Watching Fifty Shades Freed felt like the scene with the dead dove in Arrested Development. There was no outcome where this was a good film, and there was no outcome where I would enjoy sitting through this film. I was already filled with regret and pissed off at my decision making by the trailers, let alone the minute the stunted dialogue and unsexy “sex” scenes started. But I did see it, mainly to see if I was missing anything by watching these Mystery Science Theater style on my couch. The answer is “I wasn’t,” and I guess now I have to write a review of a film I couldn’t care less about. Awesome.
Anastasia Steele (a hostage Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, neither of which seem like real names) have finally tied the knot, trading in their contractual lives of BDSM for one of domestic bliss and BDSM. We alternate between them fighting and f*cking for like an hour, and then all of a sudden former rival Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) is trying to kill them for dumb reasons and Ana is pregnant, which has ruined Christian’s plans for them. Stupidity ensues and whatever, you’re not seeing this for the plot, pervs, so why even bother reading this synopsis?
I mean, what else do you want me to say? Not even the Blue Margarita I got during the trailers (which includes a trailer for a feature-length commercial for Fifty Shades of Grey, because nothing matters anymore) made this film passable. There isn’t a story here. There are loose threads tied together by excuses for the main characters to engage in fake-looking sex. This is literally The Room: quickly forgotten plots, bad acting, fake-looking sex, and dubious morals. Except whereas The Room is earnest and fun, Fifty Shades Freed is inane and insufferable. Am I supposed to find it charming that Christian Grey sings the world’s worst cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed” for his wife and his siblings respond by saying, “Whoa. He’s never sang and played piano before”? Am I supposed to understand the reasoning behind subplots including a handsy architect, the brother-in-law possibly cheating (except not really, he just asked his ex for help picking out a ring, LOL that’s relatable), a former publisher who can pull off a CIA-level hacking job, and the release of a best-selling fantasy series inspired by The Divine Comedy? Why did these two fashionable twenty-somethings with an unlimited budget literally pick the ugliest wardrobes in history (that’s honestly the worst wedding dress I’ve ever seen)? Is it supposed to make sense that in the end, Anastasia Steele is slapped twice in the face and kicked once in the stomach, goes into a three-day coma because of it, and somehow the baby she’s carrying is completely unharmed? I’m not sure if any of this is supposed to make sense, or be likable, or what. All I know is that when this thing started having more endings than The Return of the King, I grew irrationally angry and started twitching in my seat.
And yet somehow – somehow – there is something worse than this movie’s filmmaking: it’s message. Oh, I don’t mean this in some sort of prudish “Ew, sex! Think of the children!” way. There is nothing wrong with two consenting, healthy adults utilizing BDSM – films like Bound, The Handmaiden, and especially Secretary do this quite well. I mean that the messages that are found in this movie are horribly misogynistic and are truly terrible for society. Christian Grey is a bad person, objectively. We are supposed to find it cute that he is obsessively controlling, threatening and harassing his wife for showing any semblance of skin (despite taking her to a topless beach), refusing to let her go out with her friends “for her protection,” berating her for getting pregnant and even suggesting it could be a girl (yeah, he’s kinda sexist), and when she disobeys him, he refuses to allow her to have any pleasure during sex. The film tries to paint this as a “Dom” thing, except it very much isn’t – it’s an assh*le thing. Near the end of the film, Christian laments the fact that he could have ended up just as bad as Jack Hyde, except as far as the audience can tell, they are exactly the same. Occasionally the audience is reminded that Christian’s behavior is the by-product of his rape as a child (which is problematic for a whole different set of reasons), but this fact is usually minimized or made fun of. Because, as the film would have us believe, “LOL, male rape doesn’t exist! Especially when it’s by a hot older lady!” But none of this is as hilariously awful as the film’s final moral: White Privilege is a good thing. I’m not kidding. At the end of the film, Ana gives a monologue about how it’s a good thing that Christian is a straight white rich billionaire, because otherwise he would be a rapey monster like the bottom dwellers (who are, incidentally, straight white thousand-aires). Even if Christian wasn’t a horrible human being to begin with, that message is so strangely haphazard and tone-deaf in execution, it makes us wonder what James Foley was thinking (I know what E.L. James and husband/screenwriter Niall Leonard were thinking: “We’re rich assh*les who don’t give a sh*t anymore). God, I hated this movie.
It’s really a shame that Dakota Johnson got dragged into this mess. She’s actually a talented actress, as she’s proven elsewhere, and I guess it’s a good thing that she spends this entire film intentionally not trying, constantly looking off to the side to see if her check is waiting for her. Jamie Dornan is in a similar boat, except he doesn’t have any natural talents to fall back on, unless you count “impeccably sexy six pack and V” as a talent. It also doesn’t help that you can actually feel how much these two hated each other during filming. Literally everyone else – from Eric Johnson to Eloise Mumford to Max Martini – is unwatchable. The entire cast is dull, boring, and uninterested. They really aren’t worth any more thought.
Look, I guess I could say that this film looks pretty. And it certainly isn’t as bad as the first two. But honestly, what is that worth? What does this film add to the artistic community? What is its legacy? A film is meant to educate, entertain, emote, and excite. This film has no educational value, it isn’t entertaining, it doesn’t make you feel anything, and while its purpose is to get some excitement out of your nether regions, it fails there too. This film has no use for society. It is a cold, uninteresting film that fails to meet even the low bar its premise sets up. Everything you want out of this film, you can get elsewhere, and better. Let this series go out the way it should have come in: dead on arrival.