The “Fifty Shades of Grey” films are a bit of a beauty to behold. They’re movies with talented filmmakers and actors working on them, and yet somehow are some truly horrendously written films adapted from truly awful source material. It’s the sole reason the films are so bad, as they’re all wonderfully shot, and as well acted as they can be given the circumstances, but the films are simply so poorly written that it’s hard to push through them as anything but unintentional comedy. I’ll be honest in saying that the first film isn’t truly horrible, as it definitely has more enjoyable elements than its sequels, and is generally better directed than the others, as well as the simple fact that the novelty of the film has worn off at this point. I can get a good kick out of the first one. The second film I also gave a 3/5 to on enjoyable grounds, even if the film would’ve been a 1.5/5 out of context. Here, in its finale, which I’m honestly surprised wasn’t split up into two parts, will not take that into consideration.
Starting at their wedding, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) transforms into Anastasia Grey after marrying handsome billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Their rocky relationship has taken them up and down in a sea of nearly constant, kinky, BDSM sex. Now, after marriage, the two must learn to reconcile their differences about the visions they have for their lives, as well as handling the dangerous situation of Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) from the previous film.
This movie sucks, but of course it does. Expecting any sort of turnaround for the series at this point is useless, and all I look for in these films is enjoyability, which in the same, sick way, it succeeds at. What I appreciated most about “Fifty Shades Freed” is just how batshit crazy it can get to be sometimes. It’s kinda crazy just how far the film goes here to A. advance any sort of plot, and B. add things that should be romantic, but completely miss the mark at. It’s a film made for a certain audience, but it simply assumes that the demographic at hand here is so stupid it’s hard to take anything seriously. It’s hard to really respect a film that views its audience as so low, but it does provide another audience with some other, less intended entertainment.
And on one hand, I can’t really fault much about the actual film. Sure, the performances, despite being as good as they can be, are wooden and lacking chemistry, but it’s hard for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” films feeling like anything less than just a group of studio executives really trying to get some deeper pockets on a trash phenomenon. The fact that some up and coming actors got caught in the crossfire of trying to expand their careers is simply the collateral damage involved through it.
Johnson is actually not too bad in the film, even if her character is generally bland and insufferable. Dornan, however, has always rubbed me the wrong way as Christian, not due to his acting, but solely from Christian being one of the most unappealing male leads in recent memory. He’s not charming, he’s not sexy, nor is he sexually attractive; he’s abusive, controlling, manipulative and generally an asshole to Ana all the time. Of course, it’s never physical abuse that isn’t consensual, but his control over Ana’s life isn’t cute, it’s scary, and while sometimes I have to wonder why Ana cries so fucking much with her perfect life, I can only imagine how frustrating it is so much.
Directed by “Fifty Shades Darker” helmer James Foley, these films are attractive as ever, with polished, cold cinematography that accurately reflects the stark beauty of Seattle. Aesthetics have never been this series’ low points, in fact, they’re always some of the best parts of this series, from Seamus McGarvey’s wonderfully gorgeous cinematography on the first film to John Schwartzman’s take on the material, the films have always been beautiful. Even Universal’s cash-grab of releasing the first and third film in IMAX theaters is a bit of a payoff, as the film’s really do pop on such a big, high-detail screen.
But the writing…dear god. I almost can’t even fault the screenwriters for the sheer tripe they have to work with from E.L. James’ eponymous novels. It’s an unintentionally hilarious blend of terrible dialogue, strange romantic cues that come across as creepy, occasional (and off-putting) moments of humor, all tied together by a sense of such distant understanding of how the world works that episodes of “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” had more realistic depictions of how the world works than this film does. Ana and Christian never work, their lives consist of nothing but sex, leisure and vacations, but there’s nothing literally threatening them except for ridiculously forced plot points and strangely inconsistent relationship troubles that should’ve been discussed long before the events of this film happened. This film is more of a fantasy film than “Star Wars.”
“Fifty Shades Freed” might be the film in the series with the most sex, as the previous installment, didn’t have as much as the original. As a gay man, it’s certainly hard to connect with any sort of heterosexual sex on screen, but even from an objective standpoint, these scenes aren’t sexy. They’re sleazy, weird, oddly off-putting and incredibly forced. I have no idea why these characters fornicate so much, as if they’re part rabbit. It seems that every other scene in this film has to be some sort of sex scene for no good reason other than to extend the film’s runtime longer than it already is.
What can I really say here? There isn’t much to this film that wasn’t in the previous two. It’s a contrived piece of Twilight fan-fiction that’s just as unintentionally hilarious as it sounds. That’s where the film works the most, but beyond that, the films are glossy, pretty films with no substance beyond some explicit sex scenes that are the complete opposite of attractive. It’s as attractive and as funny as ever, but the novelty of these films wore off a long time ago, making audiences further wonder just why we’re still supposed to care? Not that we ever really did, but without any investment into the well-being or even just an odd fascination into how these strangely inhuman characters operate, you lose both the interest of the middle-aged women who are there for the slightly-less-than-vanilla sex, as well as the hyped up college students there to laugh at it. “Fifty Shades Freed” doesn’t take long to get the second group back into the game, which might give the film a 3/5 on the enjoyment level, but after a while, it just sort of wears off for everyone.
Directed by: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johsnon, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Max Martini, Jennifer Ehle, Arielle Kebbell, and Marcia Gay Harden.
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.
Also available in Dolby Cinema and IMAX.
Universal Pictures presents, in association with Perfect World Pictures, a Michael De Luca production, a James Foley film, “Fifty Shades Freed”