I didn’t hate Fifty Shades of Grey when I watched it at a packed screening back in 2015. And I didn’t hate Fifty Shades Darker when I watched in at home last Spring in all its timid “Unrated” glory. Both films were badly written and badly acted, but they were functional pieces of entertainment that were clearly not designed for me. They provided some intentional and unintentional laughs, and were not nearly as bad as some of the films I actually went to see purposely.
But the finale, Fifty Shades Freed — or climax as the posters so playfully tease — is a whole other beast entirely. And while I joked on Facebook that it was a “triumph of cinema”, it is easily the exact opposite.
After ending Darker with an engagement, Freed immediately opens with the wedding of Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Then it proceeds to fill the next hour with pop music and sex filled montages, along with five minute intervals of inane dialogue that intends to have some form of point, but amounts to nothing.
That idea — intervals of exposition with no real point — is paramount to every single one of Fifty Shades Freed’s 105 painful minutes. Johnson is still having some minuscule amount of fun as Anastasia, but Dornan is more subdued and bored than ever before. Their chemistry was never really this series’ strong suit, but they both seem like the least interested couple to ever get married. There is no real sense of love between either of them, and they don’t even try to pretend there ever was. Neither character develops outside of one choice plot twist (you should have no trouble guessing what predictable challenge is thrown into the mix), and Christian is more of a controlling douchebag than he was previously. And he completely undermines everything Anastasia disagrees with or has previously said no to. It felt icky before, but feels even worse in the current societal climate. But hey, two cheers for romance!
Of course, no one comes to these movies to watch the acting. But sadly, the plethora of sex scenes are just as painful and boring as the plot around them. The sex is surprisingly more vanilla than in the previous films, but at the same time, somehow manages to feel more gratuitous and overdone. As the film progresses, it becomes a narrative crutch that Director James Foley brings out a bit too often. And while some handcuffs and a butt plug spice up two scenes, the rest have a “been there, seen that” sort of feel (but now featuring multiple shots of Dornan’s pubic hair). What was once exciting and vaguely unique (at least by mainstream Hollywood standards) has become completely ordinary. I will admit though that my biggest laugh came from the movie insisting that teasing with a vibrator is akin to a vindictive act of revenge.
Subplots are introduced involving the thirsty Gia Matteo (Arielle Kebbel), new author Boyce Fox (Tyler Hoechlin), and some deep, dark secrets involving the villainous Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) — who if you remember anything about Darker, swore revenge on the couple for ruining his life. All of these elements add some vague intrigue between the sex scenes, but then basically fade away with next to no resolution. Jack’s subplot takes up a good chunk of the third act, but his inclusion feels forced and inorganic. They mention Kim Basinger’s Elena Lincoln character more than once, but she does not even drop in for a cameo appearance. I feel (or pray?) all of these characters had some function in the book, but they are essentially attractive window dressing that could easily be cut out with next to no effect on the plot.
Well, you might need to keep Hyde, since his bombshell of a secret ties into Christian’s past…except after that 10-second reveal, it turns into completely useless information.
I could probably keep going on how inane and ridiculous Fifty Shades Freed is, but there’s no point. Could we have ever put any realistic expectations on something that started out as Twilight fan fiction? Or a film that has the word “Freed” in the title, but features no real sense of freedom?
I’m just glad this series is over and we can move onto the next ridiculous book series adaptation. Hopefully it’ll have better acting and significantly better writing.