Film Review – Fifty Shades Freed
Fifty Shades Freed
Who would’ve thought that a story about a control freak man and an introverted woman entering a BDSM relationship would somehow spawn a three-film franchise? The Fifty Shades series has never made much sense in any particular aspect. E.L. James’ novels were born out of Twilight fan fiction, but even that series had the benefit of sparkling vampires. The romance of Fifty Shades has no sizzle, the melodrama is not dramatic, and the sex – to put it frankly – is not that sexy.
The initial appeal – from what I’m guessing – is being able to see something naughty on screen. All of the advertisements would have us believe that Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) were involved in something they shouldn’t be. And while there is plenty of nudity and sex, that is all just window dressing to what this story has always been about: a bland love story between two people who weren’t that interesting to begin with. Who cares how good they look in the buff? Once these characters open their mouths we realize just how juvenile they both are.
Fifty Shades Freed (2018) opens with Anastasia and Christian getting hitched. After a brief Parisian montage of their honeymoon, the two settle down and begin trying to adjust to one another as man and wife. This involves inconsequential talks about Anastasia changing her last name, Christian overcoming his man-child issues, and her gaining some authority within his structured world. Anastasia’s excitement over being able to cook for Christian (instead of their maid) comes as a revelation of epic proportions!
But in the midst of their newlywed bliss is Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) who – after the events of the last film – sets his sights on revenge against Anastasia. Jack’s master plan involves stalking them, sending creepy messages, and calling at inopportune times. What’s hilarious about Jack Hyde – besides the fact that his name is way too obvious a metaphor for “Jekyll and Hyde” – is how the narrative completely forgets about him even though he is the main antagonist. James Foley’s direction and Niall Leonard’s screenplay has such little use for Jack that the only times he stands as a threat is when he is on screen. When he isn’t shown, it feels as though Christian and Anastasia don’t give him a second thought. Why bother worrying about a man desperately wanting to kill you when you’re too busy going on fancy vacations on some remote mountaintop getaway?
In fact, the writing and editing has such trouble establishing a main story that everything is thrown together in a jumbled mess. There is no cohesion from one scene to the next. Storylines are introduced but never followed through. Early on, we have a scene where Christian buys a new home for Anastasia. After that, we never hear or even see the house again. Another story arc involves Christian’s brother Elliot (Luke Grimes) and his blossoming relationship with Anastasia’s friend Kate (Eloise Mumford), but that goes absolutely nowhere as well. That is how the plot unfolds: we’re introduced to an element that has the potential to develop only for it to never be mentioned again. Toss in some sex and a stalker plot and badabing, you have the makings of one of the worst films of 2018 (and that’s saying something given that we’re still in February).
The biggest sin of Fifty Shades Freed (and this goes for the previous two installments, Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker) is that it plays things far too safely. If this was meant to be a trashy sex story, then embrace it and be a trashy sex story. At least Basic Instinct (1992) knew the tone it was going for and went for it with complete conviction. If this was meant to be a romantic drama, then be a romantic drama to the fullest extent. Simply playing it down the middle does no good for anyone. How are we supposed to take Christian Grey seriously when see him as a sexed up knucklehead one moment and then in the next scene watch him play the piano as though it were a serious, dramatic moment? How are we supposed to believe that Anastasia is a strong woman capable of making her own decisions when nearly every decision she makes is a dumb one? The way she handles Jack Hyde as a threat would make victims in slasher films look like Albert Einstein.
There’s nothing in the Fifty Shades series that you couldn’t get watching Cinemax at 1am. It handles sex as nothing more than a weak attempt at titillation, with no emotional weight behind the act. The narrative flow is so weak that you could rearrange certain segments and you would still end up with basically the same viewing experience. Fifty Shades Freed acts as the close to one of the most forgettable trilogies in recent history. The film’s poster comes with the tagline, “Don’t Miss The Climax.” Let me clue you in: the Climax never comes.