I’m going to start with something that will shock you as much as it shocks me:
Fifty Shades Freed isn’t terrible.
The least incompetent of the adaptations of E.L. James’s mommy porn wish fulfillment novels ties up the kink-heavy romance of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and her billionaire lover/dominant Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tighter than a zip knot in his infamous Red Room. While still wildly improbable and unintentionally funny more often than not, this third chapter finally gives Ana a voice in this relationship other than to call out her safe word.
There still isn’t much of a plot to speak of, but the over-arching question is whether or not Ana and Christian can keep things spicy in the bedroom now that they are husband and wife. Will domestic bliss dull the edge off of their passion? Those concerns do pop up occasionally in-between 100+ minutes of them jet setting around the world, apparently so Christian can be a scary control freak on as many continents as possible.
In Nice on a nude beach Ana dares to remove her top. Christian freaks out.
Ana dares to stay a little too long at work? Christian freaks out.
Ana puts the needs of one of her book clients (Tyler Hoechlin, random) ahead of Christian? Guess what? Freak out.
And of course, her “punishment” is a trip to the Red Room where Christian can reassert his dominance. But things are a little bit different now. Ana uses her new position as his wife to subtly take control, teasing him more and having more fun while doing so. The result is more equality in the bedroom not the one-sided domination of the previous movies. I hesitate to call any of this stuff sexy, particularly a scene involving a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but at least it looks pleasurable and not like a trip to the torture chamber.
The biggest laughs still come at Ana’s random cluelessness. After the exchanging of wedding vows Christian whisks her away on his private plane, but not before she stops to incredulously ask, “You own this?”
After an entire movie in which they came under attack from her deranged former boss (Eric Johnson, back for seconds) and his crazy ex-lover, Ana has the nerve to question the need for personal security.
Hello Anastasia, welcome to the third Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Where the Hell have you been?
There are intentional laughs for once, too. When an attacker is caught by that previously-thought unnecessary security, they have nothing to tie the guy up with.
“Um, we have some”, chirps Ana embarrassingly.
Yeah, we bet you do.
Unintentionally hilarious is Christian suddenly proving what a sensitive soul he can be at the piano. Not buying it. Still kinda creepy and possessive.
Fifty Shades Freed does set out to prove that marital sex can be hot as long as money is involved. There’s sex everywhere that’s expensive. In expensive cars, after a car chase (!!!). On expensive kitchen tables. In very expensive-looking showers. They may have joined the Mile High Club aboard his private jet. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan famously did not get along while shooting these movies but they seem to be having a good time. She’s an actress who is much better than this material affords her (The Kristen Stewart/Twilight analogy applies), while he has very impressive facial hair. Most of the time.
Even at its best Fifty Shades Freed is still dopey, but you won’t be embarrassed for giving this one a pass.