It’s a futile task to bemoan the ineptitude of Fifty Shades Freed. Of course, it’s a bad film. Its source material is notoriously terrible and the two film adaptations that came before the closing of the trilogy are terrible. Here is a series that was conceived as Twilight fanfiction. How good could have it ever really been?
The series – at least the film series, which I have now seen all of – just teeters on the brink of fascinating in how bad it actually is: the dialogue, the performances, the lack of any sensible plot trajectory. Often in these movies, we start at point-A and somehow end up at point-E. These aren’t deep movies but the mind boggles with narrative whiplash and it’s no different with Fifty Shades Freed.
In the final chapter of the saga, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are now married and madly in love. They can’t enter a room, leave a room or simply exist in a room without kissing or hanging on each other. Marrying Anastasia certainly seems to have tamed the mysterious Christian Grey but not without a few trips to the infamous Red Room of Pain.
“Should she stray and even entertain the thought of a personal life, she should expect her punishment…”
So, they’re married. This seems to give Christian the right to still be as controlling as possible, hiring personal security – who are terrible at their jobs – to follow Anastasia to work and back home. Should she stray and even entertain the thought of a personal life, she should expect her punishment. Christian feels these strict sets of rules are for good reason because Anastasia’s crazy ex-boss, Jack (Eric Johnson) is ready to up-end their marital bliss.
Fifty Shades Freed, like its predecessors, is one of those movies that feels overstuffed and somehow undercooked. How is so much happening but the time goes by so slowly and almost none of the plot feels important? As a final film, the movie tries to amp up the stakes. but its inherently laughable premise and execution stop anything from feeling truly urgent. Director James Foley returns from the second installment and maintains the movie’s glitzy polish but lacks any kind of coherency piecing everything together.
The popularity of the series is solely due to the erotic nature of Anastasia and Christian’s relationship but the movie has two actors with absolutely no chemistry. Johnson, bless her heart, tries to wring something emotional and salvageable out of her character but she has a scene partner that has never felt comfortable in this role. Dornan has never been convincing as a self-made billionaire with a dark, sexual secret and mysterious past. He remains a blank slate in the final film.
“…thinks it’s titillating and thrilling but…knows it’s just faking it.”
The character of Christian Grey has always been the films’ undoing. He’s a petulant child, who erupts when things don’t go his way. If that’s part of his act in the bedroom with Anastasia – fine. There’s a scene when he storms into her office, where she is meeting with a client, and demands he leaves so he can talk to his wife. In a panic, he needs to know why she hasn’t changed her work email from Anastasia Steele to Anastasia Grey. My eyes just came down from rolling back so hard.
Somehow, these movies work on the audience they were designed for and there was a palpable excitement throughout the movie. Admittedly, I had my share of laughs with a friend at the movie’s expense. It doesn’t excuse the fact Fifty Shades Freed thinks it’s titillating and thrilling but those wise enough to see through its glossy exterior know it’s just faking it.
Fifty Shades Freed (2018) Directed by James Foley. Written by Niall Leonard. Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, and Eric Johnson.