Read This Review of 'Fifty Shades Freed' So You Don't Have to Be Tortured by the Movie
Frequently, a movie comes out that I will almost certainly hate, and because my editors like to punish me, they will ask me to go see it and write about my experiences. Because I like to please them, I say yes. It happens again and again, and while I know I am always free to say no, somehow I cannot bring myself to do it. What I am saying is that I think I might be in an intense sadomasochistic relationship with esquire dot com, which is a perfect thing to contemplate as I prepare for Fifty Shades Freed. I am the Dakota Johnson here, and I have accepted it.
Now, when I get one of these assignments, my goal is to get it over with. I get a ticket to a screening at a weird time of day when I know I won’t have anything else going on, I grab something comfortable to wear, and I hit the road. So I must inform you that as I approach the theater and catch my reflection in the front door, it is revealed to me that I am seeing Fifty Shades Freed in an old cardigan and sweatpants. They’re good sweatpants, mind you—Mack Weldon! The choice of finer podcasts everywhere!—but still. I am dressed in the accepted uniform of the American masturbator, at a Sunday 10:30 a.m. screening of a big dumb sex film, alone, and so that I do not disturb anyone with my note-taking, I am sitting in the very back row. To the untrained eye, I look like someone who is deserving of the pity and scorn I am absolutely ladling onto the dozen other people in the theater with me.
Before we get into the film’s plot, which I promise you will not take long, we should address its title. The first movie in this trilogy was called Fifty Shades of Grey, which, although it is the literal definition of the dullest thing the human brain is capable of imagining, is something you might hear a person say. The second one was Fifty Shades Darker, which is also a series of words you might expect to see in a row, and a decent description of the events of the film, which I guess were more serious than the smooching and spanking of the first one. (I didn’t see Darker, but from what I gather, it was smooching, spanking, and danger.)
But this one is Fifty Shades Freed, which is not only not an expression people use, it suggests that one or both of the main characters are in some kind of bondage that they don’t want to be in, which doesn’t appear to be the case. Like the rest of the book and the movie, the title reflects a desire to get something out there, because we’ve got to end this thing somehow. Fifty Shades Sure Fine Fuck It Let’s Go was almost certainly in contention.
Alright. So the movie begins with the wedding of Anastasia Steele to Christian Grey, because the books were written by E.L. Fudge E.L. James, whose only complaint with Days of Our Lives is that the character names lack flair and drama. Their vows are fairly straightforward for a couple who has a dedicated spanking room, but they get the job done. They rush off to their honeymoon, which is literally everywhere on the planet; there are shots of them kissing near the Eiffel Tower, on jet-skis, at the Hall of Presidents, in the waiting area at Guy Fieri’s Great American Grill (RIP). If you have seen an episode of The Bachelor, you have seen this exact thing done better. But trouble starts right away. Ana wants to take her top off at a nude beach, which Christian won’t let her do—because those breasts are his—but she does it anyway and then gets spanked for it, because that’s the relationship between these two young beautiful people who love each other so much they can’t stop talking about it and then having specialty sex.
Also it seems like they met five minutes ago. He braids her hair, and she asks, “Why do you always do that?” They approach his private plane, and she says, “Wait, you own this?” The subject of children is raised, and he clams up, and she’s like, “You do want to have kids someday, right?” It’s possible that they have spent too much time buying things and having BDSM sex to get to know each other, but it’s equally possible that there is no each other to know.
It’s possible that they have spent too much time buying things and having BDSM sex to get to know each other, but it’s equally possible that there is no each other to know.
So then, because she glanced at an enormous house one time and seemed to like it, he has bought it for her, but he also hired an architect to tear it all down and build a new one, because, sure. The architect is of course a gorgeous blonde who flirts openly with Christian while Ana is right there, and you think Oh okay, this is what this movie will be about, but nope—Ana claps back at her and you never see her again. They leave the house, and are chased by some guy from the last movie, but Ana loses him by stunt-driving some sort of new Audi Spyder, and then she and Christian have sex right there in the car. Roomy enough for a front-seat fuck, but responsive enough to handle a poorly edited car chase: That’s the new Audi Spyder.
