A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Fifty Shades Freed,” “Permission” with Rebecca Hall and the meta-movie romance “Entanglement.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the continuing and endless erotic (ish) adventure of the “Fifty Shades Freed” gang, the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the erotic (ish) adventure “Fifty Shades Freed,” the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Depending on your point of view, Fifty Shades of Grey either made you want to gag or want to wear a gag. A softcore look at hardcore BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism), it spanked the competition in its opening weekend in 2015.
A second film, Fifty Shades Darker, came along two years later. With Fifty Shades Freed entering theatres this weekend, the question is will audiences still care about Christian Grey’s proclivities and Anastasia Steele’s misgivings or will it be time to use our collective safe word?
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return as stars of the literary adaptations of E. L. James’ wildly popular erotic novels. If you haven’t seen the first two, here’s what you need to know before handing over your cash for part three.
There are sex scenes, there is nudity and, yes, Virginia, there are whips and chains but don’t expect the smutty stuff from the books. These big-budget films have whipped the material into mainstream theatre shape, shaving the rough edges off the novel’s explicit kinky sex scenes.
The randy pair spend more time talking about their sexual liaisons than actually getting horizontal … or suspended … or anything else. They blabber and negotiate, yammering on about submission, domination and safe words till even the Marquis de Sade would nod off from boredom. The first two are not exactly comedies, but the dialogue is so bad you could call them domination comedies or dom-coms.
Then there is Grey’s version of sweet talk — “If you were mine you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.” — and predatory behaviour that, if not for his billions, would land him in jail for stalking or worse. The psychological introspection on display here makes Dr. Phil seem like Friedrich Nietzsche.
Of the two leads, Dakota Johnson seems ripped from the pages of the book. Her gamine innocence and girlish giggle convey the emotional rawness necessary for the character to work. She is naked, emotionally and physically — unlike her co-star who, for all we know, is as anatomically correct as a Ken doll — with a propensity for drunk dialling and a permanently dewy look about her that betrays the confusion and attraction Ana feels toward Grey.
Dornan has the thankless role. His grim-faced Christian Grey is an unemotional cipher, a bubbling cauldron of unexplored trauma and Dornan plays him straight faced which must have been tough while delivering unintentionally hilarious lines like “Roll your eyes at me again and I will take you across my knee.” His delivery is just as sexy as that time your cranky old grandfather said it to you when you were 10. Dornan’s burning passion is conveyed by his intense gaze, which often looks clinical, as if he’s examining her naked body for irregular moles.
Together the pair share so little chemistry they wouldn’t smoulder if you lit their underwear on fire. To be fair, they are cut adrift in a sea of kinky sex, mommy porn, dime store psychology and bad dialogue, most of which only serves to move the films along from one spanking montage to the next. Stymied by plotting that makes most Harlequins look like Dostoyevsky, the actors frequently shed their clothes, most likely in an attempt to distract from the truly awful things that happen when they are clothed.
The “Fifty Shades” franchise once lived at the very center of popular culture as a publishing phenomenon then as a blockbuster movie. Interest in the shenanigans of slap ‘n tickle enthusiasts Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey waned for the second film instalment. Now we’re at the third and final movie, “Fifty Shades Freed,” and it feels like breaking up with someone you know you’ll never see again. You feel relief that it is over mixed with regret that you wasted all that time in the first place.
Things get underway when Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) tie the knot; on an altar this time, not in the bedroom. Their glamorous French honeymoon is disturbed when Ana wants to go topless on the beach while Christian, that blushing flower, wants her covered up, for his eyes only. “Do you want to be ogled by every guy on the beach?” he whines.
That speed bump aside, things are mostly status quo for the newlyweds. I said mostly. This is a “Fifty Shades” movie, so it’s not all happily ever after. Bedroom bondage soon leads to a pregnancy that leaves Christian upset. (The least I think he’s upset. It’s hard to tell with Dornan.) “You’re going to take her from me aren’t you?” he whispers to her pregnant belly. Looks like he’s not ready to turn the Red Room of Pain into a nursery just yet.
Sparks fly as she tries to assert herself.
Meanwhile Ana’s former-boss-turned-stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) ups his game as Christian discovers a dark secret from his past.
There’s more, but nobody really goes to the “Fifty Shades” movies for the plot so let’s move on.
The sexiest thing about “Fifty Shades Freed” is the way Ana handles the Audi in a high-ish speed chase through the streets of Seattle. Sure clothes are doffed and handcuffed snapped shut but there is so little fusion between these two allegedly steamy lovers it’s as though they have never met in real life and are acting to green screen versions of each other.
The hour-and-forty-five-minute running time is padded out with music montages—including one interlude where Christian plays piano and sings “Maybe I’m Amazed” to less than amazing effect—and time wasters like a flirty architect subplot. It’s part erotic adventure, part revenge story and part “Lifestyles of the Rich and Kinky.” It’s all of those things and yet, somehow, less than the sum of its well toned parts.
The occasional moment of camp fun—“We don’t have any restraints,” says a security guard while manhandling a suspect. “We do,” offers Anna.—are buffered by elegantly shot but empty moments that fill the time between sex scenes.
“Fifty Shades Freed” comes at an interesting time. The story of a rich, powerful man who tries to control every situation with only minor pushback from the woman in his life seems like yesterday’s tale in the post-Harvey Weinstein era. The movies, I think, are meant to be sexy romps, a bit of fun, but at the end of the series have proven themselves to be ten pounds of sex toys in a five pound bag.