Fifty Shades Freed Is a Wonderful Mess. Accept That and Enjoy the Ride.
If you go intoFifty Shades Freedwith no expectations, a sense of humor, and wine, you’ll have a good time. But it’s not a good movie. You know that. I know that. Jamie Dornan, who phoned in his performance like a teen being forced to come downstairs and say hi to Aunt Karen, knows that. Why not lean into the ridiculousness, admire Jamie’s golden torso, and laugh? With the likely exception of earnest creator EL James, it seems everyone involved in the project did just that.
I wasn’t sure laughter would be possible watching this movie, given the source material. Book-three, which follows Christian and Ana as newlyweds, is the most miserable reading experience of the trilogy — and that’s saying a lot — because Christian and Ana fight over everything. She sunbathes topless. She wants to use her maiden name at work. She goes out to a bar without telling Christian about her change of plans. Fight, fight, fight. If this is marriage, sign me up for life as a cat lady.
Conflict still plays a significant role in the movie, but barring a couple of major incidents, like Ana and Christian having it out over an unplanned pregnancy, their hurt feelings are tended to more quickly than they are in the book, allowing the viewer to experience joy. You’re more likely to notice sweet glances, tender pecks, and Christian carrying Ana across the threshold, for example, if you didn’t just spend an undo amount of time — I’m talking pages upon pages in the book — listening to two adults bicker over a freed nipple. Ana was on vacation; let her breasts feel the sun.
Unfortunately, no amount of finessing could fix the plot ofFifty Shades Freed. I won’t ruin the ending for people who haven’t read the book (bless your pure heart), but suffice it to say that Jack Hyde — Ana’s former boss at Seattle Independent Publishing — is threatening Mr. and Mrs. Grey, and it’s not because Ana took his job at SIP. There’s a twist. It comes out of nowhere. It makes very little sense. And it demands that Jamie Dornan deliver the line “I’mfrom Detroit” like he's putting together the pieces of a mysterious puzzle. I'd be more convinced if I heard him say “I have zero regrets about doing this movie.”
His bad acting is weirdly charming, though; it's as if Jamie, a wry Irishman with v-lines for days, is in on the joke and giving critics one last hurrah. What wouldtryingreally accomplish now, anyway? How could he make Christian Grey, a billionaire who refers to his dead mom as a “crack whore,” feel real, relatable, or likable? Should he go Method? I say fuck it, don't even get the accent right. He said the same thing.
"Who cares about the acting," you say? "Who cares about the plot?" I hear you, you horndog, and I'm sorry to say the sex scenes were only okay this time around. (If I'm ranking the movies, it goesDarker,Grey, andFreed.) A car sex scene in which Ana gets on top and orgasms faster than she drove Christian's Audi left me cold. A glossed-over butt plug scene, described in great detail in the book, left me disappointed. A blow-job scene in which Ana tongues a thicket of Christian's pubes left me intrigued ("I've never seen that on screen before!") but not aroused. What happened to the franchise that brought us spreader-bars and Ben Wa balls? Did director James Foley, who shot the second and third movies simultaneously, just give up? "We need one more gratuitous shot of Dakota Johnson's nipples and that's a wrap!"
I sound like a hater and I'm not — I enjoy theFifty Shadesmovies for what they are (adaptations of terrible fanfiction) and embrace the final installment for the delights it offers (Jamie Dornan singing "Maybe I'm Amazed" ranks high). I'll even admit that, toward the end ofFreed, during a scene where Ana watches Christian play piano and flashes back to some of their happiest memories together, I felt a pang of sadness. I looked over at my coworker, with whom I've seen every one of these movies in the theater, and let it sink in. This franchise that we've covered for four years is coming to an end. There's only one appropriate conclusion. You know it. I know it. Jamie Dornandefinitelyknows it: Laters, baby.
Fifty ShadesFreedis in theaters February 9.
Video: Ana & Christian - Beautiful Mess
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