- Product Rating -

Fifty Shades Freed

| February 10, 2018

And just like that, with a dribble of hot oil to the chest and a glorified feather duster to the thighs, one of the most cringe-inducing romance series to ever grace pop culture is over. In a weird way, I’m kind of sad about that. Some of the best treasure is trash that makes little to no sense, and the second movie in this God-forsaken fan fiction franchise was one of the funniest movies of 2017. In fact, it was one that I actually showed to friends because of how gobsmackingly stupid it was. But now, while the many flaws are still present—both narratively and ethically—the Fifty Shades franchise has jumped the shark even in terms of ironic enjoyment. The last installment simply exists for 105 minutes without any joy or humility. “Don’t miss the climax,” the ads declare. What climax? Fifty Shades Freed falls flat of even reaching a plateau, just flailing around on the floor instead.

The film opens with Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) getting married. Given that the two have already bickered, cried, and had enough boring make-up sex to pass for married anyways, their newfound domestic life isn’t much of anything new to the audience. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be much of anything new to the characters themselves. According to fan fiction writer-turned novelist E. L. James, marriage between these two characters equals a bevy of kidnappings, extortions, denials of sexual assault allegations, and other matters. It would seem as if even the filmmakers got bored by what was ostensibly titillating about the preceding entries, instead going full-on Lifetime movie with no real rhyme or reason for the madness.

The fatal flaw of a story already predestined for failure is banality in filmmaking, which is evident here. James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross) directed Darker as well as Freed, and while his first contribution here had laughs to spare at its own expense, his work here is thoroughly flat even if it has a few more aspects that are closer to being “good”. The issues here are matched by the writing, which obviously has never been good at all, but at least was so stupid that it was hard to believe that so much of it actually was real. Niall Leonard, husband of James, returns to screenwriting duties after adapting his wife’s work with the previous entry, and the result feels like a writer fulfilling an obligation more than anything else. Fifty Shades Freed is simply boring with no real ebb or flow, so disinterested in itself that it doesn’t even really have any ending but instead a montage of scenes from the franchise set to “Love Me Like You Do”, as if anyone needed or asked for that.

This is all matched by the actors, who demonstrate even less investment in the material than before. Johnson has shown herself to be charismatic elsewhere, but these movies have always made her to be Bella Swan times ten, a tradition that continues here. Similarly, Dornan still comes off as a doorknob with the emotional intelligence of a third grader. The chemistry between the two has improved, but it’s only better in that they now look apathetic instead of like their mutual presence makes them want to throw up everywhere. What romance.

The most that one can hope for here is an occasional chuckle to punctuate the nice production design, which seems to inhabit more personality than either of the leads. If you’ve for whatever reason demonstrated any investment in this franchise thus far, then you surely aren’t reading any of these words, and that’s fine. But feel free to ogle at the unrealistically quaffed characters who live in a universe wherein everyone is either as one-dimensional as a pin point or fully entrenched in an abusive relationship. Feel free to indulge in a lifestyle where a woman’s dream job is just telling others to make a font size two points bigger. Because if this franchise has taught us anything, it’s that you can simply look at something and declare admiration for it, at which point it will become yours.

About the Author:

Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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