“Fifty Shades Freed” is cinematic masochism, a pleasure from poorly-written pain, euphoric joy from splintered acting, a collective, conscious experiment in the creation of something objectively bad, and whether the enjoyment of that bad thing can make it naturally good. “Fifty Shades Freed” states it is a cult movie before it even has any followers. Sure, it’s arrogant to assume the followers will come, but you have to admit it’s impressive when twice as many as you thought show up at the Mr. and Mrs. Grey’s red room doors.
Based on the final book of E.L. James’ atrocious but massively popular book series, “Fifty Shades Freed” watches as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele get married, have sex, go on a honeymoon, have sex, argue about wanting kids even though that’s totally a “before we get married” conversation, have sex, go to Aspen to watch Christian’s brother propose on stained carpet of a shitty nightclub, have sex, gossip whether said brother is cheating on his now fiance with a big boobed architect, have sex, and never actually face a rainy day in Seattle despite their being there 90% of the year.
It’s dumb, especially when you consider that these already hollow characters are being played by lifeless actors. Dakota Johnson is okay as Anastasia, speaking in one generic tone and shifting between three emotions: enjoyment, slight anger and medium fear. At least Johnson can feel something, as Jamie Dornan brings no personality or charisma to Grey whatsoever. Yeah, they’re both beautiful people, but one gets the feeling that talking to a muscular statue would be more enlightening than hanging out with Dornan’s Grey.
But even with its character and storytelling faults, there’s something just cathartic about watching this movie. Part of the reason is the nudity and sex scenes, because we feel like we’re doing something wrong and will get into trouble just by watching, even though they’re technically more mild than full frontal stuff in other films. But it’s also the collective acknowledgment that this will be bad art before we even experience it, and the essential admission from creators that it is bad as well.
One can laugh at “The Room” but will still probably feel a bit of guilt since Tommy Wiseau tried to make a good movie. And one can make midnight “Rocky Horror Picture Show” screenings part of their monthly lineup, after they’ve gone to one. It’s the combination of the future cult, the acknowledgment of bad art, and the faux naughtiness of its nudity, that “Fifty Shades Freed” elevates itself into a new realm of great, terrible films.