FIFTY SHADES FREED
Director: James Foley
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Eric Johnson, Brant Daugherty, Arielle Kebbel, Max Martini, Tyler Hoechlin, Callum Keith Rennie, Marcia Gay Harden
MPAA Rating: (for strong sexual content, nudity, and language)
Running Time: 1:45
Release Date: 2/9/18
Review by Mark Dujsik | February 9, 2018
I guess it all ends with Fifty Shades Freed. In reality, the central story here ends during the opening credits, as Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) get married. It's a bit anticlimactic to start this final entry with that fact, since the whole series has been asking whether Anastasia will overlook Christian's numerous, creepy flaws and stay with him or wise up and do what she did at the end of the first movie—making the break-up stick this time, though.
For all of its allegedly kinky bedroom antics, these movies have been relatively traditional in their views on love and relationships. Yes, Anastasia isn't too bright, and Christian's red flags have red flags. They're a couple, though, and couples stay together through it all. Once the two wed, we're about as close to absolutely certain as we possibly can be that the idea of divorce will never cross their minds.
What does that leave this final installment to do? Well, the screenplay by Niall Leonard (based on E.L. James' book) basically has Anastasia and Christian arguing over the same things again, before making up and hopping into the sack, frolicking in the shower, getting it on in the front seat of a car, or playing with the toys in the billionaire's Red Room of Pain. We have seen this pattern between these characters so many times now. We're only left to be astonished at the continuing depths of Anastasia's naiveté, as well as her inability to see her now-husband for the man he actually, and of Christian's ability to turn normal relationship stuff into disquieting displays of his insecurity and characteristic abusiveness.
Here, for example, Anastasia is shocked to learn that her billionaire husband—who has repeatedly shown that he already owns or can buy just about anything—owns a private jet. She also decides that the best time to ask Christian if he wants to have children is after the two have married. One supposes the conversation never came up before this movie, given how often she has to yell at him for invading whatever little private space he allows her to have and to forgive him every time he does. His answer to the question of kids starts as a simple no, but of course, Christian has to expand on it. He offers that he doesn't want to share his wife with anyone, even a baby, which elevates his general creepiness to new levels.
We have assumed that at some point these movies were going to have to directly address Christian's wealth of psychological issues and how they translate into controlling behavior that seems detrimental to Anastasia's sense of self—let alone his own well-being. It had to happen, right? These movies ultimately would have to find some way to explain, rationalize, or even—in a worst-case scenario—justify Christian's attitudes and actions.
As it turns out, Leonard (and, by extension, James, one has to assume) has a different idea. Instead of looking deeper into either or both of these characters to help us understand why and how this relationship functions (beyond getting mad at each other and having sex to reconcile those deep-seated problems), the movie focuses on a side plot involving Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Anastasia's former boss whom Christian fired in the previous movie, and his plan to get revenge on the couple. If there's one way to sidestep the deeply discomforting dynamics of an abuser-enabler relationship, it's surely to fill the story with arson, a car chase, breaking-and-entering, an attempted kidnapping, a successful kidnapping, and a race against the clock to get a ransom to a specific location.
Why, it's almost as if these movies never really cared about the core components of this relationship. It's almost as if the uncomfortable dynamics between Anastasia and Christian were simply misguided attempts to add some drama to a story that really only cared about having some risqué sex scenes. It's almost as if the entirety of this series was nothing more than a repetitive soap opera that transparently pandered to wealth-based wish fulfillment, unhealthy ideas that an obviously bad guy can change under the influence of the right woman, and, naturally, a lot of sex fantasies.
In a way, this comes as a relief, if only because the series seemed poised to make some sort of definitive statement about this couple and why they're together. Fifty Shades Freed lets us see the whole enterprise as a dream of sorts. Now that it's finished, let us never speak of it again.
Copyright © 2018 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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