FIFTY SHADES FREED ½
2018, R, 105 mins.
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele / Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey / Kim Basinger as Elena Lincoln / Eric Johnson as Jack Hyde / Arielle Kebbel as Gia Matteo / Brant Daugherty as Luke Sawyer
Directed by James Foley / Written by Niall Leonard, based on the book by E.L. James
There are two reasons why I think FIFTY SHADES FREED is the best entry in the trilogy of films based on the inexplicably popular series of novels by E.L. James.
Seriously...hear me out.
Firstly, it's the
most mercifully short entry in this soft core drama franchise, which is a
major victory for all of those in attendance that will be anxiously staring
at the cinema exit sign while screening it.
Secondly, star Dakota Johnson seems at her most relaxed in this one
versus the previous two, and the manner that she never takes FIFTY SHADES
FREED too seriously - not to mention her ability to infuse a much needed
dosage of credible humanity into the proceedings - is a testament to her
abilities as an actress. She's
a lively presence this go around, which helps a tad in terms of making
this trilogy ender somewhat more tolerable.
But, who am I
kidding, a briefer running time and a game actress is hardly enough to
save FIFTY SHADES FREED from the same levels of soul crushing mediocrity
that typified FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
and FIFTY SHADES DARKER.
The entire series up until this point concerns the sexual dynamo
power couple that is the unfathomably rich and handsome Christian Grey
(Jamie Dornan, still a charisma black hole) and his mousy girlfriend
Anastasia Steele (Johnson) and their on again off again relationship as a
pair erotically hungry souls that partake in S & M intercourse
sessions of the most kinky variety. FIFTY
SHADES FREED, I guess, seems like the most logical progression of their
union as we see them finally wed and the newfound series of conflicts that
comes while being a newlywed couple.
One of the most damning and glaringly obvious problems with this
third film is that it mightily struggles with a reason to justify its
existence. Now that Christian
and Anastasia are married the film seems pathetically desperate in finding
new ways to drum up any level of dramatic suspense moving forward.
Ironically, watching the final climatic entry in the FIFTY SHADES
trilogy as it tries to give something for its lead actors to do is
arguably more tortuous than being on the receiving end of one of Mr.
Grey's whips in his red leather walled sex dungeon.
course, that's what does it for you as a filmgoer.
As the film opens
we see Christian and Anastasia getting all glammed up for their wedding
day, followed by them quickly escaping the reception, jumping into a
sports car, and driving to the airport to fly away in Christian's private
jet to Paris for their honeymoon. While
on the sun drenched beaches Anastasia decides that she would like to
sunbath topless, which instantly annoys her bicep bulging husband, who
still creepily treats her like a possession and not an equal partner
in marriage. At least they
still agree on using specific safe words just in case things get way,
way out of hand engaging during bondage sex.
While the couple are enjoying some semblance of happiness overseas
it appears that, back in Seattle, there's a - gasp! - break in at Christian's corporate HQ, and it looks like the handiwork of Jack Hyde
(Eric Johnson), the same ex-boss of Anastasia's that has sexually assaulted
her. Realizing that he has no
choice, Christian grabs Anastasia and immediately flies back home to
secure his company and ensure that his wife has the best security money
can buy. Ludicrous plot
machinations ensue, but at least we are thankfully spared of any third act
helicopter crashes that occupied the final sections of FIFTY SHADES DARKER to
I just didn't
give a damn about Christian and Anastasia's life as a married couple or
any new and dangerous obstacles that they faced because they're simply not
likeable characters that are worthy of our rooting interest.
Outside of looking really good naked, Christian virtually never
possesses attractive qualities throughout this franchise that would invite
a sane woman's fondness of him. Even
after exchanging nuptials with Anastasia and superficially looking like
he's turned over a new leaf, Christian emerges as being even more jealous,
domineering, and obsessive in his control freak tendencies than ever
before (but, darn it, he should looks inviting when he sings Paul
McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed" to Anastasia while on the piano, in one
of the film's most head shaking attempts to humanize this cretin).
Even though, as mentioned, Anastasia seems a bit more assertive and
yearning for personal space and independence, she nevertheless still
acquiesces to the sick and perverted sexual demands of her hubby that
oversees every facet of her life like a vile narcissistic taskmaster.
The script itself
become unintentionally amusing when it comes to shoehorning in roadblocks
that impedes this couple's future happiness.
Despite getting married, Christian and Anastasia never really seem
to have had any logical conversations about having children, which rears
itself up in a pregnancy subplot that that shows the pair arguing about
whether or not they should have kids (the answer to that simple question -
especially considering their vast and sordid history together - would be a
resounding NO). When debates
about the pros and cons of babies aren't thrown into the mix, FIFTY SHADES
FREED then dumps a lazily scripted abduction subplot involving - guess
who? - the psychopath that once tried to have his way with Anastasia.
This film journeys from point A to B and finally to C with such an
annoying levels of predictability that I developed a headache from all of
the incredulous eye rolling.
between low level, mirco budgeted soft core pornography and FIFTY SHADES
FREED is that low level, mirco budgeted soft corn pornography actually has
more up its sleeve in the plot department.
Because virtually nothing of intriguing interest happens throughout
this film all we are left with is, uh huh, the sex scenes, which are
frequently dispersed throughout the course of the running time. Director James Foley (who seemingly forever ago made the
brilliant film adaptation pf David Mamet's GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and now
sold his soul to the movie devil to make this dreck) films the sex scenes
so mechanically and passionless that we feel like we're watching awkwardly
scripted How To videos (it also doesn't help that they're all set
to pop songs blaring on the soundtrack, which makes the scenes feel like
glorified music videos from a bygone era).
Yes, there's lots of nudity.
Yes, Johnson and Dornan are attractive performers that are easy on
the eyes. But the FIFTY
SHADES series unequivocally proves that you can pair limitlessly beautiful
people in sex scenes and still have them register very little, if any,
tangible heat or eroticism. Because
the lead stars have such a fundamental lack of on screen chemistry - even
after two previous films together - the sex scenes they occupy here emerge as duller
than ever. I never once felt titillated by anything that I saw here.
I said earlier
that this was the "best" film in this series...and I stand by
that. I logically give FIFTY SHADES FREED one and a half stars,
which is better than the half a star and zero star grades I respectively
gave the last few. Thankfully, though - praying to the movie
gods - this is indeed the last of these films and FIFTY SHADES FREED will
finally put a nail to the coffin of this series that was on critical life
support from the opening scenes of its introductory installment.
Maybe with a better cast, more engaging scripting, and a genuine
willingness from all involved both in front of and behind the camera to
embrace its campy trashiness this series could have been moderately
watchable. In its current
form, FIFTY SHADES FREED and its prequels - as a collective whole - are
arduous endurance tests. And
considering that this last film has been released at the height of the Me
Too movement, perhaps its central story of a maniacally domineering man
having his sexual hungers and desires placated by exuding power over a
woman and making her his "submissive" has an ickiness factor
that's hard to shake during these stressful socio-cultural times.
These are not the types of films we really need right now.