Anastasia and husband Christian are newlyweds in rainy Seattle. She likes hanging out with friends near their condo in the city. He prefers hiding away in a mansion in the woods. While they squabble over their differing tastes and lifestyles, audience members come to the realization that these two should never have gotten married in the first place.
This is “Fifty Shades Freed,” but it may as well be an episode of “House Hunters.”
When the first E.L. James adaptation hit theaters a few years ago, everyone cracked jokes like a bunch of funny paint connoisseurs: Which shade of gray should I use to paint my garage? Is the Christian-is-angry hue closer to Tin Lizzie or Cyberspace? And so on. But the HGTV parallels in the latest installment of the “Fifty Shades” saga, released Friday, go far beyond wall colorant.
Here’s why this movie is basically an extended episode of “House Hunters” — with added handcuffs and sexy ice cream consumption, of course. (Warning: spoilers ahead.)
Three very different properties appear in “Fifty Shades Freed.”
Christian (Jamie Dornan) makes a boatload of money doing God knows what — we’ll get to that later — and his seemingly unlimited budget means these properties are as exciting as the ones in an episode of “House Hunters International.”
The couple’s open-concept condo in the city is so spacious that it has room for a glamorous staircase, a conveniently located library and a “playroom,” which we’ll assume is the Christian Grey equivalent of the commonly desired man cave. When Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) needs to escape the apartment, all she has to do is tell her bodyguard, Sawyer (Brant Daugherty), to go to the library while she exits from the kitchen. In another scene, he completely misses that the Greys’ worst enemy is hiding in their bedroom. The poor guy can’t possibly keep an eye on this much square footage.
We don’t get to see much of the Tudor mansion that Christian surprises Anastasia with early in the movie, but it has a big, beautiful back yard. This comes in handy when the couple ends up having a kid that Christian really, really does not want.
Christian and his siblings, the forgettable Elliot (Luke Grimes) and underappreciated Mia (Rita Ora), visit a swanky property in Aspen with their significant others. The acoustics in the living room are magnificent, such that the siblings and Anastasia can hear Christian’s dulcet tones perfectly as he sings Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Mia praises the layout as well, pointing out that the bedrooms are far enough away from each other that she doesn’t have to hear her brother and his wife’s alone time.
The husband and wife have weird jobs that don’t make sense.
This is such a well-known “House Hunters” trope that it has its own meme account on Twitter.
Christian: “I’m a billionaire who owns the independent publishing company my wife works for. People like my architect Gia Matteo regularly tell me, ‘I love what you’re doing in Africa.’ No one actually knows what I’m doing in Africa.”
Anastasia: “I was once an assistant to an absolute jerk, but I got promoted while I was on vacation. I’m now the fiction editor and get to smirk while saying silly things like, ‘Increase the font size by two points.’ My husband insists I got a job I’m wildly unqualified for because of my raw talent and hard work, not because I’m married to him.”
Together: “Our budget is infinity.”
Anastasia remarks that the Tudor “has character.”
Despite his upbringing in Detroit foster care and an affinity for fancy tech, Christian is a real Man of the Woods. His apparent refusal to shave or cut his hair unless Anastasia makes him says as much. The mansion that he surprises her with is similarly rustic, meaning it’s somewhat dysfunctional and outdated. Anastasia says it has “character,” which is “House Hunters” code for a property that will fall apart a few years after purchase.
Gia, our real estate agent proxy, is problematic.
The Realtors on “House Hunters” often make uncomfortable situations even worse, which is especially the case when Gia (Arielle Kebbel) discusses her plans to revamp the Tudor mansion. She continually hits on Christian and belittles Anastasia, leading our heroine to deliver the best line of the movie: “You may call me Mrs. Grey. Or you can get back into your s—-colored car and drive back to Seattle.”
Christian works to appease Anastasia by telling Gia that his wife has the final say on design plans, which is the movie’s version of every “House Hunters” husband uttering something ridiculous like, “A happy wife means a happy life.” (This usually refers to a need for walk-in closets.)
Christian and Anastasia seem like a poor match.
Couples on “House Hunters” are never on the same page: She wants an open-concept floor plan and he loves walls, or he likes Spanish-style exteriors while she’s fond of brick. Christian and Anastasia also seem to have opposing opinions on basically everything, from sunbathing topless on a nude beach — “It’s boobs in boob-land,” she says to his irritated face — to having a child. (Shouldn’t they have discussed that one before getting married?)
You can start watching at any point and understand everything that’s happening.
The best thing about “House Hunters” is you can jump in at any point in the episode and still enjoy it. Half the fun is in watching the couple bicker or evaluating the homes for yourself, anyway. Similarly, the best thing about “Fifty Shades Freed” is that instead of a single plot, it goes for multiple story lines that get resolved every 10 minutes. Not a fan of Christian being mad at Anastasia for getting drinks with a friend? No worries! Mia’s going to be held hostage pretty soon and you’ll forget all about that.