What can be said about this trilogy that hasn’t been said already? We’ve been through the ringer watching these films. At least for the uninitiated, that’s what it feels like. The world’s most unhealthy relationship finally concludes its big screen journey with perhaps its most vapid and irritating entry to date. There’s a feeling of hollowness to this all. The final film in the trilogy ups the stakes without ever upping the reason to care about possibly the least likable protagonists in a movie series of recent memory. Granted, as I’ve conceded with numerous properties that I’ve reviewed as “not for me”, Fifty Shades Freed will likely delight its fans. What’s left over for the rest of us is a feeling of joy that we’re finally done with this series.
As we see at the end of Fifty Shades Darker, Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) are getting married. Freed opens with a sickening luxury porn montage of their honeymoon. But, their arch nemesis is out to ruin their lives. Jack (Eric Johnson) is on the prowl to destroy the newlyweds lives because he’s jealous essentially. It’s a common theme in this film to find someone being jealous. There’s arson and kidnapping to threaten their new marriage because, well, who really knows why. The film spends an unusual amount of time on exposition as if no one in the theater has seen the previous two. Because the relationship dynamics of the lead couple are never enough, the series has to inject other dramatic pieces that don’t fit. After awhile it all becomes just too silly to have any sort of seriousness attached to it.
Director James Foley, who helmed Darker, doesn’t seem to care if actors are giving it their all. In our third trip into this world, everyone appears to be phoning it in. Dakota Johnson is seemingly the only one who does try. However, it’s awfully hard to try when your co-star is the lifeless performer that Dornan is. If the two had any form of chemistry, these films might be passable. But their lack of chemistry pulls away from the lifeblood of this series; sex. The script can’t wait to get to the next boring sex scene. In fact, the first 45 minutes of the film are nothing but set up for another sex scene. Nothing in this film is sexy, partially due to just how disturbingly unhealthy their relationship is.
There is so much jealousy and manipulation happening between Christian and Ana, it’s truly shocking. On their honeymoon, Ana wants to essentially be naked as she’s clad in a bikini on a beach. This doesn’t please Christian; she’s showing enough already. His insecurities and fears are supposed to be passable because she’s the only woman he’s ever loved, outside of his equally manipulative former lover who teaches him the intricacies of running a “playroom”. To boot, as in the rest of this series, the fights are resolved so quickly there’s not even a moment the script tries to make these characters relatable. Simply put, the film touts manipulation and excessive wealth to be the key to love. He has her followed, hides things from her and even tries to get sexual revenge on her. But it’s all okay, cause he’s rich. Right?
The world they live in so incredibly shallow and the two of them are insanely naive. Anastasia and Christian especially don’t get it. One of the films more truly laughable moments features Anastasia pleading people don’t understand her and that they think she got her promotion because of Christian. As a matter of fact she does. Everything she has at this point in her life is due to him. It only increases the vapidness of it all that she hasn’t really earned anything, and doesn’t really seem to care. Maybe she shouldn’t. However, it feels like irresponsible story telling.
The movie’s sprawling landscape shots are even obnoxious. Everything in the film is overly lit and Foley frames up his shots with zero authenticity. There are points where the film becomes an extended Audi advertisement. It’s especially heinous in a grossly out of place car chase sequence that is nothing more than a set up to, you guessed it, a sex scene. I like to pretend Foley revels in showing all the lavish cars, boats and locations because it’s a temporary distraction from the awfulness.
We’ve come to the end of this trilogy with nothing really to show for it. Good triumphs over evil, wealth is the key to happiness and as long as the sex is good all can be forgiven; that’s what I take away from these films. Perhaps I’m missing the point. Perhaps I don’t want to know the point. The Fifty Shades franchise is utterly devoid of anything it’s premise would have you believe. Nothing about these films is sexy and this isn’t how relationships work. Anastasia curiously at the end of the film tells Christian that he treats people well. She must’ve missed the previous three films. Fifty Shades Freed ushers in the end of an era for cinema’s most recent laughing stock franchise. Until Hollywood decides to do the inevitable spinoffs. For all of us, let this one die.
“Fifty Shades Freed”
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini
Director: James Foley
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rated: R (for for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.)