Fifty Shades Freed (2018)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Buckle down, it is time to bring this whole ridiculous trilogy to a close.
Fans of the series will find all the same elements here that made them enjoy the first two installments of the Fifty Shades franchise. Like seriously, all the same elements.
Unintentional comedic moments occur less here than in Fifty Shades Darker, but you get a dispassionate and uninterested Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan cashing checks and waiting for this all to be over. There's a certain enjoyment which comes in their inability to hide that any longer.
Stop it. Don't. You really don't have to do this.
In all honesty, the Fifty Shades trilogy is tone deaf, regressive, and commits the unforgivable offense of presenting itself as some form of a female empowerment story, but then doubles down on patting, petting, and reassuring an impish, immature manchild every step of the way.
As bad as mid-1990's-era straight-to-video or straight-to-cable erotic thrillers, just with production design and a budget. We all deserve better.
Marriage can be really, really hard sometimes. Being in tune with your partner every single day can prove to be a major challenge when work and responsibilities get in the way. Thankfully, we have Christian and Anastasia Grey (Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson) to walk us through the steps.
In this final installment of the Fifty Shades experience, Fifty Shades Freed, we see the Greys are just like any married couple we know – maybe even a lot like ourselves.
Certainly, all of us married folks wait to have the discussion about whether or not we want to have children, for the very first time ever, after dating for years and becoming officially married. I am sure we can all remember the times our spouse arrived unannounced at work less than an hour after we didn’t answer a text or take a phone call. Those of us who are or have been married can undoubtedly think back to when we demanded our spouse take off time for work whenever and wherever we ask them to, because if the other partner is available, then dammit, they should be too!
Plus, who among us hasn’t had to put the kibosh on amorous architects flirting with our husbands and had our wives endangered by devious stalkers who used to be their boss. Show of hands if you have ever had to call your personal banker and acquire $5 million in cash to pay a kidnapper to free your bound and gagged sister-in-law.
The Greys!!! Amirite?!?!
Fifty Shades Freed is finally bringing the E.L. James trilogy to a close on the big screen and I am not sure who wants it finished more – the viewers, or Johnson and Dornan. There may be no greater divide in the known world then the one created by these two actors, who appear to no longer be able to hide the fact that they do not want to be in these movies anymore.
Do the actors get a safe word to get out of making these movies? Apparently not.
Oh, right. The plot? (Cracks knuckles).
The Greys are newlyweds. The have sex all the time. Ana learns that Christian does not want kids and opts to not change her e-mail or professional name to Grey because of it. Christian gets mad. Someone breaks into Christian’s offices and, with what appears to a cheap bomb of some kind and a cell phone, steals personal information. Ana is getting major side-eye from co-worker Liz (Amy Price-Francis), jealous over her new promotion. Christian buys her a house. Ana that is, not Liz. He designed all new plans with a sexy architect (Arielle Kebbel), who looks like Ivanka Trump, but Ana tells her to step off. Ana routinely stands her ground and then relents to placate Christian’s impish mood swings.
They have more sex. She cooks him steak. He can’t cook marinara sauce in a pan and ruins pasta night. Sex occurs. Christian constantly tries to keep Ana from going to work. Ana’s best friend thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her. Sex is again used for a power play. Ana takes a nap in the Red Room. We get a Twilight-style montage to Ellie Goulding’s hit song from the first film, “Love Me Like You Do.” Someone gets hit twice, kicked once, and apparently ends up in surgery and is in a coma for a day or so.
Oh, and in the franchise’s finest moment, Christian serenades family and friends with an impromptu piano-based rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Truth be told, these Fifty Shades movies comprise some of the worst cinema foisted upon mainstream audiences in recent years. I am on record with my disdain for them, which begs the question – why review this one? My wife checked out on this whole thing about 20 minutes into the first film and yet, I’ve now seen all three.
I cannot answer this effectively. I suppose I needed to finish all of this. I have seen flashes of greatness with Johnson as an actress. In this finale, she has clearly run out of you-know-what’s to give and though she willingly sheds all her clothes and does all the work in her sex scenes with Dornan, her boredom and apathy while romping around with Dornan verges on some form of performance art.
Dornan never becomes anything other than a sniveling brat, who is always given the power in the relationship between these two. Marriage does nothing to change that dynamic. And sure, Ana scores intellectual points when talking about children and demanding that she have her own life independent of their marriage, but every – single – time he doesn’t like something, he ultimately gets what he wants.
What began as Twilight fan fiction has turned into a movie that really pretends to espouse feminism and strength in women, but truly only serves to coddle the wants and needs of a man. Some do defend these movies. A terrific film critic and writer, Stephanie Zacharek, shares in Time Magazine a belief that these movies are pleasurable to women, and that the critical bashing, largely from male film critics, comes from men not willing to believe that women can see themselves depicted in this capacity on screen.
All I know is that I can reflect on what I have seen after watching 350 minutes of these movies, and I struggle to see a script that gives Ana independent agency as fairly as Christian. Plus, I can think of numerous other films where female sexuality is embraced, celebrated, and placed on a pedestal. This is not that.
Being more naked, or all the naked as it were, shouldn’t be the barometer of empowerment in this series. Chastising an immature man to gain easy wins, but then giving into his every whim when he’s upset, simply feels regressive. There is nothing illuminating here. And if women truly connect to this presentation of sexuality on screen and see it as a validating statement on cinematic femininity, then I’ll proudly rescind my words.
But I’ll forever ask the question: Shouldn’t we want better than what Christian and Anastasia Grey give us?
This entire trilogy of vapid dialogue, meaningless conflicts, and dozens of late-night, cable-ready sexual trysts has finally, mercilessly, come to its hollow and empty-headed conclusion. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan have been freed, able to unlock their restraints and to try and build a great career away from the thanklessness of all of this.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Brant Daugherty, Amy Price-Francis, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Bruce Altman, Arielle Kebbel, Callum Keith Rennie, Tyler Hoechlin, Kristen Alter.
Director: James Foley
Written by: Niall Leonard, E.L. James
Adapted from the novel "Fifty Shades Freed" by E.L. James
Release Date: February 9, 2018