Fifty Shades Freed: All spit and no swallow

The (thankfully) final film in E.L. James’ sex trilogy offers a chilling glimpse into the soulless abyss of male entitlement.

Fifty Shades Freed

0 out of 5 stars.

R. 105 minutes

Directed by James Foley.

Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora and Luke Grimes.

Now playing.

click to enlarge If you believe in true love, and the power of real intimacy, you will never encourage any woman you respect to watch this film. - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
If you believe in true love, and the power of real intimacy, you will never encourage any woman you respect to watch this film.

Christian Grey is an asshole.

And Fifty Shades Freed, the wholly mind-numbing conclusion to the most tepid, BDSM-inspired love(less) story ever conceived, celebrates his piggish behavior by consistently reinforcing in viewers that money and power trump decency every time.

It’s like watching a recruitment video produced by the Republican National Committee.

See Grey (Jamie Dornan) chastise his wife repeatedly for simply wanting to be independent.

See Grey almost spit out a mouthful of steak when his new bride, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), jokes about someday being barefoot and pregnant.

See Grey barge into Anastasia’s office while she’s meeting with an important client, only so he can reprimand her for not checking her email or changing her last name to his.

See Grey deny her sex because she disobeyed his strict instructions to come straight home from work, when an armed intruder was waiting there in the dark and likely might have killed her, if she hadn’t stopped for drinks with a friend.

See Grey later tie her up and aggressively torment her with a sex toy as punishment until she bursts into tears.

“That was not love,” Anastasia sobs, “that was revenge.”

“I denied you so you would know how it feels when you break your promises,” Grey sneers, before confiding that he had a dream where she was dead.

See Grey respond when Anastasia tells him she is, in fact, pregnant.

“I had plans for us!” Grey roars. “I wanted to give you the world. Do you think I’m ready to be a father?”

“We’ll figure it out,” she says softly.

“I’m not ready to figure it out!” he shouts, before leaving her sobbing, once again, and goes out to get drunk with a former mistress he confides in instead of his wife.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what constitutes a romantic drama in 2018, and apparently that’s OK, given how the preview audience cheered and clapped when the credits finally rolled.

Fifty Shades Freed makes you long to be lobotomized.

That James Foley, the director of At Close Range and Glengarry Glen Ross, agreed to return for this threequel defies logic. Sir, have you no shame?

This is Hollywood’s answer for mature adults who crave juicy, provocative entertainment, and it’s pitiful.

As a film, Fifty Shades Freed flaunts its hypocrisy proudly. Johnson spends a considerable amount of time topless or fully nude, but Dornan only flashes his bare ass, the camera conveniently pulling away just as it reaches the tuft of pubic hair below his chiseled pelvic muscles, but not before a host of loud, giddy “Oooooooh’s” ripple through the theater.

The fancy bondage trappings are all show, and Grey’s famed Red Room of Pain looks like a set designed by Ikea: A thick, turnip-shaped anal plug nestled in a velvet-lined drawer, a pair of shiny, steel handcuffs hanging from a bedpost, a sturdy riding crop propped by the door.

The lack of chemistry between Johnson and Dornan, which crippled the first film, Fifty Shades of Grey, is on full display in this concluding chapter. But, now married, it’s impossible to fathom how viewers can’t discern that these are not real people they’re watching, but rather hollow facsimiles birthed from the minds of money-grubbing suits eager to count coffers while soundtrack sales skyrocket.

At one point, Grey asks Anastasia if she remembers her safe word. How could she not? Every other scene, they are fumbling at one another for yet another montage of empty dry-humping that lasts a few, thankfully brief seconds. It’s like watching two people try to make fire by holding a lighter under flame-retardant material.

Anastasia’ safe word is red, by the way, a perfectly boring word for a perfectly boring and thoroughly lustless exercise in narrow-minded male erotic fantasy.

Here’s the deal: I know people who actively embrace the BDSM lifestyle. Men and women, dominants and submissives, who thrive on the give-and-take that comes with testing boundaries, eliciting pleasure from the bite of flashing pain and seeing one partner cede total control. Yes, they can be brusque, and belittling, and seemingly uncaring, but it’s all part of the dance. True BDSM doesn’t work without genuine love and respect.

Fifty Shades Freed is not that. It’s offensive, and degrading, but not because of the sex.

Grey is like the Grinch. His little, black, selfish capitalist heart only melts once Anastasia is unconscious in a hospital room, savagely beaten by the same knife-wielding intruder, and after his mother tells him to act like a man.

And, yet, the audience cheers. Loudly.

Christian Grey might be a monster, but we’re the true assholes for championing his and Anastasia’s shitty excuse for a relationship and acting as if this is how real, honest, good people behave.

click to enlarge Don't believe the hype: Fifty Shades Freed is all spit, and no swallow. It's like watching soft-core porn with a relative. It's the theatrical equivalent of being told you have gonorrhea. - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
Don't believe the hype: Fifty Shades Freed is all spit, and no swallow. It's like watching soft-core porn with a relative. It's the theatrical equivalent of being told you have gonorrhea.


About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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