Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Fifty Shades Freed continues what you already expect from the series, and despite giving us better interplay among the leads, and reducing the amount of instances of overtly laughable dialogue, it can’t be “freed’ from its source material’s substantial weaknesses.  The most substantial among these weaknesses is its terrible subplots, including introducing kidnapping, extortion and potential murder, which seems more an attempt to go out with a bang rather than show us anything new or novel about the relationship between Ana (Dakota Johnson, How to Be Single) and Christian (Dornan, Marie Antoinette).

The red flag-addled Christian is still controlling and jealous (he can’t stand Ana showing too much skin while sunbathing, and goes into a tizzy when she decides to see her BFF for dinner without consulting with him first), but Ana has been more ready to stand up for herself than in the past (hence the movie’s title), though calling her truly independent seems only partially pushed. The story, what little there is of it, begins with the wedding and globe-hopping honeymoon of Anastasia and Christian Grey.  Life isn’t all peachy, though, as Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson, “Flash Gordon”), Ana’s former boss who was set up as the villain in Fifty Shades Darker, rears his ugly head yet again, trying to get revenge for being disgraced by taking own Christian and his billion-dollar empire.  Despite someone out to kidnap and/or kill them, the Greys end up discussing the fact that they are not – absolutely not – ready for having children, because they never had a discussion about their future at any time before they decided to pledge to be life mates.  This all means, of course, that someone is going to be kneeling and bowing, not in the Red Room, but in front of a commode, before the end of this film.

The storyline from the E.L. James’ novel tries to assert that Ana has found inner strength to be able to stand up for herself in the wake of Christian’s rampant jealous tantrums, though she seems to quickly revert to her old submissive self whenever her husband attempts to make a funny face at feeling like he’s losing control of the situation.  For instance, we’re supposed to believe that she has earned the right for a big promotion at work, for a book publishing company owned by her husband, and for which she has shown very little initiative, and has spent a lot of time away from actually doing.  That she’s some sort of idiot savant with a knack to see best-selling material we never see her reading is another aspect we’re supposed to swallow that she is worthy of being the boss.  She also gets to call the shots about how his home will look like, but he gets to choose the location of the new home, and the architect who will help them — and he gets to decide what power he will allow her to have to feel like she’s contributing.  He allows Ana to cut his hair — now that is an emancipated woman!

Her other signs of “independence” is is being openly reckless with her actions, despite knowing that she is a target of a psychotic lunatic, strictly because her husband is insistent that she be careful, and when she is in mortal danger, she doesn’t want her husband’s help, despite his insistence on having round-the-clock security following her, in deciphering a way out of jeopardy.  She is also willing to call out other attractive women for flirting with Christian in front of her, or in Christian seeing his ex-lovers for a heart-to-heart chat, because being independent apparently means being just as controlling as one’s spouse in jealousy.  In the end, she will still give Christian what he wants, but only if they talk about it to the point where he finds an excuse to take it out on her in an angry, sexual way for being a brat.

Of course, it’s all bend and no break between the two, as she continues to assert that she is with Christian (“You’re my whole life!”), and she will be compliant to just about every whim he might have in using her to get out his aggressions in the bedroom, and in the Red Room.  By the end of the film, the couple show “freedom” by settling into completely vanilla domesticity, albeit with billions at their disposal. Though the laughable lines might be reduced somewhat in the film, it still gave me quite the chuckle on occasion.  The biggest laugh happens toward the end, during a montage of the highlights of their courtship throughout the first two films, and one of those highlights is Christian working out on his home gym balancing himself on a pommel horse, as if that is one of the predominant factors as to why this man is worth being married to.

Perhaps the faintest of praise I can give Fifty Shades Freed is that it delivers exactly what fans of the first two films expect: sexy scenes of mildly kinky romance between two good looking actors, shot with maximum glamour amid opulent settings, all to the tune of some grind-worthy pop songs.  Any attempt to explore the relationship’s idiosyncrasies or the way that the couple must deal with their power plays is left by the way side, as E.L. James and screenwriter Niall Leonard would rather have us concentrate on their kinky sex, and distract us with a crime-thriller plot that tells us nothing more about them at all beyond what we already knew from the first entry.  The best thing that can be said about the film is that it’s the shortest of the three films in the trilogy.  As for the rest, since it reasserts its BDSM-friendly attitude in the last scene in the film, it’s a given that the Fifty Shades series will end with both a “whimper and a bang”.

Qwipster’s rating: D

MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Max Martini, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Bruce AltmanArielle Kebbel
Director: James Foley
Screenplay: Niall Leonard, E.L. James