The “Fifty Shades” trilogy reaches its climax in a loud, dumb, bombastic, and cartoonish manner that ironically makes it a mildly diverting ride in the trashy capacity that it’s been shooting for since the previous installment and thus making it the best of the series. For whatever that’s worth.
“Fifty Shades Freed” sees Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey adapting to married life while Anastasia’s previous boss Jack Hyde’s unnatural obsession with the couple turns him into a super villain that will resort to any extreme measure to break the two up from their fantasy relationship that turns darkly real when Christian is confronted by his wife with the information that she is unexpectedly pregnant.
If that all sounds like the synopsis of a week of daytime soap operas, it’s because that is exactly what it feels like watching the film play out.
“Fifty Shades Freed” is rife with relationship drama and tension occasionally playing out over the scape of bizarrely detached sex scenes that could be cut from the movie with absolutely no cohesive loss of narrative, easily making up a good 20 minutes of overall runtime, which is of course unsurprising.
The biggest problem with the “Fifty Shades” series cinematically speaking has been its awkward status as being pornography masquerading as mainstream narrative fiction.
Ignoring the actual intensity and kinkiness of the sex itself and its borderline insulting misrepresentation of the BDSM culture it appropriates for titillation, there’s no denying that its sole purpose of existing is for just that — titillation. Stripping the franchise of its sex draws attention to a story lacking any sense of plot or cohesive development, one-dimensional characters that couldn’t fill out an episode of an anthology series, and horrendously backward sexual politics glossing over issues of objectification and statutory rape that are bogglingly overlooked in an age that claims to be so progressive and liberating.
Despite having directors attached attempting to bring both introspective artistic eyes to practitioners of the BDSM concepts at play and a vision of popcorn trash unafraid to indulge in the sleaziness that it anticipates being branded as, this is what has sunken both of the previous films.
What little story is present is nonsensical on its own merits, while showing up for the sex is an exercise in futility because a mainstream theatrical release can’t explore that in the vivid detail it deserves. In essence, this series is fundamentally hurt by the fact that its own low-budget porn parody would probably be a more faithful and successful adaptation than the $150 million film trilogy currently existing.
Anybody three movies into this series by now knows what they’re after or knows why they hate it, and this one is unlikely to change anybody’s mind. It is nevertheless, however, a noticeable cut above the previous movies by sheer virtue of actually having a fully realized narrative attached to the film’s sexual escapades, which are among the tamest of the series but are shot with just a hint of higher atmosphere.
Jack Hyde’s turn into a kidnapping, assaulting, sexually battering psychopath may be extreme by any rational metric of story progression but it provides an element of actual adversity that prevents the movie from being anywhere near as mind-numbingly boring, while also being the epitome of unintentionally hilarious exaggeration for dramatic effect. Christian Grey’s adaptation to married life forcing him to drop his creepy possessive habits, which actor Jamie Dornan actually manages to sell with an almost tongue in cheek level of fish out of water frustration.
Ultimately, you as a viewer probably already know whether or not you’re going to both see and enjoy this movie, and whatever you expect to love or hate it “Fifty Shades Freed” is delivered in spades.
The only thing setting it apart from its predecessors is that in actually qualifying as a watchable movie this time around, the overall experience will be far less painful for the less inclined.
2 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.