I’m “biast” (con): hated the books, hated the previous movies
I have read the source material (and I hate it)
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
This is my Fifty Shades of Grey fantasy: Anastasia Steele finally gets a restraining order against Christian Grey, writes a tell-all book about his bullying and intimidation, and becomes a #MeToo/#TimesUp heroine.
The only potentially genuine source of suspense and conflict in this, the — thank god — final chapter of the Fifty Shades of Abuse trilogy is this: “When will Ana leave this disgusting turdbucket of a man?” It was the question I kept asking myself as I endured this accidental horror movie. Even though I knew there was absolutely no chance of this happening, of course, because ROMANCE! Three movies in, and everyone involved is still trying to convince us that the relationship between the billionaire businessman in the business business — we still have no idea what he actually does — and the awkward, naive book editor — we still have no idea whether she is actually qualified to do this job — is just so dreamily dreamy, every woman’s fantasy.
It is not.
For most of the movie, Christian (Jamie Dornan: Anthropoid, Marie Antoinette) barely says anything to Ana (Dakota Johnson: How to Be Single, Black Mass) that is not awful. He berates her, polices her clothing choices, orders her around, threatens her, makes demands, insults their wedding guests. Oh yes, they are now married: the movie opens with their wedding and their honeymoon in Paris and I think it’s supposed to be Monaco; one of those places where obnoxious rich assholes like Christian park their obnoxious penis-extender yachts, anyway. Later, once they’re back home in Seattle, they argue over whether they’re going to have kids, and whether it is reasonable for Ana to retain her “Steele” name at least at work. “That’s how this works, remember?” Ana patiently tries to explain to Christian. “Talk, listen, work through stuff.” Yeah, honey, you shoulda talked about this stuff and worked through it before you married him. I mean, you know what he’s like.
Fuck this movie for making me blame the sure-to-be-a-victim. They can’t make a fourth movie because it will inevitably have to include Christian murdering Ana in exactly the kind of sociopathic fit men like him inevitably end up throwing because she wore a skirt that was “too short” or some other garbage that he perceives as a threat to his ownership of her. Argh.
Maybe Ana stays because she got another promotion at work for no goddamn reason and is actually starting to like the fact that she doesn’t seem to have to lift a finger to “succeed,” thanks to him? When some author she has been championing at her publishing company gets 200,000 preorders on his new book, surely the first thing that crossed her mind was “Did Christian place all those preorders?” It certainly was the first thing that crossed mine. It’s just the sort of thing he would do. (He bought the whole company, after all, in the second movie, just so he could keep tabs on her. What’s buying a few books next to that?)
Christian is such an authoritarian bastard that it’s impossible not see him planning for his eventual defense at trial for Ana’s murder in some of what he does here. When the couple meets with an architect (Arielle Kebbel) who will build them a new house, Christian totally defers to Ana: “It’s up to my wife,” what shape the house will take. “What she says goes.” Later, I presume, the architect will be called to counter the evidence offered by Ana’s best friend and prosecution witness, Kate (Eloise Mumford), who will testify about all the times (including some we see here) when Ana was terrified about defying her husband’s orders, such as to stay home and socialize with no one. “No, your honor,” the architect will say, “I saw nothing in his behavior that suggested he didn’t totally trust his wife.”
On the other hand, Fifty Shades Freed (on bail awaiting trial?) is so ineptly made on a basic moviemaking level that it’s often laugh-out-loud hilarious. The villain here, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s former boss at the publishing company, is out for mustache-twirling revenge. (He is all Hyde. No Jekyll in him at all.) You’d think it would be more than enough to fuel his desire for revenge that Christian had him fired, in the previous movie, for making an admittedly criminal pass at Ana, but no: Christian and Ana are so amazingly brilliant that they possess a whole new kind of precognition that allows them to perceive that there must be something else driving him, something that must be investigated and ferreted out. As if they know they are characters in a story that is almost completely lacking in conflict and mystery, so surely the great god creator of their universe must have something else in reserve. And, indeed, novelist E.L. James did invent another, secret and more insidious motive for Hyde. And, indeed, screenwriter Niall Leonard (Horatio Hornblower: Loyalty) decided it was definitely necessary to bring that to the screen. Never mind that it’s an absurd coincidence.
I’m not sure if that’s more ridiculous than the sequence in which Ana offers — an offer that is apparently accepted — to cut Christian’s hair with stationery scissors from his desk. (A fastidious man like him who likes to throw his money around would surely insist on $500 haircuts from professionals.) Or that the only reason there’s any plot at all mostly demands Christian’s crack security team completely fall down on the job over and over again. Or the edits that happen without an appreciation of time or space or storytelling context. Or the montage that is a recap of scenes from across the trilogy at the end of the film, because we need reminding that this is ROMANTIC and SEXY honestly.
But probably the absolute hilarious worst is when Ana calls Christian “a man of honor.” Oh, honey, he’s really not.