All easy jokes and innuendo about climaxes aside, the final movie chapter in the “Fifty Shades” series, “Fifty Shades Freed,” should deliver to fans most of what they’ve been eager to see.
Beautiful locations, romantic complications, subplots, and yes, lots and lots of sex, some of it on the more risqué side – it’s all here, along with the fairy tale ending that readers of the book know is coming.
But for audiences who have managed to steer clear of these films for the last few years around Valentine’s Day, there’s no compelling reason to jump on board at this point, either. For better or worse, what you get in “Freed” is more of the same from the previous two films, especially last year’s “Fifty Shades Darker.”
What’s it about?
“Fifty Shades Freed” picks up where “Fifty Shades Darker” left off – with Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) enjoying a lavish wedding in front of friends and family, followed by an extravagant honeymoon in Europe.
But as the couple attempt to settle into their new situations as Mr. and Mrs. Grey, certain realities threaten to intrude on their marital bliss. On the outside, the most dangerous of these is Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s former boss and stalker, who harbors a mysterious grudge against Christian and is hellbent on punishing Ana for spurning him previously, as well as taking his job.
But within the lavish Grey home there are dangers, too. They may be married, but the newly minted Greys still are who they are – Christian secretive and controlling, Ana rash and naïve.
Even with the wedding behind them, they’ve got a long way to go to get to happily ever after, and because it’s the “Fifty Shades” series, they have to have a lot of sex along the way.
Perhaps the most valuable asset “Fifty Shades Freed” has going for it is director James Foley (“Fear”, “Glengarry Glen Ross”).
Foley, who also directed the previous film, shows a firm understanding of the appeal that fuels the fascination with these characters and their story. It’s pure romantic fantasy, and to bring that to life on screen he emphasizes the characters’ exhilarating experiences, both in and out of the bedroom.
Foley also manages to maintain the film’s pace to reflect the whirlwind nature of Ana and Christian’s romance while still giving screen time to the novel’s subplots and supporting characters. Some of those subplots are severely curtailed, which may disappoint some fans, but the cuts do serve to keep things moving along.
It’s also important to note that Johnson and Dornan have over the course of three films developed some on-screen chemistry, to the point where the film’s erotic scenes do actually generate a little sizzle. More importantly, those scenes don’t become tedious, and that’s important, because there are a lot of them.
Narrow audience appeal
But Foley can only do so much. For audiences who didn’t enjoy either of the first two films or who have been indifferent to the series thus far, there’s little to nothing present within “Fifty Shades Freed” that’s going to change those opinions.
The film’s adapted screenplay by Niall Leonard is as thin as it gets in terms of characterization and plotting. The thriller elements to the story as well as its “bad guys” feel recycled from cable TV and straight-to-video movies.
Also, arguably, the film resolves those elements too quickly. It’s as if Foley and the film’s producers and editors knew those plot beats are explicitly not why the audience is there, so they want to get them done and out of the way to move on to the next steamy bedroom/shower/car/kitchen table love scene.
Again, seeing “Fifty Shades Freed” on opening weekend is a no-brainer for the series’ devoted fans. No doubt, it’s been marked on the calendar and planned as a group outing for many, just as other franchise films’ upcoming entries have been for 2018.
For that audience, it’s very safe to say they’re going to get what they want, and in the end, that’s the goal of any niche-audience driven film: leave the target audience happy.
But if you’re not a fan and you had no intention of becoming one now by jumping on the bandwagon for the last lap of the race, stick to those plans. If the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon hasn’t won you over at this point, it sure isn’t going to do it with this entry.
Fifty Shades Freed
Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle and Marcia Gay Harden. Directed by James Foley.
Running time: 95 minutes
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.