Monday 3 September 2018

Fifty Shades: Freed ★★☆☆☆

I didn’t hate Fifty Shades of Grey. Given the source material, combined with author E. L. James being (in)famously confrontational regarding changes, there was what appeared to be an effort (a valiant one, even) to improve upon the groundwork. Do I think it was a success? No, not entirely, but I was legitimately impressed with the final product, given the circumstances.

Fifty Shades Darker? I can’t comment; I don’t remember any of it. I would love to pretend that I’m being flippant. A small set-up in Freed from Christian: “[...] they don’t think the helicopter crash was an accident. It looks like sabotage.”

A helicop... - What? Wait…
No comment.

To my surprise, Fifty Shades Freed starts out rather strong, even interesting. One early scene - Christian and Anastasia on their honeymoon - sees the newlyweds arguing; Anna doesn’t want to wear her bikini top while they’re at the beach; Christian does.

“Christian, look around. There’s nothing but boobs as far as the eye can see. It’s boobs in boobland. Nobody cares about mine.” “They will when they’re on the cover of some sleazy tabloid.”

This genuinely worked at getting me invested in their relationship. A relationship conceived from sexual desire, breaking taboos and boundaries, and now, suddenly, something as timid as being topless on a beach is a problem. A problem for Christian, no less.

There are other moments like this - interesting character conflicts - but they are woefully interspersed between several concurrent plotlines: a flirty architect, kidnapping, data theft. Not that any of these has a payoff to them, being persistently undercut by the sex (erotica? Hardly.)

And speaking of the sex... what of it? Handcuffs, a vibrator, and a complete waste of Ben & Jerry’s (ooh, really pushing the boundaries here, aren’t we?) are the most extreme things used. Not that I was yearning for the film to become hardcore pornography - though I’m sure the plot would have seen an improvement - but the sheer tedious routine of the sex scenes became a legitimate problem.

Of what scattered narrative there was, any momentum built up through plot progression would repeatedly grind to a halt to ensure an appropriate length of time was left for Anna and Christian to perform the Underpants Charleston. And when these scenes consistently break the flow, there is an air of significance to them, an expectation for gratification. Gauche, maybe, but this series is predicated on such things.

For one brief moment I was engaged with Christian and Anastasia’s relationship, enjoying a fleeting exploration of the boundaries of their own modesty. Then they had sex a whole bunch before a kidnapping occurred.

Lewis Hill

Fifty Shades: Freed at CeX

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