“Fifty Shades Freed” Falls Flat

I’m not sure exactly what I expected from seeing “Fifty Shades Freed,” the terminating movie in the notable Fifty Shades trilogy originally written by E.L. James. This final installment of the series was directed by James Foley and written by Niall Leonard, with barely passable performances by Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, the five most vanilla names I have ever had to type in succession.

In a nutshell, the film was dreadful to the point where I was cackling at the misfortunes of the main characters. I believe this film to be a narrative of escapism for sad old straight white people. However, having seen neither of the previous movies or read any of the books, I can honestly say that seeing this movie was a worthwhile expenditure of $8.50, if only to get a glimpse of the franchise that drives so many old white ladies bonkers. 

Before I begin this review, I should include a disclaimer. If you like the “Fifty Shades” franchise, good on ya! People are allowed to like whatever they want, and if these things bring you entertainment then all the better. I’m going to dissect this movie and go way deeper than is at all necessary, because I think it’s absolutely goofy. With that being said-

Seeing a “Fifty Shades” movie in theaters was an experience all by itself. My lovely roommate and I shared the theater with a very large group of old couples, who talked back to the screen and narrated the movie the whole time as though they were the only people in the theater. On the upside, they provided me with some background info on the previous films that I would not have had otherwise, as a Fifty Shades novice. Their presence really created a unique environment. In addition, I love the New Paltz cinemas, and any other place that smells vaguely dusty and sells old posters. 

The first of my many qualms with this movie is the acting. The Fifty Shades series focuses on Christian Grey (Dornan), an eccentric, kinky billionaire, and his underling-turned-wife Anastasia “Ana” Steele (Johnson). Christian Grey seems like Batman, if Batman weren’t a superhero, but instead was one of those goldfish with really giant googly eyes, and it seems to me like the guy hates women. The movie kicks off with their wedding, after which it quickly becomes clear that their relationship is not a healthy one. 

Perhaps Dornan and Johnson’s lackluster performances are hindered by Leonard’s prosaic dialogue. It seems like their characters must have done really poorly on the SATs, so it’s good that they have Grey’s inherited wealth. The dialogue is often so stunted and awkward that I found myself cackling. 

One thing I was unaware of is that the series includes a crime element surrounding Ana’s former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who the couple spends the majority of the movie battling. This battle includes many car chases, a kidnapping and even *gasp* Christian and Ana having to cut short their honeymoon! Christian uses this conflict as a way to restrict Ana in ways that dictate an unhealthy relationship, such as controlling her time and movement “for her safety.” 

Another thing that disappointed, but did not surprise me, was the unhealthy relationship dynamic between Ana and Christian. The two are constantly quabbling about literally everything, and they are both constantly worried that the other is being unfaithful to them. Christian also seems to want to curtail Ana’s freedom to like, be her own person. He doesn’t even want her to hang out with her friends. Christian seems wholly disinterested in Ana’s happiness, and a big part of the plot of the movie is him not wanting to have a child with her. Basically, who asked for this THIRD movie about rich, straight white people’s gross, dependent relationship? 

As for the sex scenes, they were fine. They took up far less of the movie than I had expected. 

Anyways, “Fifty Shades Freed” often felt reminiscent of a car commercial, but one where the salesman leapt through the screen, put the audience in a chokehold and screamed “BUY AN AUDI!” into their respective faces. But seriously, they were driving cars, standing by cars and having sex in cars so often that the sponsorship felt inescapable. 

In terms of cinematography, the movie basically looked like a Restoration Hardware cataloge. Everything was either shiny or faux-rustic. It was kinda just gross in terms of excess. 

The music was fine, it was mostly Ellie Goulding-type bubblegum pop music. Not my thing, and not particularly fitting to a storyline I didn’t find uplifting at all.  

My favorite part of the film was it’s astounding number of dramatic montages; they opened and closed the movie, and with several spliced throughout the plot. How many montages does one need of rich people doing rich people stuff set to “Love Me Like You Do?”

To wrap up this totally nuanced and not at all unfavorably biased review, “Fifty Shades Freed” was pretty weak. James and Foley do not create a relatable or compelling storyline, but instead develop a somewhat effective comedy through the story’s sheer ridiculousness. There was so much more to the plot than I had expected, and it was mostly pretty laughable. At every turn, Christian and Ana encounter difficulty due to their vast wealth and privilege, as well as their insecurities about their new marriage. Can’t relate. 

In conclusion, it’s 2018! The top-selling romance movie should be way more interesting than this! Go see it for a laugh, though. Or, like, see a good movie.