Release Date: February 9, 2018
Director: James Foley
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 105 Minutes
While this may be a controversial opinion, I think that Fifty Shades of Grey was a wildly entertaining movie. Sam Taylor-Johnson’s direction was endlessly campy and self-aware, making for a film that was much, much better than its source material. Unfortunately, she was replaced with James Foley for the final two installments of the series. Fifty Shades Darker was already a significant step down, showing how little substantial drama and conflict was left with this story.
However, it did confirm one thing about why anyone should ever watch these films: Dakota Johnson is a super star. This observation continues in the final film of the franchise, with Johnson showing that it will not take nearly as long for her cinematic rehabilitation as it took Kristen Stewart after Twilight. She isn’t able to save this film on her own, but it’s another piece of evidence that she has years of great acting ahead for her.
There’s little else in Fifty Shades Freed to justify its existence. The plot – if I can call it that – revolves around Ana’s (Dakota Johnson) old boss Jack (Eric Johnson) stalking and tormenting the newlyweds as they do all their newlywed activities. Eventually Christian’s old flame (Kim Basinger) also shows up to create more complications. However, most of these complications are merely pretext for the sexual escapades that audiences really showed up for.
Similar to the previous two films, the sex is tragically vanilla given the reputation of the books. The amount of straight missionary sex is actually kind of astounding, leading the “travel porn” in other sequences to be significantly more visually interesting and appealing for long stretches of the film.
But what really drags this film below its predecessors is how seriously it takes itself. There’s a point midway through the film where Christian serenades Ana with Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Rather than provoking romantic sighs from the audience, giggles erupted around me at the unintentional hilarity. This, on top of the already clichéd dialogue, makes Fifty Shades Freed one of the funniest films of 2018 so far.
The Fifty Shades franchise has been ridiculous from the start, but it used to be a fun kind of ridiculous. Sexy soundtracks overtop a mostly conventional romance novel was just enough to make one decent film, but after two more, I’m just glad that they didn’t split the final book into two movies.