A glorified lingerie ad, a dangerous portrayal of BDSM relationships, Twilight fanfiction, badly written tosh – there are many things you could say about the Fifty Shades franchise. Another? Over.
Yes we’re finally at the finish line and Fifty Shades Freed attempts to cap off a commercially successful but critically mauled series that has given couples and single women something to do for the past three Valentines Days. Let’s face it, discussing whether this film is good or not is a fool’s errand and, for that matter, not really the point.
There’s no beating around the bush at least, as we begin with the much-hyped wedding followed by the most vanilla honeymoon ever committed to screen. For a film about kinky sex there sure is a lot of missionary going on, but then Freed is perhaps the least sexy of the trilogy.
As everyone’s probably aware by now, E L James’ books were based originally on characters and scenarios from the Twilight series. The metaphor is that Bella can change a bad boy (vampire) like Edward, and Ana can change a bad boy (actual sadist) like Christian. In this version, of course, Jacob is a weird murder bro who spends the film trying to kidnap Ana and blackmail Christian for $5 million.
That’s the extent of the plot. The couple get married and Jack Hyde continues to pursue them. TV’s Brant Daugherty hangs around as Ana’s personal bodyguard getting more and more frustrated, and Rita Ora gets tied to a chair in a non-fun way. Speaking of cameos, Tyler Hoechlin aka Superman has a scene.
It really doesn’t help that both Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Fanning) are insufferable. At one point they text each other about the sex they had the previous night while laying together on sun loungers. They argue about the same things they’ve been arguing about for three films and, despite us being repeatedly told that Ana is an independent woman in control of her own decisions, she still gives in to every demand after a courtesy rebuttal.
We’re also supposed to believe that they didn’t bother to discuss kids before they walked down the aisle. To be fair to Christian (the only time I’ll be doing that), if Ana really wanted children then maybe she shouldn’t have married an emotionally stunted sadist who is constantly being stalked?
When they’re not being awful to each other or dodging the personal security they hired, they’re having extremely bland sex. More so even than the first two films, these scenes seem cut in after the film was made – having nothing to do with the plot and really just making the film longer than it ever needed to be. If they were better done, more risque or interesting, Fifty Shades Freed might justify its existence.
Grey and Darker both benefited from vague discussions about whether Christian was a psychopath or just misunderstood (the former). There’s none of that here – Ana is in for the long haul and the behaviour that would get the average husband a restraining order is simply overlooked as a minor misdemeanor. If you haven’t done the impossible and bought into this love story yet, it’s a maddening watch.
However, there are two moments that almost make the whole thing worthwhile. The first is the badass female bodyguard repeatedly punching Hyde in the face, and the second is Jamie Dornan’s face when he’s forced to sing a Lonestar song, possibly while mentally calling his agent.
Despite nods to feminism never followed through on, the overwhelming message of the Fifty Shades series is that you should be loyal and obedient to your husband, or you might get kidnapped by that boss who once sexually assaulted you. If that happens, of course, it’s absolutely your fault.
There were moments in all three of these films where I thought the author and filmmakers at least meant well. There’s always a place in cinema for trashy erotic thrillers, and people like this series, so who was I to criticise it? Freed came very close to changing my mind on that, if for nothing else than how boring and derivative of other properties it is.
The series is supremely problematic, as the kids say, and gives pretty much every genre it straddles a bad name. Great soundtrack though.