Good news for all you lusty E. L. James fans out there: the queen of derided-but-lucrative erotic fiction is headed back to Hollywood. Universal Pictures, the studio that brought her all-conquering Fifty Shades trilogy to the big screen, has this week optioned the rights to her 2019 bestseller, The Mister.
The story of an obscenely handsome, obscenely wealthy British nobleman by the name of Maxim Trevelyan and his steamy relationship with an enigmatic young woman with a troubled past, The Mister was, well, savaged by the critics upon its release last year. Sophie Gilbert, in her Atlantic review, wrote that the novel was “bad in ways that seem to cause the space-time continuum itself to wobble, slightly, as the words on the page rearrange themselves into kaleidoscopic fragments of repetition and product placement,” while Dana Schwartz in Entertainment Weekly noted that it “deals with the trauma of sex trafficking with the delicacy of a freight train.” Perhaps the most entertaining takedown of The Mister came from Guardian critic Sian Cain, who unleashed the following:
At least among all this wrongness, James gets one thing right: her randy English earl has a believably stupid name … The Mister is James’s goodbye to BDSM, and hello to what looks like a long career of writing retrograde romances between powerful men and uncomfortably vulnerable women … The Mister is a romance for Brexit Britain, a coked-up toff reaching out across the class divide to help a poverty-stricken migrant find a home … It also has more red flags than a communist parade. There is a complete dearth of emotional maturity that is genuinely unsettling … Just as James writes sex like a 14-year-old who thinks they know how it is done…she also writes about wealth like she’s not the author of a trilogy that has sold millions … Just how underserved are the women who enjoy culture like this, if this is the best we can do? Is this real life? Is it just fantasy? I’m unsure which bothers me more.
Not that bad reviews have ever deterred James or her filmmaking partners. Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed currently hold Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 24%, 11%, and 12%, respectively, and have taken home a total of nine Golden Raspberry Awards, but that hasn’t stopped them cleaning up at the box office to the tune of $1.3 billion.
The safe money would be on The Mister: The Movie to do similarly robust business.