Movie Review: ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Releases Viewers from Trilogy of Bondage

Movie Review: ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ Releases Viewers from Trilogy of Bondage

As (spoiler alert) Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) walk into the sunset holding hands, with a child by their feet and another on the way, what began as an interesting look at the kinds of sexual practices rarely-seen in big screen blockbusters has turned into the kind of compendium of hoary old cliches about male-female relationships that went out of style in the 1950s. 

The Fifty Shades trilogy has come to a merciful close, and viewers everywhere who have been roped into seeing these films are breathing a sigh of relief.

Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, was at least a dedicated account of the oft-derided E.L. James source material that transitioned some serious-minded adult material into a big-screen blockbuster, and mined the relationship between its protagonists for all it was worth.

But Fifty Shades Darker, which seemed to negate everything that made the first film interesting while adding almost nothing to the overall story, might have been the worst film that I had the pleasure of seeing at the cinema in 2017.

And Fifty Shades Freed is worse than that. Significantly so.

I’m at a loss to describe the plot of the movie. Ana and Christian are now happily married, and feature in no less than six sex scenes during the course of the first half of the film. 

But no more funny stuff: the bondage business has been (mostly) left behind, and what we get here is standard missionary work that's less sexy than ‘90s Cinemax softcore. Johnson’s writhing nude body is still more than we usually see at the multiplex, though the camera stops panning when it gets to the tuft of pubic hair atop Dornan’s crotch.

There has to be a plot here, right? Ana doesn’t want to take hubby’s name at work. Christian gets upset. Ana stays out late without calling. Christian gets upset. Rinse and repeat, but here’s the gist of it: Ana doesn’t do anything remotely wrong, and Christian is a giant man-baby jerk anyway, whose emotional manipulation of his wife is far more frightening than anything he does the bedroom. 

Oh, and Ana’s sleazebag ex-boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) is still lurking in the shadows, hoping to inject this film with anything resembling a story. This leads Christian to hire a laughably inept security detail for his extended family.

Of all the Fifty Shades films, Freed is the one that has been appreciated most as a comedy, and the unintended laughs in my half-full cinema were frequently enjoyed by all. Dornan’s goofball performance and monotonous line readings got the brunt of it; after two films of this stuff, the poor guy seems to have thrown up his hands here. It’s hard to believe this is the same actor who portrayed Czechoslovak war hero Jan Kubiš in Anthropoid

Johnson, meanwhile, continues to give it her all and seems to come out unscathed: she’s the real-deal star here and the only thing holding these films together, and can hopefully look forward to brighter projects in the future. 

But after seeing what could be done with the material after the first film, director James Foley (who, in a different life, made At Close Range and Glengarry Glen Ross) would seem to deserve most of the blame for what these past two features have unleashed on audiences. There’s a cynical quality to his work here that bleeds through the screen.

If you’re new to the franchise and interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, by all means check out the first film in the trilogy but take pity on yourself and proceed no further.

Movie Review: ‘The Shape of Water’ Drowns in Artiface

Movie Review: ‘The Shape of Water’ Drowns in Artiface

Spanish Film Fest La Película Begins Today in Prague

Spanish Film Fest La Película Begins Today in Prague