Release Date: February 9, 2018
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora
Director: James Foley
Studio: Perfect World Pictures, Michael De Luca Productions
Distributor: Universal Pictures
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Spoilers: Low

Serious question: do you think that the directors of these movies feel like they’re compromising their artistic vision?

I’d like to believe that they’re too busy rolling around in piles of money, using fistfuls of Benjamins to wipe their faces when they cry from laughing at reading critical reviews.

The formula for 50 Shades movies is no plot, so much eye-candy, and all empty calories. It’s purely gratuitous, rich wish fulfillment, wrapped in a cascade of vanilla sex scenes.

This movie knows exactly what it is and it doesn’t try (to be anything else).

Freed follows the beginnings of Ana and Christian’s married life, all yacht rides and fancy cars, marital spats, and renovation plans overcast by the shadow of an insane stalker from the previous movie.

Let’s be perfectly clear: there’s nothing resembling a plot in this movie. It’s a random collection of pretty destination scenes put to music. Oh, and some sex scenes.

The sex scenes in this movie were particularly underwhelming. The first and second movies, we held out hope that the two leads might rub together in a way that generates some sort of measly spark.

The third time around, audiences know better than to expect anything resembling chemistry between the two leads. This is only worsened by Dornan’s overacted, wacky facial expressions and sex appeal of a wet paper towel. Everything was bland (especially the sex scenes), except the soundtrack.

Also, this movie magnifies the abusive relationship between the two leads more than in the last two. Christian gets drunk, ices Ana out, withholds affection, controls her movements, and gets jealous of her other relationships. One particularly gross scene has Grey yelling at Ana for getting pregnant, saying she’ll ‘choose’ the baby over him.

Bleaaarghh. I need a shower, and definitely not the sexy kind.

In spite of all its problems, I am a little sad that this series is ending. I’ve been to the pre-screen of every one of these movies since the original Fifty Shades and it’s a little bittersweet that I won’t have stellar pre-Valentine’s Day plans next year.

Where else has a romance series (albeit a problematic one) been so widely accepted and distributed to a mass audience? I’m all for healthy depictions of sexual and romantic relationships; I think it does a great deal to educate people about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable behavior with romantic partners.

Given that those types of healthy romantic and sexual relationships aren’t widely publicized on the big screen, I’ll take any crumbs of destigmatizing the romance genre that I can get. And if there’s anything that these books and movies have done, it’s help destigmatize the romance genre for a mass audience (remember when mothers and grandmothers were reading these books on public transit?).

Maybe in the future, because of 50 Shades, I will actually get to see the healthy, sex-positive, feminist romance movie of my dreams on that silver screen.

So even though this movie was bland, I say thank you, E.L James, AKA Snowqueens Icedragon, for all the love, laughter, and fantastic music these past three years.

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