Review: ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is good for laughs, bad for plot

Review: ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is good for laughs, bad for plot
The “Fifty Shades Freed” advance screening was shown at the AMC Loews Boston Common 19. / File photo by Riley Robinson.

By Glenn Billman and Morgan Lloyd, news staff

If Stetson West Eatery’s recent porn viewing wasn’t enough for you, “Fifty Shades Freed” is playing in theatres nationwide.

For a good laugh with pals or for the chance to watch sex in public, we highly recommend it. If you care about anything else, like respectful relationships or movies having a plot, you might want to watch something else.

Perhaps unsurprising for a series that gave the world Beyoncé’s breathy “Drunk in Love” rendition, the best-executed part of the movie was the score. Pop-heavy, well-paced and exceptionally curated, it was the one aspect of this movie that didn’t leave us complaining. But overall, “Fifty Shades Freed” felt creepy, overdone and completely inexplicable.  

The innuendo drew some genuine laughs but occasionally dipped from hilarity to please-God-my-eyeballs. Leading lady Anastasia Steele (played by Dakota Johnson) volunteering her personal handcuffs to apprehend her abductor was amusing, but the ice cream scene was just too much. You’ll know it when you see it, but it’s probably best you just don’t see it.

In a weird turn of events, “Fifty Shades Freed” was closer to a Z-grade action movie than a romantic drama. Stealing plot points and scenes from every thriller released in the last decade, the movie gave us a high-speed car chase through downtown Seattle, a subplot related to arson and an ongoing police investigation popping up when the love-making died down.

Instead of developing the main characters to make their story interesting enough for a feature-length film, director James Foley threw in subplot after subplot that went nowhere and only added the running time. None of them felt flushed out or compelling; they were just… there, like all the close-up butt shots. The result was a confusing mess that reeled drunkenly from one scene to the next.

At its core, the movie should be about the romantic relationship between Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia. However, considering their relationship is abusive and misogynistic, it seemed the writers were forced to do anything to keep the audience from walking out of the theatre after 30 minutes. Anastasia and Christian constantly talk about their love for each other without showing any of it. It’s telling that the writers put in an insane and illogical kidnapping scene to make Christian look good by comparison, putting in the least possible effort.

As confusing as the plot and “romance” was, Christian’s undying dedication to his sex jeans was more perplexing. Also, is low-rise in again? Only for sex jeans? Okay, cool.

But Christian wasn’t just a freak in the sheets, he’s a creep on the streets. His possessiveness and need to have total control over Anastasia — from buying the publishing company she works at, telling her how much skin to show and generally treating her like property — was off-putting and alarming. The movie tried to reconcile when Anastasia reminded Christian several times she wasn’t his property (#modernlove #health) but his behavior was never meaningfully confronted or changed.

The acting was just as lazy as the writing, with everyone speaking in the same monotonous whisper throughout most of the film. The only actor who didn’t seem to realize what kind of movie he was in was Eric Johnson, the film’s antagonist, who completely overdid his performance, going off the rails as the movie went on. Otherwise, the cast delivered a phoned-in performance across the board.

“Fifty Shades Freed” was confusing, upsetting and hilarious in an unintentional, ultimately painful way. It was poorly executed and badly performed. Instead of romance, it gave us an abusive and cruel relationship that no uplifting ending could disguise.

We didn’t “miss the climax” — but the movie did.

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