The Austin Chronicle

Fifty Shades Freed

Rated R, 105 min. Directed by James Foley. Starring Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Bruce Altman, Arielle Kebbel, Robinne Lee, Brant Daugherty, Marcia Gay Harden, Kim Basinger.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Feb. 16, 2018

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re all in for this final chapter of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and her paramour, the troubled, kinky, and endlessly rich Christian Grey (Dornan) and that red room of his. You’ve devoured the novels and their offshoots; you’ve made this series of poorly written fan-fic an astronomical amount of money. You made Melanie Griffith embarrass her daughter at the Oscars and you basically painted Dornan in a corner to the point where he can’t hold literally one single press interview without describing what a horrible experience it all was. Well, congratulations, I hope you’re happy with what you have wrought: calculated marketing in the guise of entertainment.

Nothing new, I know, but this particular franchise feels especially suspect in its intentions. It’s all vapid wish-fulfillment with a saucy soundtrack and the tamest (and lamest) sex scenes this side of a sultry reading of the ingredients of a randomly selected household cleaner from under the sink. But, you’ve made it this far, and you should take some satisfaction in that, but just so you know, everyone hates you for it.

Maestro, please: There’s a montage of the couple’s marriage over the opening credits before we’re whisked away to the sun-baked beaches of an idyllic honeymoon on the Mediterranean, where Christian frets about Ana’s adoption of the tenets of a topless beach. As we know, he has control issues (where’s Armie Hammer when you need him?) but the proceedings are interrupted by news of a saboteur mucking around and blowing up Christian's servers or something. That saboteur is none other than Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s ex-boss who vowed revenge in the last film and has secrets of his own. He lurks in the shadows until a third-act kidnapping revives what little life there is of the film into some semblance of actually being a movie. And that’s the fundamental problem with this film: Nothing happens. As a fiction editor at a publishing house, we are treated to scenes where Ana is scolded by her husband for not changing her work email address to her newly married name, and her editorial notes consist of “make the font size two points bigger.” Interspersed are some sex scenes that feel like they put a bunch of 12-year-old boys into a focus group and gave them a copy of 9½ Weeks for reference.

This is the romance saga of a woman who falls in love with an emotionally damaged billionaire manchild and sets out to heal him, a trope of romance novels for ages. The Fifty Shades trilogy is an incredibly inept addition to the genre, with padded scenes, no narrative spark whatsoever, and silly coincidences about Christian's troubled past that stand in for revelations that may lead to mending. The biggest takeaway from the film is that the American foster-care system has failed us all. And that’s super sexy.

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