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« IFMCA Nominations: Phantom Thread, The Post, and More... | Main | A quick look back at the Oscar Nominee Luncheon »
Friday
Feb092018

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

by Chris Feil

Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s romantic tale of trust and submission comes to a close with Fifty Shades Freed. Opening on their wedding ceremony, the couple still has quite a bit to reconcile before they truly land the fairy tale ending the genre promises. As Anastasia’s career flourishes, her stalker and former boss reemerges to threaten their relationship and the Grey family as well.

Things remain silly. There’s more sex this time around but its handily the least titillating of the three films by good margin. There are car chases, sudden violent attacks, a kidnapping plot, and of course lots of pseudo-kinky coitus to be seen, because the series is nothing if not delightfully ludicrous. This time however is a more snoozy bit of outlandish.

You would kind of miss this affably goofy series had this closer not buffed itself into beigeness. As the saga has become old news, this third installment has a passably brisk delivery that plays more as obligation than enthusiasm. While it’s not uncommon for these b-level franchises to run out of gas at their finish line, Freed is particularly lifeless. Even as the film slightly leans into comedy territory, its milquetoast rendering has little interest in keeping things lively and decidedly free of real guts. This series may have produced some unabashed laughable turns, but the flat Freed proves those moments to be the trilogy’s greatest source of delight by being nowhere near as fun.

The trilogy’s lurching pacing has made for three rather amorphous films. Conflicts still arise and deflate at breakneck speed and then are dropped entirely. Again, Christian and Anastasia’s courtship plays like an extended clip reel for a television show, a disembodied array of peaks and valleys without forward trajectory. Freed has less distractions and needless subplots than its predecessors, yet has the flattest narrative arc. No matter the clunkiness that has come before this, you’ll wish for more of a swing for the fences of wildness.

The most prominent of the film’s perversions is never its sexual goings on, but the fetishization of luxury living and glossy materialism - and even this is limited in its ability to delight. Its consumerist streak is on bland display, its faux taste resulting in expensive-looking but sterile production design that underlines its lack of imagination and empty fantasy. The opening wedding sequence is more breathy Zales ad than swoony happily-ever-after fantasy the audience demands. Without the motivation to make Freed a fun indulgence for the audience, its globe-trotting and interior design pageantry come off more as Restoration Hardware catalogs and tourism pamphlets. Visit Aspen. Discover: France.

But perhaps the most dire of Freed’s proceedings is its steadfast assurance of the heteronormative nuclear unit. Its peak drama is Anastasia’s sudden pregnancy, drawing cliched abhorrence from Christian and reductively gendered response from Anastasia. The series is at its most cringey when its archaic gender roles reveal what a dated enterprise the supposedly transgressive story is, and Freed is the greatest offender.

As ever, the series’ greatest asset is the game and confident performance by Dakota Johnson as Anastasia. Say what you will about the unrealistic characterization that Johnson is tasked with, but the actress consistently pulls off the feat of making Anastasia believable despite the silliness around her. As with the past films, her performance is witty and diverts some of the nonsense she speaks, making the character’s sexual interplay and discovery more engaging than the film wishes it to be. Dornan however remains a cold fish onscreen.

Ending in a montage of the series highest drama and most romantic moments, Freed ends with a reminder that its closer was its most forgettable chapter. This climax is a fake out.

Grade: D

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Reader Comments (10)

Don't miss the climax? Should've told the filmmakers, who clearly didn't get their own memo.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I'm so sad for Kim Basinger whenever I see her in the promos. She deserves better than this.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

I have a hard time believing anything could be as snooze-inducing than Fifty Shades Darker.... but then, Freed was the only one of the books I didn't read, since the ending of Darker promised only annoying things to come, and I had already heard about the big climactic sex scene, which prompted fits of laughter.

That said, I'm still most likely going to see this just for Dakota Johnson, who is just superhumanly great in this role.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

DAVID - Was she in the promos?? She was definitely cut out of the movie then.

Unless she's randomly somewhere in the opening wedding scene, a la Jennifer Ehle only being spotted in one background shot lol

February 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

Chris F- oh wow maybe they cut her out?

She is listed in the cast:

"Fifty Shades Freed, R — Anastasia and Christian get married, but Jack Hyde continues to threaten their relationship. Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Kim Basinger, Eric Johnson, Marcia Gay Harden."

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDAVID

Wow, so possibly the only reason to even consider seeing this (Basinger) might have been cut? Oh well *closes utorrent*

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBee

I just watched the trailer and Basinger is DEFINATELY in the trailer!

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Good time at the screening Chris! Some of the humor surprised me, but this is still a bad film mainly cause the source material is so awful. At least they got through these quickly instead of dragging them over 6 or so years.

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMovieManJackson

And Jamie Dornan still doesn't show penis I bet and Dakota Johnson still acts like a desperate bitch like in the last film?

February 9, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Fifty Shades trilogy sucks soooo bad...DORNAN , given the right material (The Fall) is really compelling , DAKOTA is a fine actress, even here she manages to do something watchable ( and Anastasia is really a boring character) as for BASINGER....oh , please someone just offer her something juicier, last time it happened was a good 10 years ago with THE BURNING PLAIN , great performances from her and Charlize Theron which made me think that both were looking like racing certs for the year's awards season.

February 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

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