THE STORY – Believing they’ve left behind the shadowy figures from the past, billionaire Christian Grey and his new wife, Anastasia, fully embrace their inextricable connection and shared life of luxury. Just as the Greys begin to step into their new roles, sinister events come to light and jeopardize their happy ending before it even begins.
THE CAST – Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Arielle Kebbel, Max Martini, Brant Daugherty, Luke Grimes & Rita Ora
THE TEAM – James Foley (Director) & Niall Leonard (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 105 Minutes
By Jessica Peña
What’s been advertised so cleverly as “the climactic end” is finally here. The third, and presumably last, installment to the “Fifty Shades” trilogy upholds that audacious, sexual spice that it’s promised its audience each time. Even with its glamorized tale of a relationship born out of a BDSM contract, the story is flack and fails to deliver critical redemption. Based on E.L. James’ widely popular erotic novels, “Fifty Shades Freed” follows Anastasia and Christian as they try to conform to married life.
We find our newlyweds (Dakota Johnson & Jamie Dornan) in the opening scene, as they’re just getting married and whisked away to a lavish honeymoon in Europe. While on their getaway, they’re told someone broke into Grey Enterprises and stole some of Christian’s personal files and fled. They rush back to Seattle to take care of things and stay on alert. Anastasia doesn’t want to feel restrained and always on watch, so of course, she sneaks out to get a drink with her best friend, despite having her bodyguard follow her around. This doesn’t put Christian at ease, and so a few raunchy penalties happen later.
“Why do you defy me?” Christian asks. “Because I can,” replies Anastasia, feeling a little nudge of self-empowerment as she is now ‘Mrs. Grey.’ We get a lot of that here. Tantalized talk, kinky punishments, and even a little fun with Ben & Jerry’s. Among all the foreplay, the film delves into some pretty serious matters this time around. “Fifty Shades Darker” left us in with unfinished business (Ana’s former boss, Jack Hyde, silently threatening to sabotage their lives from afar). In the final chapter, Jack Hyde makes his presence known and adds some very confusing action elements to the film. He goes as far as breaking and entering and puts a knife to Ana’s throat, demanding they give him his life back. In all actuality, we are just as confused as she may have been, for his motives aren’t known until the very end of the film. It casts a strange layer over the story and keeps that discomfort in hindsight throughout. Returning from the previous sequel, director James Foley, and writer Niall Leonard brings contradictions to a once decent plotline. There are subplots thrown into the mix that really were just there for dramatic appeal, and lends nothing more to the story at heart. It almost makes you wonder what kind of films they’d be if they had a woman in the director’s chair for the latter two films. Hmm…
“Fifty Shades Freed” isn’t for everyone. To put it bluntly, think “Twilight” chemistry but with sex toys. Think of it as 105 minutes of Rated R fan-fiction. Anastasia and Christian are so good at being alone and confined to their problems that they never really feel believable. Anastasia would act out, they’d say things with a glance, and it’s later consensually punished. It’d be nice to see this dynamic play with more grit and a better understanding of their own separate lives. Sadly, some things fall short.
Dakota Johnson reprises her role now as a more assertive Anastasia. In a scene where the couple meets a lovely architect to discuss house designs, she notices the woman making eyes at her husband, and then later puts her in her place. “Please stop speaking to my husband as if I weren’t here,” she says. It’s a spunky snapback, a well-deserved one, but just another antidote to the havoc that is this film as a whole. Johnson isn’t half bad as Ana. She deserves some credit in times when it felt like she was the only one on screen with a pulse and desire. While her character is the most lively of the two, it doesn’t make for much better dialogue. Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) is the billionaire husband who not only insists Ana changes her name at work but offers little to no real emotion. You could almost bet that when the strong and brave Christian Grey shed tears at the thought of losing Ana, it was an artificial mess. It’s all really so disposable to look at it. Yes, it’s as steamy as it’s always been, but Foley relies on a lot of in-your-face luxuries to keep the attention. It’s difficult to view these films and see a movie. It tends to be just a wild escape with no real payoff.
As titillating as ever, the “Fifty Shades” franchise can rest now with its music video-like montages to pop music, showcasing flashy scenery, spontaneous vacations, and expensive cars (With the exception of the rather cute last one, which ties it all up to the first film hit, Ellie Goulding’s ‘Love Me Like You Do’). “Fifty Shades Freed” manages to hold onto whatever creative chemistry was there between its two characters, but struggles to create even the slightest bit of effective storytelling. The plot in this one falls flat, even though it released some good chuckles here and there. To even think of this as a notable franchise is surely an acquired taste. Honestly, it ends on a high note for these two and showcases a foreseeable future, in lieu of any substance, where we see that the climax was worth it.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Surely won’t disappoint hardcore fans in the departments it delivers on.
THE BAD – Has a lackluster storyline to cap it all off, with irredeemable qualities throughout.