Fifty Shades Freed: About as sexy as a 1990s ice-cream ad

Review: Cinema’s dullest couple adjust to married life in this tedious instalment

Fifty Shades Freed
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Director: James Foley
Cert: 18
Genre: Romance
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Marcia Gay Harden, Arielle Kebbel, Max Martini, Brant Daugherty, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins

The safe-word is bored.

When last we saw cinema’s dullest couple, the lip-biting social climber Anastasia Steele (Johnson) and her billionaire abuser (Dornan) were locked into a dangerously unhealthy relationship, defined by sexual possession, emotional neediness, one-percenter materialism, uninteresting secrets, even less interesting lies, and sex toys.

What could possibly go wrong?

The third and final chapter of the worst franchise to gross more than a billion dollars starts as it means to go on: with Christian getting in a strop about something-or-other. He’s annoyed when his new bride attempts to sunbathe topless while on honeymoon. He’s miffed when she doesn’t change her email address to include her married name on – wait for it – her first morning back at work. He goes doolally altogether when she goes out drinking with a gal pal, and stroppily denies her conjugal pleasures. Suddenly, this Tale of Two Johnsons, is one Johnson down.


Between bust-ups, Christian and Ana fly in their airplane, drive a fancy Audi, and are improbably menaced by Ana's former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). "I have no idea why he's going to these lengths," offers a baffled Christian. The answer, when it is lazily revealed, will make you shrug and feel kind of dead inside.

The featherweight sadomasochism scenes – the primary selling point of EL James’s awful books and these equally dreadful movies – depict a sex life so defined by rules, one half expects Dornan to cry out “Brace yourself, Bridget!” In his native Belfast accent.

The presentation runs thus: close-up of BDSM accessory, close-up of hand clutching something, close-up of open mouth, etc, etc. Just when you think this couldn't look more like one of those "sexy" 90s ice-cream commercials, they genuinely, we-kid-you-not, honest-to-goodness, head into a kitchen and start smearing ice-cream on one another. It gets worse. Later, Christian sits tinkling at a piano and crooning his way through Paul McCartney's Maybe I'm Amazed. Come back, Wings, come back! Not pictured: Milk Tray box.

Marlon Wayons's spoof Fifty Shades of Black – the only Fifty Shades movie worth seeing – mined silly laughs from imagining what an actual human woman would say to a sad control freak like Christian Grey ("You need to find Jesus! That's what you can do!").

Sadly, any possibility for humour or kitsch has exited with the drink-throwing Kim Basinger (who has made good her escape from this unlovely sequence). Even the likable stars, Jamie Sidegroin and Dakota Frontboob, can do nothing with material that has grown more tedious with each installment.

The pathologically po-faced Fifty Shades Freed might have worked with John Waters directing Divine in both of the main roles. Or as the Dublin-set parody, Fifty Shades Gee-ed. And if you're thinking of going to see this as 'a bit of fun', might we suggest you see a nice psychiatrist instead, and stop ruining cinema for the rest of us.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic