FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018)
In my review of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, I wrote this: “Here’s the thing, not every movie I watch presents a worldview that I agree with or that I would ever consider acceptable for my life. This story fits squarely in that box. But the beauty of cinema is that it gives us an opportunity to peek into different lifestyles and perhaps even learn from them.” Now, with the culmination of this steamy series coming to theaters, I must say that my feelings remain the same. Throughout FIFTY SHADES GREY (and to a lesser extent in FIFTY SHADES DARKER), we see Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) exhibit agency. Unlike what some (who likely have not taken the time to actually see the films) will tell you, the submissive/dominant relationship at the heart of this series is consensual. It’s seeing this unusual power dynamic play out that makes for an interesting story, at least on some level. That being said, past films have plenty of problems, too. They aren’t great by any means, but they are entertaining enough. The trailers for FIFTY SHADES FREED point toward this final installment being more of an action thriller and I’m really hoping that excitement elevates this entry slightly above the rest.
1 Hour and 45 Minutes Later.
FIFTY SHADES FREED gave me exactly what I expected, and enough of what I wanted. Anastasia and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are now married, but along with the challenges of joint decision making they also are being dangerously stalked by someone who clearly has bad intentions. The stalking results in several action sequences and scenes of tension, but none of that works really well. If we’re being honest, though, this series isn’t trying to be a serious thriller with sex thrown in… it’s trying to be romantic soft-core porn with a better story. Frankly, despite the poorly filmed action in the film, it does in fact make the movie more interesting. Ultimately, the plot makes sense and I was pleased with the quick and realistic resolution to its climactic showdown.
The thriller aspect of this film, though, is really just there to carry us forward from sex scene to sex scene. There are lots of them in FIFTY SHADES FREED. There are good ones in FIFTY SHADES FREED. And there are a couple of real duds, too. I’d be perfectly happy if no movie ever used food in a sex scene again, that’s for sure. Regardless, thank goodness for buffer seats because I definitely got a little hot and bothered a few times. If that’s what you’re coming for, you should come away feeling relatively satisfied.
What I like most about the first film, and now this last entry, is the relationship dynamic between Anastasia and Christian. Ana is at her most dominant in this film and we see Christian having to come to terms with that. Never once has this series depicted abuse, and though its lifestyle is not one most are familiar with, for these two people it truly is how the show each other love. I was pleased with the ending and thought many may roll their eyes at it, the final act in this film is one of the most loving in the series.
This film could easily be called unintentionally funny, as well, but I’m not sure that’s true. Yes, it’s got some silly moments and plenty of groan-worthy dialogue, but this all results in a pretty hilarious experience and the funniest moments in the series. I think that’s the point. This is a romance novel on screen that embraces what it is and never apologizes. And isn’t that how it should be judged?
The FIFTY SHADES series is not for everyone, but those who enjoy the story from the books and/or the previous two film entries will probably like this too. The balance in relationship power elevates this film and though it doesn’t have the best action or most surprising thriller twists, it is engaging throughout and not overlong. With some laughs, steamy action, and a bit of heart, FIFTY SHADES FREED ends this series (just slightly) on its highest note.
Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.