I don’t believe that I read either of the book’s sequels, though I can’t attest to that with much confidence

I don’t believe that I read either of the book’s sequels, though I can’t attest to that with much confidence

I don’t believe that I read either of the book’s sequels, though I can’t attest to that with much confidence

For reasons that are now obscure to me-and were by definition ill-conceived-I read Fifty Shades of Grey at that terrible moment in American history when it seemed that everyone else was reading it too. Suffice to say that I made either the wise decision to skip them or the only marginally less-wise decision to repress all memory of them.

But writing about movies is something I’m paid to do, and occasionally that entails a degree of professional self-sacrifice. This week, the name of that sacrifice is Fifty Shades Freed.

The third and final-let’s pause and savor that word for a moment-adaptation of the “erotic romance” es), Fifty Shades Freed is precisely as atrocious as one might imagine. Which is to say, it is far worse than the first movie-which, though awful, in hindsight looks like Citizen Kane, only with more discussion of dildos. I’d place the new film more or less on a par with the second one, Fifty Shades Darker, which makes sense given that both were filmed concurrently, were directed by James Foley (whose principal recommendation is that he directed Glengarry Glen Ross many, many years ago), and were adapted by Niall Leonard (whose principal recommendation is that he is married to Erika Mitchell).

SNL Serves Up a Disgusting Highlight

The besser als good news-and, yes, we are grading on a curve so steep that it’s essentially a vertical drop-is that Fifty Shades Freed is marginally less retrograde and offensive than Fifty Shades Darker. The bad news is that it is even more idiotic, which is in its way a remarkable achievement.

In any case, like its predecessor, it is eminently deserving of one in my occasional series of spoilereviews: a linear enunciation of all the stupid elements of the film that I managed to scribble into my notebook during the screening. (Other examples of the microgenre have included Lucy, Fantastic Four, The Happening, and The Gunman.) To be clear: What follows will give away as many plot developments as possible, as it is intended to serve as an alternative to actually seeing the movie. But I feel confident that the universe of people who would like to laugh at this film is considerably larger than the universe of those who are actually willing to sit through it. So here goes.

Fifty Shades Darker: A Spoilereview

1. To catch up anyone who is either unfamiliar with the series or as adept as I may be in the art of repression: In the first film, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a virginal college student, was persuaded by the billionaire entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) to become his S&M sexual “submissive.” She rebelled vaguely at the end of the film, only to be successfully wooed again in the second, which largely set aside the naughty S&M theme that had been the entire rationale for the enterprise in the first place. (Its “climax” was that Christian took Ana to his Red Room of Pain and … applied massage oil.) The only other bits that I think were of any importance are that 1) Ana’s boss at the Seattle publishing house where she worked sexually assaulted her, so Christian pulled strings to have him fired; and 2) Christian proposed marriage, offering a ring large enough to double as a bocce ball, and Ana accepted.

2. So Fifty Shades Freed opens with a wedding. We watch the gorgeous lace of Ana’s wedding dress being buttoned; we marvel at the hefty, masculine majesty of Christian’s cuff links. Alas, their vows are heartbreakingly conventional: “I promise to love, trust, and protect you”; “I give you my hand and my heart, for as long as we both shall live.” Boo! Where are the references to domination and submission, to flogging and spanking, to the Red Room? What movie is this?

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