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Review: Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Directed by: James Foley

Premise: The third film in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey (Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan) get married. Anastasia’s former boss (Eric Johnson) attempts to blackmail the couple.  

What Works: Fifty Shades Freed is the shortest of the three movies and it has a few moments of levity that are a welcome relief from the self-important tone of the first two films.

What Doesn’t: It is difficult to overstate the failure of Fifty Shades Freed. None of the movies in this trilogy have been any good and yet the concluding entry is especially terrible. These movies are made for a fan base that turned the novels into bestsellers but it is hard to imagine anyone who was a fan of E.L. James’ books getting any kind of satisfaction out of this movie. Fifty Shades Freed begins with the wedding of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey but it doesn’t exploit any of the things that make weddings memorable or interesting. There’s no pageantry about the ceremony, no romantic moments between the couple, nor does it play to the sexual aspects of this series. Everything about the wedding is generic and anesthetized as though it were assembled from random images from Brides magazine. As it is, the wedding is rushed through and done with before the opening credits have concluded. But the Fifty Shades series is billed on sex and passion and forbidden desire, not love, and here the movie fails most of all. Sex sequences come at a regular clip but they are almost an afterthought. With a few exceptions, the lovemaking scenes are bland and far too tame, given the S&M themes and the reputation of the source material. And as in the previous Fifty Shades movies, there is no heat between actors Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. Johnson does what she can to keep the movie afloat but Dornan is a vacuum of charisma. Love stories only work if the audience wants to see these two live happily ever after and the movie offers no reason for Anastasia and Christian to end up together. The series has been derided for its abusive subtext. Although there is less S&M content here Fifty Shades Freed is actually the worst offender. Christian is still a controlling and unlikable person and after resisting his ways and attempting to tame him, Anastasia finally gives in and makes herself the domestic plaything that he’s always wanted. Instead of growing as a character, Anastasia actually regresses over this series and the filmmakers frame her submission as romance. Aside from its failure as a love story, Fifty Shades Free is also a disaster as a work of storytelling. It has a reasonable running time but it feels much longer because nothing actually happens. The entire plot could be covered in about thirty minutes. Love stories need something keeping the couple apart but all of that was resolved in the second film. Christian and Anastasia’s relationship plateaued in Fifty Shades Darker and whenever the third film introduces the inkling of a conflict it is quickly squashed, usually by Christian’s wealth. And that is the real allure of this series. Whatever the books might have conveyed, the Fifty Shades films were never about love or sexuality or abuse or redemption. This was all really about the materialistic fantasy of shagging a billionaire and ogling the cars, houses, vacations, and careers he could buy in exchange for companionship. It is ultimately about a woman who compromises herself not for love or forbidden desire but to become a token in a rich man’s menagerie.

Bottom Line: Perhaps appropriately, Fifty Shades Freed is about as bad as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2. It is that dumb, that pointless, and that sloppy. Fans of the book will be let down by its bland sexuality and everyone else will find it a laborious waste of time that isn’t even satisfying trash.

Episode: #686 (February 18, 2018)