Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Max Martini, Brant Daugherty, Arielle Kebbel, Fay Masterson, Luke Grimes, Eloise Mumford, Rita Ora, Marcia Gay Harden, Tyler Hoechlin, Hiro Kanagawa
Director: James Foley
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Rating: R for The Usual T&A, Sometimes Involving Ice Cream, Plus a Climactic Gunshot
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Fifty Shades Freed is just as boring as the rest of the Grey/Steele saga, and the whole S&M hook has ceased to be a big deal ever since the first entry was released. It’s not like it was ever that big a deal in the first place, though enough people were titillated by the promise of transgression to result in a phenomenon. But now that the aftershocks are nowhere near as explosive, what is the point? With Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Ana (Dakota Johnson) comfortably married, the whole frisson of inappropriateness is eliminated, and all Fifty Shades Freed has to fall back on is a fairly boilerplate tale of revenge and kidnapping.
The troubles that apparently drive the action involve Ana’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson), who blames her for his firing, so he resorts to stalking to exact his revenge. There is never any tension that suggests that Jack will not be dispatched by the end or that it makes it thrilling at all in the moment. From a narrative standpoint, it exists, I guess, so that Christian can save Ana, thus solving any and all current and future marital troubles. Because the thing is, the struggles between the two of them have little to do with the parameters of their kinkiness and everything to do with emotional maturity or lack thereof. Christian is overly controlling and protective, and hilariously unprepared for the prospect of being a father. I worry about the long-term viability of this union, not because a possibility for abuse, but rather because any fundamental compatibility is just not there, and the shallow picture-perfect ending cannot convince me otherwise.
While the sex scenes are essentially window-dressing at this point, they are still the main attraction (along with the luxury travel porn). There is certainly some excitement to being in a crowded theater as the camera almost zooms in on a hardcore reveal. But if you are going to venture out to see this sort of action instead of pulling it up on your computer, there ought to be some romance leading up to it. But the two leads have just never managed to summon any significant chemistry. Johnson is perpetually unsure what kind of movie she is in, alternating playing it straight with occasionally venturing a mildly subversive line reading that would fit a version of this movie that makes fun of itself. Dornan, meanwhile, sleepwalks through the whole thing. Arielle Kebbel, as an architect who gets a little too flirty with Christian, is the only one to zero in on a satisfyingly campy tone, but she is barely utilized. All this confusion is inherent to a traditional center attempting to be transgressive.
Fifty Shades Freed is Recommended If You Like: Porn Minus the Romance, Melodramatic Revenge Plots
Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Boobs in Boobland