Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
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Do you remember the scene in Pineapple Express when Dale is explaining to Red what he’ll be reincarnated as if he doesn’t decide to be a man about the situation? Those three things are the Fifty Shades film franchise in a nutshell; Fifty Shades of Grey is the cockroach, Fifty Shades Darker is the worm, and Fifty Shades Freed is Seth Rogen’s anal bead wedged deep inside someone's unsuspecting anal cavity.
Since the last film, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) have gotten married. Ana has to adjust to living a luxurious lifestyle while also being married. Meanwhile Hyde (Eric Johnson) is still trying to get his revenge by doing whatever he can to destroy Christian Grey’s reputation. Throw in some marital squabbles resolved by whips and butt plugs and a ten minute honeymoon montage and Fifty Shades Freed basically just became a cinematically transmitted disease this Valentine's Day.
There isn’t much material here that hasn’t already been covered. The whole Hyde side story feels like it’s thrown in at the last minute to serve as an excuse to show Anastasia and Christian doing watered down BDSM stuff. It feels like this weak attempt is being made to have Jack Hyde be like Hush/Thomas Elliot in the Batman universe; a childhood acquaintance who has become his greatest enemy. But Hyde is just backup fluff to what is otherwise the two blandest sex pillows in the entire city. Oh no, we have a car trailing us while driving an unreasonably fast car. Better lose him by driving a responsible speed around a short stretch of winding road and one sharp turn. It’s as if the entire stalker storyline is thrown in to give Christian’s security something to do, which is the last thing people willingly going to see this type of film will care about.
With all of the nudity and sex these films show, it seems weird that we see nearly all of Dakota Johnson but only the tip of Jamie Dornan’s pubic mountain that rests on top of his downstairs grey area. The struggles and tribulations the two main characters go through separately and as a couple are ridiculous. Ana’s life is so hard now that she has to get used to having personal security and somehow gets a job promotion without even being at the office. When Christian isn’t blatantly shoving his fortune in Ana’s face, he’s being incredibly possessive, jealous, and annoying. Arguments over changing the name of a work email and not traveling to New York because of work become tiresome before they even occur.
All of Fifty Shades Freed revolves around not following simple directions. Defiance plays a role in the BDSM lifestyle since it often results in a dominating kind of punishment that benefits both sides, but it seems massively dull here. The 2002 film Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader is one of the few BDSM films to utilize the lifestyle in a positive way rather than as abuse or comic relief. Fifty Shades Freed still has Christian abusing Ana in a bad way like an immature child when he doesn’t get his way after all they’ve been through. Secretary is noteworthy because it is the more satisfying alternative. The characters are flawed and intriguing in Secretary and the performances are quite satisfying. In Fifty Shades Freed, Ana and Christian are boring turds who are just Plain Jane and Average Joe with kinky sex and money as unsuccessful disguises. You have no idea what Christian sees in Ana other than the fact that she accepts his stupid sex dungeon and has figured out the safe word.
There is this overwhelming sense of relief when Fifty Shades Freed is over. This is supposed to be the end of the franchise, but you know that Universal Pictures is probably going to milk it even further if the film proves to be financially successful. Fifty Shades should be put into a permanent coma as easily as Ana after two open handed slaps to the face and a swift kick to the gut. These films attempt to be what brings that extra spark to the bedroom, but in reality they’re all show with no substance. You have naked people grinding on each other and using sex toys on one another, but they have no other memorable qualities other than being more immature than the tiny blip that is a seven week old fetus. Handcuff yourself at home and stay put this weekend. Fifty Shades Freed taunts your genitalia by repeatedly violating your brain without lube and goes in dry with a stale tediousness that leaves you feeling lethargic at best.
© 2018 Chris Sawin