Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Finally, the Audience Is ‘Fifty Shades Freed’

How to spot a bad movie? Press screenings 24 hours before it's release!

The new Fifty Shades movie is terrible. For once trust the critics. The honeymoon is over. At last! 

Now that's what I call a red room! (Image Tom Foolery/2012 Seattle Erotic Art Festival)

"Fifty Shades Freed” earned $38.8 million and the top spot at the North American box office. The considerably more family-friendly “Peter Rabbit” came second." Yes that is The New York Times. Comes with free [digital] delivery and complementary irony. Well played Gray Lady!

All right, I'll spare you the horrors of discussing Fifty Shades 3.0 on Valentines Day, but we really have to talk about it. After all, how much non-consensual abuse is acceptable, even for kinksters?

As a guy, I don't think, when it comes to Fifty Shades, a man can credibly review the movie, despite that, Mr. Barnes and the photo editors do a superb job. Of course the first image comes courtesy part three of the dark, abusive, misogynistic, money-making tale, but the next one highlights the colour green. Yes, green, as in green as grass, think innocent girl meets sadistic, emotionally twisted, uber-rich abuser and ends up marrying him. Before you get all excited, back up. The second image in "‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Ends Sex Trilogy With Solid Ticket Sales", that's what the review is called, is one of Peter Rabbit and his friends, an animated-live action hybrid.

The real quality stuff, however, is in that other New York Times review, the one by Mrs. Catsoulis. "Previously on “One Bruise at a Time”", I can't think of a more delicious way to dissect what amounts to the deepest fear of all kinksters pure and caring. Not that the reviewer can take much more herself: "If another sequel shows up, though, I’m going to have to use my safe word."

Don't know if Mrs. Catsoulis is into kink, but she is spot-on when she remarks the movie is "what appears to be an ad campaign for the one-percent lifestyle." When it comes to Fifty Shades, it's what most kinksters agree on. After all there are not just 50, but billions of reasons why Christian - call me Mr. Misogyny - Grey, gets away with it.

Not that she stops there, like a kink pro, the author points out where it hurts the most. "he’s a controlling chauvinist, she’s mostly fine with that." In case you wonder what happens when people mistake abusive power dynamics for love, think about this: "the rods and restraints are no longer necessary negotiating tools."

Let's be honest, the reviewer has done a superb job. "But if I can persuade just one of you to bypass its milquetoast masochism and watch the stratospherically superior “9 1/2 Weeks” instead, then I will have done my job." Despite those wonderful words, she clearly doesn't belong to the initiatis. In Fifty Shades 2.0, Mrs. Bassinger is the "evil sex maniac who lured Grey into licentiousness."

If there is such a thing as universal disgust, Fifty Shades shines as its epitome. Jury member Rappler: "The best thing about 'Fifty Shades Freed' is that it finally closes the series." Rather than expressing it's outright loathing of the trilogy, the Washington Post compares the third instalment to an episode of "house hunters." It's the only thing that made me smile about the franchise so far.

Browsing the headlines, I'm wondering which is the bigger phenomena, Fifty Shades or the global press, revelling in the notion we're finally done with it? Enter the Irish Times. Yes, I keep it simple, English only today. "Fifty Shades Freed: Last gasp of a decrepit phenomenon." One thing that has always puzzled me is why Harvey Weinstein was allowed to go into hiding [aka treatment] rather than being charged. "Fifty Shades of Grey, part 3 is out this week – a stinky post-Weinstein anachronism", the painful parallels of money and abuse are all to similar. Thank you Irish Times.

You cannot really claim that reviewers don't understand sex - we're all experts - when Nicholas Barber opens with "It is often said that the brain is the most important erogenous zone. It’s often said, too, that there’s nothing sexier than a sense of humour."
Continuing to discuss the cinematic cold shower, the BBC writes "‘so unarousing it could be used as therapy in a sex addiction clinic,’" Who said no matter how bad the movie, it cannot be entertaining? You won't be surprised when the BBC's expert verdict says "Fifty Shades freed is a total disaster."

It's been quite a while since I had this much fun, so let's continue the bashing. If you are a professional reviewer rather than a masochist, sometimes writing about a movie requires a degree of professional self-sacrifice. Not sure The Atlantic's reviewer is in the right job, though. "Another sequel so awful that it needs to be described in detail to be believed" Trust me, we believe you without the gory details. As for "Citizen Kane, only with more discussion of dildos", ahum. And if you are a professional film critic writing an article on Fifty Shades with 36 instead of 50 notes, seriously?

