And so, three films later, Fifty Shades has finally come to its juddering climax, in a tale of marriage, kidnapping, car chases, blackmail and beautifully-shot kinky sex.
I wasn’t a fan of the E. L. James books because the only thing that made me shudder and bite my lip was the toe-curlingly poor writing. The movie version of the tale appealed to me far more, which may or may not have had anything to do with Jamie Dornan’s peachy bum and rippling abs.
And so we’re onto Fifty Shades Freed, the final chapter of the somewhat implausible love story between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. It opens on their beautiful wedding, and almost immediately the holes in the plot shine through. Our hero carries his bride over the threshold of the private jet she somehow didn’t know he owned to go on honeymoon to Paris and the French Riviera. Then he rails against her going topless on the beach, and she learns that he doesn’t really want children.
This is where my eye-rolling began, because how realistic is it that Ana wouldn’t have had that particular conversation before now with the control freak she was planning on spending the rest of her life with? The one who produced a contract of dominance and submission when they first got together that forbade her from touching him or making eye contact with him. It was so detailed, there was even a line about anal fisting in it. But they never chatted about having kids apparently.
When they met in the first film, Ana was a 21-year-old sexually inexperienced student and Christian was a wealthy 27-year-old Seattle entrepreneur. Temperatures in movie theatres worldwide soared as the sexual tension between them crackled and teased during the steamy sex scenes. The kink factor skyrocketed when Christian spanked Ana and introduced her to his Red Room of Pain, complete with its dazzling array of whips, handcuffs, nipple clamps and butt plugs. And a whole lot of other equipment that looked equal-part terrifying and baffling to the rest of us.
Ana started off being appalled and repulsed by the dom/sub arrangement she was being introduced to, but grew intrigued and was basically seduced into it. I imagine her acquiescence had nothing at all to do with Grey being a gorgeous billionaire with a lifestyle so extravagant and lavish, it makes the Kardashians look like welfare beneficiaries. The sheer escapism provided by the latest film is ratcheted up several notches, and there is something undeniably sexy about Ana, played by the fabulous Dakota Johnson, roaring off in Christian’s Audi R8 and managing to shake off the baddie pursuing them (Hyde, her former boss, who terrorised her in the previous film and reprises his menacing ways this time around).
I actually think the car scenes were far sexier than the bedroom ones in this outing. The thing about marriage is that it has a, perhaps unfair, reputation for killing sexual tension, and the sex scenes in Freed were beautifully done but lacked the frisson that permeated the first two films. There was no spanking, a few artful shots of whips, and a scene with ice-cream on bare skin that was literally so vanilla, it could have come straight from the 1972 sex manual, The Joy of Sex.
So while Christian opened up Ana’s sexually-adventurous side along the way, she opened up his closed heart and healed the damage caused by his difficult childhood. The legendary tension between the protagonists had dissipated in this film to a mild niggling over Ana keeping her surname for work purposes, and her getting annoyed because Christian confided in his Mrs Robinson-type former lover. When she sulked by sleeping cosily on the sofa in the formerly terrifying Red Room of Pain, we knew it was truly game over. She’ll be putting pot plants in it next and a nice throw for the sofa.
The other characters in the film contribute almost nothing, the plot has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese, and the relationship between the lovers has lost its sparkle, dramatic tension and kinky edge. I still loved every minute of it though. It’s escapism at its very finest, it looks visually stunning and you will be transported to a world of fantasy and imagination that is well worth the price of the ticket. The fact that Jamie Dornan looks like a ripped Adonis is just an added bonus!