***Spoilers***Was Fifty Shades of Grey kinkier in the books? Is this what straight people consider kinky? Did Ben & Jerry’s consent to this?
(For a TLDR please go to the * below)
Welcome to my fever dream walkthrough of Fifty Shades Freed. If you’re not familiar with the series, no worries, neither am I. I hadn’t even seen a trailer before and now… now I’ve seen too much.
My review started as a joke and yet, there I was in an IMAX theater, sitting next to a mom and daughter (movie night bonding?), wondering what Christian does for work and why Anastasia knows how to drag race.
But whatever, nothing is problematic is this universe so strap on your big girl thong and let’s get reviewing.
I AM LOST AND CONFUSED (and so is Ana all the time)
After the fourth shot of Christian and Anastasia doing rich people things, I was concerned that this film would be all montage. This was actually when the plot was clearest I would soon learn because apparently there is a bomb?
Here’s your spoiler: this guy Jack needs a shower and is stalking Ana almost as much as her husband.
So back to the bomb. There’s a bomb and the characters are naturally freaked out. I think. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have very flat affects for most of this. I don’t know if it’s weak characterization and the leads are just doing their job to accurately portray the writing or if it’s bad acting. I will spend the entire film hoping to understand.
Onwards though: the explosive was planted by Jack because he’s mad that Christian was adopted by the Grey’s. Having zero previous context for most of Freed, I’m proud I got this 45 minutes before Ana and Christian did. Jack is also stalking Anastasia for reasons that aren’t clear having not seen movies one and two but I’m guessing it’s because he’s creepy.
After he attempts to abduct Ana at knifepoint, Christian reprimands his recently traumatized wife for having gone out with a friend because he told her to go straight home and why does she always have to disobey him? Since the attack happened at the house and not the bar (where Ana had a security detail) it seems like Christian’s just a huge dick.
No, never mind. He was concerned. It’s fine. IT’S FINE GUYS. Christian may seem controlling, manipulative and prone to tantrums but in a sexy way.
I think Ana forgives him. I don’t remember. What I do remember is that half of this movie seems to be Christian running around trying to find his wife. Frankly, he should have just microchipped her – that doesn’t seem like something he’d view as crossing a line. Plus it’d have cut the runtime in half.
So as this weird faux action plot develops we get to see the inner workings of Christian and Anastasia’s relationship and boy howdy there is a lot to discuss here. Like: have these two met before? I know I’ve only been able to legally get married nationwide within the last three years but I’m pretty sure you should figure out if you want kids before the ceremony and car chase.
I never thought I’d make this comparison but god, did this movie remind me of watching Batman vs Superman. As soon as one plot gets introduced you’re whiplashed by some side plot that never gets resolved. (IS THE BROTHER CHEATING? Who knows, but bring it up a few times and then render it useless information.)
Anyway, let’s just wrap up the Jack plot line. He’s kidnapped a woman who – I only realized this halfway through – is Christian’s sister and pregnant Ana must save her. Although Christian and Ana had this very dramatic fight over the child, they reconcile because: FEELINGS. Christian decides he will be a good dad and definitely doesn’t seem like the kind of father who will compete with his son from a young age for Ana’s attention, causing irrevocable trauma and insecurity for a young boy. Nope. I’m sure he has really changed in the span of a week.
This seems counterintuitive but I think this movie would have benefited from less plot and more sex.
FIFTY SHADES FREED: IT’S NOT MANIPULATION BECAUSE I LOVE YOU
“I wanted your world to start and end with me.”
I think the last time I heard that line was in an episode of SVU.
There are these scenes throughout the film where we sort of see Anastasia addressing Christian’s possessive and stalkerish behavior but it ends up being swept under the rug because he loves her and was scared and a whole slew of excuses. I don’t want to be that one lesbian feminist but I’m going to be that one lesbian feminist.
Christian is a jackass.
My problem with this film isn’t that it’s romance or it’s “kinky” – no, no. Let people like things. Let straight ladies get hot and bothered in a theater while apparently sitting next to their moms (I’m still confused by this). My problem is that a series that was finally, allegedly about women getting theirs still has shitty, abusive men.
Ana’s faux independence and assertion in her relationship mean nothing when there are no real consequences to her “standing up for herself.” You don’t get to call this a healthy relationship because your female lead calls out the guy and then falls back under his creepy daddy spell. Ana gets to have control when it’s cute, not when it matters and god I know the source material isn’t great, but we cannot call this character “quietly confident,” or “shy but strong.”
Her autonomy is as performative as Taylor Swift’s feminism.
Christian toes the line in Freed most of the time and I’m guessing the other films too as this doesn’t seem to be new character development for him. Most of his controlling actions seem easy to brush off, I suppose, if you’re a straight woman and you’re used to this message of “love equals obsession.”
But then there’s the first scene in the Red Room.
Do you know what’s very important about safely enjoying BDSM? That you aren’t actually angry and punishing your partner in revenge, effectively taking the safety and trust out of a BDSM relationship.
The fuck was that E L James? You did about as much research on BDSM as I did on your series to review this movie.
DO NOT PUT A LOADED GUN IN YOUR PANTS
*IN DEFENSE OF FANS (If you read nothing else read this)
I have these weird mixed feelings.
On one hand, I love that a weirdo kinky fanfic (based on Twilight, ahem) turned into a multimillion-dollar empire. On the other hand, I’m like, really? That’s the one they picked? Obviously, the series isn’t a financial failure, look at the numbers (maybe not Freed’s Rotten Tomatoes’ score), but is this the best example we have of erotica?
There is so much gatekeeping in literature and film and I want to say good things about Fifty Shades being written and created because of that. Romance is a predominantly female written genre aimed at women and it’s demeaned as frivolous trash. Porn is treated, at least, like a necessary evil while attitudes towards erotica are still asking “do we really need this?” – and maybe that’s because porn’s major audience is men.
The Fifty Shades films were the first mainstream chance to combat this argument and say, ‘yes, people will show up for female pleasure’ and instead it furthered the idea that erotica is vacuous. And YES erotica is often corny and ridiculous but it’s also one of the most widely read genres and with that in mind, isn’t it interesting how we only have Fifty Shades to show for it in mainstream pop culture?
At this point, it’s important for me to state that my review isn’t a dig at women who enjoy Fifty Shades. I understand consuming problematic media because you want some representation. I’m not above that. After all, I did watch all six seasons of The L Word (and one season of The Real L Word which we shall never speak of again.)
I’m just confused that when we have a film that should be sexy and fun and all about female pleasure we still have this manipulative male lead. Is this your fantasy ladies? Because that’s sorta a bummer. It’s kind of telling that even in women’s fantasies men are still controlling and nasty.
Make Fifty Shades of Grey. But make it better.
Straight women deserve better.