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Review: “Fifty Shades Freed” is exactly what it aims to be: a ridiculously fun hot mess

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The “Fifty Shades” film saga was never intended to be “good.” You can’t take source material that’s based off of “Twilight” fanfiction and make it Oscar-worthy. These movies are purposefully designed to guarantee an absolutely ridiculous (yet surprisingly entertaining) girls night out at the theater. They’re impossible to take seriously. Poking fun at them is low-hanging fruit, and I refuse to stoop to that level.

Psych! “Fifty Shades Freed” picks up exactly where “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” — I mean, “Fifty Shades Darker”— left off. Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are getting married. A honeymoon montage of the newlyweds traipsing across Europe plays over the opening credits, apparently just to show off how large the movie’s budget is.  

But of course, the marital bliss doesn’t last long. “Fifty Shades Freed” is more than just softcore eroticism — there’s a strange subplot involving Anastasia’s vengeful former boss. Hacking, car chases, courtroom drama, kidnapping and shoot-outs are sprinkled in between the steamy scenes in Christian’s infamous “playroom.” These action sequences aren’t shot well at all, but it’s still gratifying to watch the once timid Anastasia speeding down the twisty, tree-lined roads of the Pacific Northwest.

Johnson is a real talent as Anastasia, handling the cheesy writing with expertise and injecting a bit of much-needed playful humor into the role. It’ll be exciting to see where her career goes now that she’s finally “freed” from this franchise. Her characterization is the definitive high point of the film, as the former submissive finally begins to understand Christian’s attraction to power.

Many of the intimate scenes find Anastasia in control — she washes his hair, drips and spreads ice cream all over his body and even beckons him to his own playroom. And he takes it. This is a stark change from the Christian of the first film, an overbearing domineer who wouldn’t let her touch him at all. One could argue that “Fifty Shades Freed” is feminist because it focuses on Anastasia’s transformation from the shy, submissive girl she was in the first film to a dominant woman, while simultaneously objectifying Christian. One could also argue that it’s not feminist because of the myriad dangerous inaccuracies about BDSM and the abusive tendencies of Christian, and because it only benefits straight white women.

Either way, women deserve better entertainment. We deserve romance movies that feature healthy relationships, and at the very least deserve women-led movies that aren’t rooted in romance. The activist in me is screaming that we should be boycotting these films to show the industry that we won’t mindlessly consume this garbage anymore. But at the same time, this twisted trilogy is just too damn fun to ignore.

“Fifty Shades Freed” is now playing in theaters everywhere. You can even catch it in IMAX for some reason.

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