Despite having never read any of the books nor seen either of the first two movies, I decided to watch the third film in the Fifty Shades trilogy, “Fifty Shades Freed,” on Valentine’s Day, in theaters. What had gotten into me, you may ask? I can’t say I have an answer for you. Perhaps it was my penchant for jubilant antics, or perhaps a more serious drive to understand this cultural phenomenon. More likely, I thought it would be funny.
The film stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as newlywed couple Anastasia Steele Grey and Christian Grey. Now that the turbulence of the past is behind them, the couple is faced with the only two marital issues that exist: unplanned pregnancy and kidnapping. Funnily enough, “Fifty Shades Freed” is less of a romance and more of an action film than I expected, which I don’t think improved it at all.
Before going to the film, I decided, for the sake of contrariety, to write a good review. I would not focus on what made the film awful, and instead highlight the more positive facets, because this would be more challenging to write and perhaps more interesting to read. After having actually seen the film, however, I realized that this was an unwise task to set for myself and have since been struggling to think of some, or any, good things to say. But with the help of the friends I dragged along with me, and some very deep thinking, I’ve come up with a list. Here it is.
(Also, just in case you’re interested in heeding such a warning for such a film, spoiler alert.)
1) Christian Grey was, on occasion, a decent-ish husband.
Yes, the power dynamic is heavily skewed in his favor—pretending otherwise would be missing the entire plot of the movie, and any slice of agency Anastasia had throughout the film was bestowed to her by Christian. But there were occasional moments of what looked like actual tenderness, like when he apologized toward the end of the film for being a self-involved prick and when he invites all of her friends to Aspen for a getaway. Still, though, he’s really the absolute worst.
2) I did not feel vastly uncomfortable during the sex scenes (though I did still feel uncomfortable).
The sex scenes were, I imagine, slightly dulled down from previous films, as the Greys enter their domestic sphere together and the plot shies away from the intrigue and excitement of the early scenes in the “red room.” Instead, the scenes felt even a little tired. I did enjoy the beginning of one of the sex scenes, in which Anastasia is eating ice cream on a kitchen counter and offers some to Christian, only to pull the spoon away just before he reaches it and eat it herself. What follows is less engaging. Otherwise, there wasn’t anything too totally alarming, which I have to say I appreciated.
3) There was a moment of self-aware humor that I really enjoyed a lot.
So here’s the scene: Ana’s just been almost-kidnapped by Jack Hyde, she’s catching her breath, and her bodyguards have him pinned down on the floor. One says: “We should restrain him!” The other replies: “I don’t have anything.” And Ana chimes in with a perfectly-timed: “We do.”
Maybe I give this scene too much credit, but I think this is just about the most hilarious part of the film. It bridges the two ridiculous plot-lines: Hyde on the hunt for revenge against Anastasia, and the use of restraints and other various sexually-charged objects in the sexual routine of Ana and Christian—the premise upon which the books and movies are built. The scene seems to say: We know this is ridiculous, but just go with it. And as a viewer, I’m down for that kind of honesty.
4) Ana is a good driver.
She’s actually a great driver. Nearing midway in the movie, Ana and Christian find themselves being tailed by an SUV, and Ana manages to lose the car by driving with the deft precision of a stunt driver (which is, I imagine, exactly the person who’s actually driving in these scenes, unless Dakota Johnson raced in a previous life). Plus, she can parallel park! Which is honestly even more impressive than the speedy driving.
5) Ana’s bangs are representative of what having bangs is truly like.
What’s not to love about a great set of bangs? I truly enjoyed watching Ana’s bangs over the course of the movie: sometimes they were a little side swept, sometimes they were blowing up over her forehead, and sometimes they lay a little bouncily on her forehead. I have bangs myself, and they can be very unruly. Like mine, Ana’s weren’t always perfect.
6) The octopus painting in Ana’s office is cute and reminds me of an octopus I have on a poster in my dorm.
They might actually be the same octopus, except hers is blue and mine is a nice shade of light maroon. I liked her octopus because it made me think of my octopus.
7) There were a couple of bits of dialogue that actually felt authentic.
In the beginning of the film, after Ana sunbathes sans bikini top and is chastised by Christian for showing too much skin, she stretches lazily and asks him why he’s so upset. Gesturing to all the visible breasts around her (she’s at a nude beach), she says “it’s boobs in boob-land.” I just think that’s really funny and kind of sweet, that’s all.
The other fun bit of dialogue is when Ana is with her friends in a boutique, trying on a dress that’s really low in the back. I found this a bit relatable, in that I know what it’s like to try on an outfit you love but feels a little scanty. Later, when Ana puts it on in front of a mirror, she picks up some of the fabric bunched around her stomach and says “It’s like a napkin.” Which is hilarious! I guess what I’m realizing is I love whenever Ana is slightly weird, and that’s about it.
And there you have it: The seven things about “Fifty Shades Freed” that aren’t outright terrible. Hopefully, now you can avoid seeing the movie entirely, as you’ll have already learned the only redeemable aspects of the film. But if you do end up seeing it, be sure to bring along some friends to laugh with, and a healthy dose of willingness to allow yourself to enjoy the moments that don’t make you uncontrollably cringe and want to sink into your seat and disappear. Because, unlike the Greys’ horrible marriage, those are the moments that will last a lifetime.
Emmy Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.