Oh, and Ana has been promoted at her job, and when she returns from her honeymoon, she has been placed in an enormous new office that someone else has decorated. “Somebody has come into my personal workspace and filled it with furniture, pictures, and knick-knacks that I had no hand in choosing,” her face says. “I love it!” Her new job title, by the way, is “fiction editor,” and here are the two job-related things she does in the entire movie: She meets one of her writers and says, “It’s so good,” and then later tells an underling, “Make the font size two points bigger.” That’s it. I’m not kidding.
So the guy who was chasing them was the old fiction editor, named Jack Hyde (and again I am not kidding); in the last movie he tried to rape Ana so Christian got him fired and now he’s out for revenge. You can’t blame him for being angry; I’d love to pull a salary for saying vague nice things and evaluating font sizes. But Jack Hyde is free and somehow he’s able to get to Ana a bunch of times through the movie, even though she’s being guarded by either three or twenty guys in suits who look like discount day-olds from the Matt Bomer Bakery.
And then Ana and Christian have sex. “And then Ana and Christian have sex” is a sentence you can cut and paste anywhere in this piece and you will always be correct. Sex is always just around the corner, and when it happens, it’s scored to what passes for sexy music these days: moody covers of old songs, set to a beat someone picked up for three bucks at Massive Attack’s yard sale, sung in that style where you wring a million notes out of every single word. When I tell you that a minor-key torch version of James Brown’s “I Feel Good” sung by Jessie J. scores a scene where poor Dakota Johnson is buckled to a rack getting tortured with a vibrator, that’s not a sentence that was generated by a Fifty Shades MadLibs—that’s a real thing that happens. (That I am watching it by myself dressed like an extra from The Deuce while other people are at church: also true.)
“And then Ana and Christian have sex” is a sentence you can cut and paste anywhere in this piece and you will always be correct.
Okay, so then Ana gets pregnant, because even though Christian hovers and micro-manages every aspect of her life and for sure does not want kids, he doesn’t bother to check whether she’s taking her birth control. (Also, it’s not an active choice on her part to stop taking the shots, she just forgets. Jesus, you two.) And then Jack Hyde kidnaps Rita Ora because she’s in this movie, and he holds her for a $5,000,000 ransom, which Ana is able to get out of the bank, and thanks to the best-in-class handling and dependability of the new Audi Spyder, she eludes her own security detail and gets there in time and shoots him and saves the day.
But here’s the thing: This all happens right after the butt plug scene that you knew was coming. They’re in the Weird Sex Room, and he makes her open a drawer that’s full of sterling silver butt plugs, and she says “no,” but he says “yes,” and so in it goes, and they have loud screaming sex to a moody minor-key cover of EU’s “Da Butt” (not really), and she spends the next day at work as a fiction editor daydreaming about it while all her underlings are left to make critical font-size decisions without her supervision. She is, the film suggests, very into it. Then when she’s preparing to bring the cash to Jack Hyde, she grabs a gun to take with her. Jack Hyde and his henchwoman (a co-worker of Ana’s; don’t ask, there’s nothing to tell) take her phone away and make sure she’s not going to pull any funny business. Her clothing is fairly tight, certainly tight enough to reveal the bulge of a hidden weapon. And then, when Jack Hyde is not looking, she reaches into the back of her jeans, pulls out the gun, and blammo.
What I am saying is that it is not implausible that Anastasia Steele-Grey saves the day in Fifty Shades Freed by pulling a gun out of her butt. I don’t want to be thinking this, but the movie gives me no choice. This is where we are in February 2018.
Anyway, Christian somehow decides he wants the baby after all, so they’re going to have it, and they go home and have weird sex ever after THE END. In a post-credits scene, Christian and Ana frolic with their toddler son outside the big house you forgot about, and Ana’s pregnant again, so you know they’re still hittin’ it, but you also know it’s a little less kinky these days, because Christian wears a pastel polo shirt tucked into khakis.
And that’s it! Dakota Johnson does what she can with a zero of a character. Jamie Dornan continues to be the Kevin Dillon to Ryan Phillipe’s Matt, generating all the raw sexual power of a very thirsty Instagay feed. Neither does anything to make you doubt the rumors that they cannot stand each other in real life. The movie is just a few plot ideas thrown here and there, punctuated by sex between two people who might as well be computer-generated. Honestly, the structure of this movie feels most like a slasher film, in which the killer is sex, and what the killer murders is your desire to have it ever again.
Frankly, my costume deserved a hotter movie.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.