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Movie Review: Fifty Shades Freed

fifty shades poster

Dear target audience for this movie:  you know that there’s porn on the internet, right? It’s free. And most of it has greater artistic and societal value than this boring abomination of a “film” which comes out at a moment where it feels particularly tonedeaf.

Normally I won’t rip in to a movie just because it’s not my cup of tea. When I made my Worst of 2017 list, I specifically pointed out I wasn’t including “easy dunks” like Fifty Shades Darker — which now, by comparison to this, looks like a goddamn masterpiece.

But this movie isn’t even sexy. It’s not even really that kinky. (And no, I’m not going to kink shame anyone here, either. You do you. And if you really want something fun [and comic-related!] and a little kinky, check out Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, which just came out on Blu-ray/digital — based on the true story of the man who created Wonder Woman and the women and kinky lifestyle that inspired her) And beyond being tonedeaf to the cultural moment we are in and the empowering of women in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the worst thing any movie can be is boring.

This is utterly boring.

It’s also garbage.

The film begins with the wedding of our two main characters, Anastasia Steele and the eponymous Christian Grey. And far from normalizing their kink by including it in the confines of their marriage, it makes it all the worse and all the more creepy because of all the societal baggage of chattel marriage of women being treated as property of their husbands.

Christian demands Anna not take her top off on a nude beach in France. He later “punishes” her for her “defiance” when she does. (More on this in a moment.) He gets angry when he tries to email her at her first morning back at work and her email address hasn’t been changed to “Anastasia Grey.” He’s also angry that she’s taking meetings with other men. She goes out for drinks with her friend instead of going straight home from work when he’s out of town. He polices what she is and isn’t allowed to wear because he doesn’t want other people looking at her. She’s not allowed to drive his sports car. He doesn’t want her to work, and constantly pulls her away from her career, playing up the fact that he owns the publishing house where she works, pulling rank as her “boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.” These are all classic warning signs and markers of abuse. Not kink. Abuse. Oh, but he makes it up to her when he buys her a mansion. Nice.

The film also has the distinct honor of ruining three of my favorite songs ever. David Bowie’s “Young Americans” plays in the background as Anastasia cooks Christian dinner, and he remarks how much he likes seeing her in the kitchen, to which Anna replies “barefoot and pregnant?” BARF. Do you remember your President Nixon? BARF AGAIN. (It also bothered me that Anna pulled a supposedly perfect medium rare steak out of the oven, put it on a plate, and Christian immediately cut into it and ate a slice– you need to let it rest for at least two to three minutes to let the juices redistribute or else they’re going to run out all over the plate instead of keeping the meat moist! You monster!! Oh, back to the music. . . )

Later, Christian sits at a piano and sings Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,”  a song which could not be more tonedeaf. But, you guyz, he’s such a poor tortured soul, and he’s a lonely man in the middle of something that he doesn’t really understand. (F@#$ YOU, MOVIE for having all the subtlety of a jackhammer). Also, ahhem– we’ve never known Christian was a musician before, and suddenly he’s singing and playing piano? HE’S A TOTAL MARY SUE, YOU GUYZ!!! (I’ve said this before about other terrible movies from the last two months, but anyone who hated Star Wars deserves to go sit and watch this movie and be reminded of what a truly bad movie is.)

And then, the final ignominy, in a scene that is supposed to be sexy, set in Christian’s “Red Room” full of kink, he binds her up and tortures her as Bishop Briggs massacres INXS’s classic “Never Tear Us Apart.”

Torture and massacre are not words I use lightly. First, this version of the song literally takes the best, most dynamic parts of the song in the chorus and tones them down, as though Briggs maybe can’t match Michael Hutchence’s vocal dynamics? It sounds like a dirge. And this is the ultimate metaphor for the film– taking something awesome (say, sex) and making it absolutely awful and boring.

The important thing to remember is that at least we survived, and some classic songs, like, say, Depeche Mode’s ode to bondage and domination “Master and Servant” were never touched.

As for the torture. . .  this is not kink-shaming. [Minor spoiler alert, but srsly IDGAF I’m gonna spoil this movie here] In both this scene and another, Christian takes Anna’s “defiance” of his orders/wishes and then uses them as fuel to dish out and withold pleasure and pain. Specifically here, he uses a sex toy to take her up to the edge of orgasm and then pulls away, denying a climax as a punishment for not doing what he said.

She even invokes her safe word and scolds him that he wasn’t doing this out of love, but to hurt her. Ummmmmm. . .  yeah.

We’ve been telling you, Anna, for two and a half movies that Christian doesn’t respect you, your boundaries, your agency. And you think that now, just because you’re married, he’s going to get better?

Let’s get Rob Porter’s ex wives on the phone, and they can tell you how that turned out.

If anything, it’s worse being married, because now Christian believes he is entitled to Anna’s body and to police her full time. After all, he bought her! Errr. . . married her! It’s that sort of entitlement that is even worse in many ways. As Anna’s boss or boyfriend, she still could walk away. As Mrs. Grey, walking away mean losing everything, including her career. He’s still not getting consent for all of their activities, meaning what he’s doing is sexual assault. Not kink, but abuse.

But this movie plows right past spousal rape and abuse as though it doesn’t matter and makes it better because Christian can sweep her away to a romantic getaway to Aspen.

And herein is the second biggest tonedeaf part of this “film”– the conspicuous consumption and ridiculous lengths they go to in this movie to parade wealth and privilege around. It’s just sickening. It’s not cool how awesome and fast your sports car is. (And it’s SUPER gross you won’t let your wife drive it.)

The fact that this film is being released now (before Valentine’s Day? Gross) is the biggest testament to how tonedeaf it is. The cultural criticisms of the Fifty Shades books and movies has been out there for many years now. The fact that the producers of the film will choose to release it now shows they’re just as complicit in fostering a culture that degrades womens’ agency and value, not just in Hollywood but across the country, as those who empower monsters like Harvey Weinstein. They just don’t get it. And so you know what else they shouldn’t get? Your money. Or your time.

There are those who will say, “Oh, but I have MoviePass– I have to see just how bad this movie is, just like I had to see Geostorm or Winchester or Den of Thieves.” Yeah, this movie is not only not worth your money, it’s not worth your time. Even if you could see it for free, don’t.

Seriously consider any of the following as good alternatives:
[the aformentioned] Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – for the sexy times, the kinky times, and the comics tie-in.
The Shape of Water – This is a beautiful love story and an even more beautiful film. Go see it in theaters and see why it’s nominated for so many Academy Awards. I also like when she explains how the creature’s penis works.
Magic Mike / Magic Mike XXL – Again, for the sexy. You and your gal friends want to see something tawdry and fun? At least watch something shot well by the amazing Stephen Soderbergh, or even the just slightly above mediocre sequel.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi – It’s about to leave theaters, it’s such a great film, even if it isn’t really very sexy. But because “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what love.” Go see Star Wars again.
Or just go watch 2 hours of stuff on YouPorn or something.

But this is not worth your time or attention.

0 out of 5 stars

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