Fifty Shades Freed
Director: James Foley
Screenwriter: Niall Leonard
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Bruce Altman, Arielle Kebbel, Robinne Lee, Brant Daugherty and Marcia Gay Harden
Distributor: Universal Studios
Rated PG-13 | 134 Minutes
Release Date: February 9, 2018
So it is all over — the Fifty Shades trilogy that tried to be more than just kinky unspoken sex and about two seemingly wildly incompatible characters getting together and sustaining a relationship. But the surprising thing about it is that despite how terrible the first feature, Fifty Shades Of Grey, was, the following installments were actually pretty tolerable to the point of enjoyment. Yes, the entire trilogy as a whole is pretty bad, and the lack of chemistry between leads Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan is clear, but by the time we get from Fifty Shades Darker to Fifty Shades Freed, we see that the franchise has embraced its absurdity.
The result is that we can enjoy the film for what it is. Regardless of how one may feel about the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed is just one of those films that is so bad it’s actually pretty good. And owning up to the fact that it can be mildly enjoyable is hard to admit. My full review below.
Freed marks the end of the strange courtship between Anastasia and Christian. The two, who have built their entire relationship on negotiations, friction, whips and chains, and kinky foreplay, are getting married. Most would consider marriage a life-changing experience. However, for Anastasia and Christian, it means that the two still have yet to be freed by some of their insecurities. Nothing really changes between the two. And the threat of Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s former boss and stalker, looms as he seeks to drive them apart and ruin Christian’s good name.
So the film abruptly switches, from time to time, from the two having sex to the two trying to solve a mystery. Like the two gumshoes that they are, they quickly figure out that Jack has been sabotaging Christian’s assets by zooming in on security cameras and retrieving court documents. It’s pretty incredible how the film seems to gloss over those details without actually fleshing them out. And it goes on like this for the whole movie.
As far as subplots go, this isn’t very compelling. In fact, it’s more of a distraction from the juicy bits that everyone wants to see.
But for a franchise that has thrived on pushing the limits of kink, this is probably by far the tamest of the Fifty Shades films. And it’s hard to judge a film like this considering that I have no idea how a relationship like this could work, let alone find a couple who talk to each other the way that Anastasia and Christian do. That being said, Anastasia seems to be the one in control with Christian submitting to her.
Still, the two find that marriage isn’t as easy as it looks. Despite Christian’s good intentions, the new husband can be very overprotective. One moment he wants Anastasia to cover herself on a nude beach, the next he oversteps by he providing a 24-hour protective detail that requires them to take her home as soon as she is done working at her publishing company. She can’t even go to the club to visit her friend for one drink. He even is worried about how she cannot accept her new e-mail address, which replaces her maiden name Steele with her married one, Grey. Worried that she might lose her identity, she questions if he really loved her would he take her last name. A quick yes, and Anastasia agrees to accept her new surname. It is that kind of weak back-and-forth that we should have come to expect from this franchise.
Despite Christian’s overreach, Anastasia defies him. When asked what he should do about it, Anastasia tells him to “live with it.”
It’s not exactly the more electric banter you’d get from a romantic film, just one you’d expect to get from any one of the three Fifty Shade films.
Even if you can tolerate the unintentionally hilarious dialogue, their actions are even more amusing. When looking for Anastasia, Christian first grabs a bite to eat and responds to a found Anastasia by saying he was looking for her. So the first place he looks is in the fridge? If this film took a slasher turn, then I probably would believe in this exchange of words between the two. But it’s not a slasher film, so it continues to be unbelievable dialogue.
And it appears that a lot of the problems between the two are quickly resolved. There are no real consequences to their actions or secrets. The film seems to be more interested in getting to the juicy bits of bitings nipples or ice cream foreplay rather than giving these two a decent arc.
But you have to hand to it director James Foley for trying to at least make Niall Leonard’s screenplay adaptation of the E.L. James novel somewhat entertaining. For one thing, when that mystery subplot plays out, it can be kind of a fun distraction. A predictable distraction, but a fun one nonetheless. Jack plays as a constant threat to the couple. Seeking vengeance for what he had lost, he relentlessly stalks them to the point where the couple has to outrun him in a chase between suped- up Audi and a Dodge Durango. He even sets up this elaborate blackmail scheme that will force Anastasia into a situation she cannot get out of. The more than obvious clues as to who Jack is using are dangling right before the audience’s eyes, though the film tries to play it off as if it was some sort of surprise by hiding the clues, in a very poor fashion.
So it switches from softcore porn to trying to stop Jack from hurting them. Then the film casually throws in another subplot by giving Christian even more suffering when Anastasia brings up his birth mother. As soon as that mystery starts to unravel, one of two things will happen – chances are both could happen – eyes start to roll or a burst of laughter will come out. And how Jack and Christian are connected would make anyone want to bury their face in their hands in disbelief.
Freed is choppy at best. But then again, all three films were disjointed. Having an actual fluidity might have ruined it because the entire trilogy is just sloppy editing. However, a friend of mine who is familiar with the novels says that even the books were choppy. So maybe the films are closer to the source material than I originally thought. Still, it is probably the safest and tamest of the trilogy. It will throw out a few curve balls for the sake of character development, but the film never attempts to challenge our leads in any sort of way. There might be the occasional time where they have to step up. But as soon as that is over, they revert back to their old selves, having learned nothing from their previous experiences.
If there is positives to take away from this it’s that the cinematography is pretty good. The film’s opening sequence looks like an expensive music video with shots of Ana and Christian enjoying their honeymoon in Paris and southern France. The starry skies and sunny beaches are a huge departure for the franchise which as been known for its cloudy Seattle settings.
But to those who have stuck through this franchise from beginning to end, you get a steamy and sweet montage of the trilogy of how Anastasia and Christian met, their sexual romps, and the evolution of their relationship. It’s somewhat of a nice send off, especially when it is scored to Elle Goulding‘s “Love Me Like You Do,” a song that has been used since Fifty Shades Of Grey.
As bad as it all is, I find myself not really caring about that too much because these two end up finding their happy ending. Yes, everything about the franchise is just ridiculous. But as long as the film accepts just how preposterous it is and you do to, then you might find yourself actually enjoying it from beginning to end. It all just depends on how much choppy editing and laughably bad dialogue you can handle.