Consummation of Marriage
Fifty Shades Freed is directed by James Foley and is based on E.L. James' 2012 novel of the same name. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan return to reprise their roles from the previous two films. Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, and Marcia Gay Harden also star.
I have to commend the Fifty Shades trilogy on one thing: it is perhaps the first ever total trash trilogy, where every movie- not just one- every movie is complete and utter junk. Out of all the famous film trilogies to be conceived over the course of the 21st century thus far, I don't believe there has been one that is of such low quality as the film trilogy based on E.L. James' inexplicably best-selling Fifty Shades novels. Let me remind you that James' inspiration for writing these novels was her intense obsession with the movie Twilight and transforming that obsession into fanfiction. Because of how the novels caught fire back in 2011-2012, Hollywood naturally decided to put print to film, the first result being 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey, a perfectly awful movie that only had some respectable acting and decent cinematography going for it. 2017's Fifty Shades Darker, meanwhile, somehow turned out to be much worse, achieving the seemingly impossible goal of making sex boring and confirming that there would be no hope for E.L. James' controversial novels to successfully make it on screen.
The third and final installment comes in Fifty Shades Freed, which returning director James Foley treats like a miserable animal needing to be put down. Was there a reason this came out only one year after Fifty Shades Darker, whereas that movie came out two years after Fifty Shades of Grey? This is not an attempt to salvage whatever was left of the ongoing story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey; this is a rushed, "hurry up and get it over with" conclusion that everyone involved treats with clinical disinterest, except for Dakota Johnson, who is way better than these movies deserve. I do pray that these Fifty Shades movies will not end up defining Johnson's career, because I see a lot of great things for her down the road, and hopefully, we can look back on her time as Anastasia Steele as nothing more than an ugly scar on a career full of prestigious awards and well-deserved box office hits.
So, the plot of Fifty Shades Freed revolves around the newly wedded Anastasia and Christian Grey. The two share a wonderful honeymoon and continue their erotic, BDSM experiments. However, Christian continues to be controlling of Anastasia and refuses to let her do much of anything on her own without his approval. As the two struggle to keep their new marriage rolling along, Anastasia's old boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) resurfaces and begins to stalk them.
That's it? Yep, that's it. Returning screenwriter Niall Leonard once again fails to come up with anything resembling a plot, outside of perhaps the final 15-20 minutes in which the movie randomly turns into a thriller where something of at least a little significance is happening. Unfortunately, what we have here overall is a situation, not a plot. Fifty Shades Freed mightily struggles to make anything interesting out of Ana and Christian's new marriage problems, with practically everything that we see boiling down to Christian being a control freak who refuses to let his wife establish her own identity. How I wish this was all hilariously bad, but that's just too much to ask for with these movies.
- It's very tempting to declare that Fifty Shades Freed has no high points and deserves an F without a second thought. There was, however, one thing about the movie that I think is at least a little deserving of praise: Dakota Johnson is doing her best. What a weird ride it's been for her acting wise in this trilogy: she was trying in Grey, then she was not trying in Darker, and now she's trying again in Freed. I felt so bad for Johnson, watching her struggle to bottle up her disgust for some of the horrible lines that the screenplay required of her to spit out. What Johnson does best is bring some emotion to her most important scenes, mainly those in which she argues with Christian over him not letting her enjoy things without him around. My favorite scene of the whole movie was when Ana basically calls Christian out for being a man child who needs to grow up if he intends to be both a loving husband and a good father (Ana gets pregnant during the movie, just so you know). The acting done here by Johnson is the strongest by anyone during any scene in the movie, and based on the reasonable dialogue being spoken, someone must have stolen the script from Leonard for a little bit and wrote the scene for him. It's a genuinely pleasant moment in a movie overstuffed with unpleasant moments, and I am thankful for Johnson doing her best to wring whatever possible good could come out of the screenplay.
- Yeah, so about that screenplay by Leonard: it is a DISASTER. From awkward dialogue to a plot that has almost no substance whatsoever, Leonard makes no effort towards pumping some much needed blood into this lifeless carcass of a trilogy. Freed just goes from scene to scene without any sense of rhythm or flow, at times appearing to make something interesting happen, only to give up and return to its comfort zone of having Ana and Christian fight over something dumb, with a lousy sex scene every now and then to remind us, "Hey! Don't forget this is what you came to see!" There's an early scene where Christian surprises Ana by taking her to a new house that he bought. While the architect goes over the floor plan, she openly flirts with Christian, and when he walks away to take a phone call, Ana threatens to have the architect fired if she flirts with Christian again. Ana does not bring this up at all with Christian, and nothing is made of this potential subplot for the rest of the movie. One other classic scene I'll bring up: Ana decides to keep the last name 'Steele' in her work email, and this will not stand with Christian, who comes into Ana's workplace and berates her for not changing the last name in her email to 'Grey'. Something that could be resolved, say, over a text message, is instead made into a drawn-out scene that lasts a few minutes. Many other scenes are like that, by the way.
- I detest Freed's insistence on playing a horrible pop song during several scenes. All of the songs have lyrics that would cause ears to bleed, and they did nothing but take me out of the movie.
- Once again, James Foley shows no directorial interest in the sex scenes, but he's always been a bit handicapped trying to make them look racy, because Johnson and Dornan have no chemistry together whatsoever. Despite that hump that is impossible to get over, Foley settles for doing the bare minimum to make it appear like Ana and Christian are doing filthy things in bed, while at the same time, ensuring there's enough control over what is being shown to keep the targeted R rating intact. The closest any of these movies have gotten in regards to using sex to truly fuel the storytelling was Ana first learning of Christian's eccentric, sexual ways back in Grey, and even that was completely butchered. Much like in Darker, Foley directs the sex scenes in Freed more so because he's obligated to and not because he wants to. The sex scenes are just there as reminders of what made Ana and Christian's relationship so notorious in the first place.
We say all good things must come to an end, but this famous quote can apply to a lot of bad things as well. Rejoice, dear readers, because this very bad thing that is the Fifty Shades trilogy has finally come to an end, and it ends with the boring, not-at-all erotic, clumsily written mess that is Fifty Shade Freed. Dakota Johnson tries her best to inject life into this miserable final chapter in the trilogy, but her best efforts are in vain, as they are weighed down by a director who does not care for the sex scenes and a writer who is incapable of turning what is simply a situation into anything resembling a plot. Fifty Shades Freed is kind of right when it says "Don't Miss The Climax." The climax is realizing we don't have to sit through any of these terrible movies ever again.
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