introduced a new term to the English language. Equal parts hilarious, heartbreaking, somber, and empowering, the (partially autobiographical) book centers around a married author's lack of fulfillment and her exploration of her own needs and desires in a way that echoed those of many second-wave feminists at the time (and, you know, to this day).
A movie version of the book is in the works decades after the novel was first released. About damn time.
Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
A quick glance at Sacher-Masoch's name gives a hint at what this classic novella has in store. The story centers around a man, Severin, who begs to be the slave of the woman he adores. Does it end in heartbreak and disappointment?! (Spoiler: Yup.) Read it while listening to The Velvet Underground's song of the same name, and think about which modern-day director would best do the story justice.
(The correct answer is Almodóvar.)
(Roman Polanski did a version, but: Ick.)
The Autobiography of a Flea, by Stanislas de Rhodes
Not to be confused with John Donne's similarly-named erotic poem, this novel, first published anonymously in 1887, is narrated by a surprisingly articulate flea (admittedly, that might be my own long-held bias against fleas talking) who observes an orphan named Bella as she experiences her sexual awakening / learns how depraved some men in the late 1800s can be.
The work was adapted into a pornographic film in 1976 (link SFW), but we think a more mainstream, nuanced look at the relationships between women and men -- and the relationship women have with their own sexuality -- is in order. Jeff Goldblum would voice the flea, obviously.
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
This novel inspires words like "sumptuous," "decadent," and other words that can be used to describe sex, love, and food. And there's a good reason for that: Esquivel's debut novel uses magical realism to explore the ties among all three -- even the title, "Como agua para chocolate" in the original Spanish -- hints at the emotional thread connecting love, sex, cooking, and eating.
More romantic than outright erotic, the book was adapted into a visually stunning movie in 1992, but could benefit from a fresh take. (Short of that, rent the movie. Or better yet, read the book. And try out it recipes. Especially the quail in rose petal sauce, WINK NUDGE.)