The wonderful Roger Ebert has gone, but his work lives on. Like most other critics, Sheila O'Malley goes to the heart of what Fifty Shades is really about in her first few lines. "...its portrait of a controlling man manipulating his lover past her comfort zone" Next she dares to ask the question that is on the minds of everyone who cares even a little about kink. "What would it be like if Anna Steele was not interested in the domesticated trappings of state-approved monogamy, but chasing pure experience because it's fun and exciting?" Correction, not "they" but "she". Don't get over-exciting, you know this is not what 50.3 is all about. Where the author goes wrong, is talking about the boring couple. She knows very well, the two of them got there because of Christian's complete disregard for her feelings in the previous movies. "Anna has hesitations about submitting to his sexual tastes". Funnily, Mrs. O'Malley ends pointing out Jamie Dornan's inadequacy in portraying Christian Grey, "is accentuated by Dakota Johnson's natural force of personality and charisma." Irony makes the world go round (and honest kinksters smile).

Some reviews are better than others. CNN is one or the more bland news brands out there and it shows. "The title, at least, does get one thing right: Everyone associated with the "Fifty Shades" franchise should feel somewhat liberated by moving on, now that Christian and Anastasia's story is, effectively, tied up." Just remember, bland doesn't equal wrong. Or was it that Fifty Shades is just another word for bland? Just to show you just how boring the final product is, newspaper The Sun never fails to come up with a sensationalist headline, falls flat for once. "Mr. Whippy to Mr. Softee" definitely won't sell any more papers, but perhaps there is nothing new under the sun.

Maybe it's the name, but even Vulture manages to come up with a better headline: "Fifty Shades Freed Is Memento With Butt Plugs." In case you're not familiar with the movie Memento, it's about a man suffering from memory loss, who starts each day with a blank slate.
I pride myself on doing sarcasm pretty well, but even I must concede defeat after reading The Vulture's review. Trying to push back against critics describing the film as basic or boring, Kyle Buchanan delights in just how incoherent part three is. "No five-minute section in Fifty Shades Freed has any relation to the five minutes before it; the film just starts over. It’s Memento, but with butt plugs." Who said abusive kink on screen cannot make you laugh?
Even defying the three-act structure that is the roster of most Hollywood movies, becomes a good thing in the case of 50.3, especially when it starts to make you "loose track of time". Fifty Shades, the gift that keeps on giving.
Believe me, I wasn't thinking it, the reviewer put the words in my mind: "Dakota Johnson opening a butt-play drawer at Jamie Dornan’s insistence, suddenly cuts to her sitting down at work the next day, then flashes back to a scene of missionary sex that challenges the viewer to ask him or herself: “Wait, does she have that snow globe in her ass right now?”" Guess there's an awful lot of butt-plugs in a movie that has a hole in it's plot.
On top of that, I'll never think of Rita Ora the same way ever again - and I absolutely love her latest' "Anywhere" - after reading “how will Rita Ora be disrespected this time?”

Only yesterday I wrapped up my series on kink on TV and how it doesn't lead to more acceptance of the lifestyle. Reading the many reviews I don't get it. Fifty Shades of full frontal abuse, everybody sees it but despite that, honest, happy kink on TV seems out of the question. "Instead of portraying BDSM as a voluntarily lifestyle choice between consenting adults, it twisted the subculture into a nasty proclivity sprung from child abuse—a tool of coercion rather than experimentation." according to The Ringer.

In the end the real hardcore abuse is not done by Christian Grey, but by the global cohort of reviewers - and for once in my life I support the abuse. Fight fire with fire!

So is 50.3 all bad, excluding the fact it's finally over of course. Everybody agrees Dakota Johnson did a stellar job in portraying Ana. Her performance is probably the only thing that has kept the franchise afloat this long. No doubt - and deservedly so - bigger and better roles await her, now that she has shown she can single-handedly turn water into wine.

Universal, the studio that produced all three movies won't think it's that bad either. It is expected that Fifty Shades Freed will push the trilogy past $1 billion worldwide.

And finally there are the many fans of the series, sobbing in cinemas everywhere as the trilogy comes to a close. Guess, if you are not into BDSM or have suffered abuse first-hand, Fifty Shades can be entertaining.


And yes, I stole the title from New York Times columnist Eannette Catsoulis, credit where credit is due.

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