Well, it’s that time again. The Fifty Shades franchise is back with its third installment, Fifty Shades Freed. The previous two films made boatloads of cash, practically begging Universal Studios to finish off the trilogy that many gave up on before the first film ever hit production.
Regardless, the third film is here whether you like it or not, so let’s see what happens. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: James Foley
Written By: Niall Leonard
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, and Eloise Mumford
Now married, Ana and Christian are excited to begin their lives together as a recognized couple — meaning that every one of Christian’s possessions is also Ana’s.
Shortly after their honeymoon, Ana returns to her job as the head fiction editor of a company in town. While things seem perfect between the newlyweds, the reemergence of Jack Hyde (Johnson) along with some other developments put their relationship in peril.
Despite still crushing it at the box office, Fifty Shades Darker made almost $200 million less than Fifty Shades of Grey, signalling that audience fatigue was mounting. Now, just a year later, the third installment has hit theaters.
Obviously, the franchise has come across serious derision from critics and audiences since the first movie hit theaters back in 2015, causing everyone to rip into author E.L. James for adapting Twilight fan-fiction into a trilogy of novels. In fact, hate has become so widespread that many critics have probably already penciled in an “F” grade or an equivalent score before they see the movie.
However, it’s important to continue to thoughtfully criticize or praise rather than stoop to incoherent shouting and hyperbole. Film criticism is about the dialogue that can take place about the film, not who can think of the greatest insult. After all, people who are just trying to earn a living worked on this film. Although it’s undeniably fun, I plead that all critics and fans make cogent responses to Fifty Shades Freed. Proper takedowns lead to change in the industry (in combination with box office receipts).
Now, let me explain why Fifty Shades Freed is downright terrible (cogently, of course).
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan Want to Leave this Franchise as Soon as Possible
It became clear after the release of Fifty Shades of Grey that neither Dakota Johnson or Jamie Dornan wanted to continue further with the franchise, and that feeling could not be more obvious in Fifty Shades Freed.
There is negative chemistry between the two leads as they sleepwalk through each scene. These two are clear professionals as they fulfill their contractual agreements, but there is no passion or love in their interactions. Both actors have monologues where they appear dead in the eyes — waiting for the film to end so that they can go home and sift through better projects in which to take part. Everything about their motions is cold and lifeless, failing to bring any personality to a film that sorely needs it.
Aside from their sexual encounters, these two are left to spout teenage-like dialogue about domination and frustration. Johnson and Dornan have both done solid work in the past, and you can feel their disapproval as they walk off camera. They’re better than this material, and they’d be the first people to say it.
Includes “Sexy” Scenes that Aren’t Sexy
Then it comes time for Johnson and Dornan to perform in the way that many look forward to when they see this movie, and it might be the most disappointing piece of the entire film.
There’s clearly some personal taste that goes into evaluating these sex scenes. But, in this critic’s humble opinion, they fail miserably. Sex scenes need great chemistry from the two characters performing the act. Otherwise, they comes off as hoaky and unappealing. In film, sex is more than just the act, it’s the culmination of overflowing emotions and two characters joining each other on the same path (or a diverging path, depending on the film). With such bland and weak characters, Fifty Shades Freed never meets this significance. Rather, the two leads have sex just to have sex, making comparisons to softcore porn apt.
Regardless of your feelings towards those remarks, the sex itself is less than appealing on a visceral level. With no chemistry and poor direction, Johnson and Dornan are left to passively engage each other. Their movements are forced and awkward, making it clear that they have no clue how to give off the feeling of pleasure. In combination with mistimed groans that never come close to simulating true feeling, the entire production feels staged. After thirty seconds of zero electricity, the camera merely cuts away to silly melodrama outside the bedroom.
Also, you’ll never look at vanilla ice cream the same way.
Fifty Shades Freed Has No Plot
The promotional material for Fifty Shades Freed exclaims “don’t miss the climax.” But, it’s very possible that you will miss the climax even if you see the film as it doesn’t appear to have one.
Like its predecessor, Fifty Shades Freed contains a laundry list of plot details that get solved in a matter of moments — there is no through-line to the plot. The film tries to include the reappearance of the Jack Hyde character as the main problem for Ana and Christian to handle, but that plot thread is fixed so quickly that you’re left wondering, “wait, that’s it?” It’s shocking that an hour and forty-five minute film contains so much fluff.
There are glimmers of what should be the plot to the film, but it decides instead to focus on the subplots of underdeveloped side characters — not to mention unnecessary vacations that the couple takes. In an attempt to faithfully adapt its derivative and clumsily written source material, motivation and logic are cast aside to make some semblance of a plot appear. You’re not fooling me, movie!
With such a flimsy structure, there’s nothing to get excited about in Fifty Shades Freed.
A folly of a film, Fifty Shades Freed brings one of the more hated trilogies to an end. The entirety of the film is centered on the relationship between Ana and Christian, and neither of the actors playing those characters have any interest in continuing the charade. Flimsy characters in combination with bad acting leaves the plot’s glaring issues even more pronounced — nothing of note happens in this film.
It’s easy to pound on Fifty Shades Freed by groupthink tendencies. But, putting biases towards the subject matter aside, the film just doesn’t work as constructed. The result is a trashy, plodding motion picture that never has heart or dramatic heft.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Fifty Shades Freed? Comment down below!
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