Review: Fifty Shades Freed (2018)

Fifty Shades Freed sees the bafflingly huge Fifty Shades phenomena reach its climax, the results being groaning bemusement instead of wailing excitement.

Throughout the legacy of cinema, there have been phenomena that have just caught fire with the audience and proved to be 24-carat box office gold. Star Wars, James Bond, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Transformers, the list goes on and on. However, among all these hit franchises and brands (often based on a previously existing property), arguably one of the most curious is Fifty Shades, the erotic drama/thriller franchise based on the highly successful if polarising book series by E. L. James. Now, as we arrive at the end of this trilogy, is Fifty Shades Freed a conclusion the feverish fanbase deserves or is it just further punishment? Well, what do you think?

This final instalment sees Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) tie the knot and adapt to a more standard life, outside of their BDSM kinks, as husband and wife. Though a dark reminder of their past resurfaces in Anastasia’s unhinged former boss Jack (Eric Johnson), who obsessively stalks the couple, as their marriage also faces some turbulence. Essentially this main plotline of the pair being haunted by their past is little but window dressing (as is the much publicised eroticism) to a bland and superficial drama that is frankly much ado about sod all.

This largely sexless, massively toothless and near plotless film is just another excuse for a big heap of wealth porn, as we are encouraged to gaze jealously (or not) at the private seaside getaways, top of the range yachts and leather red room interiors and think, “doesn’t it all look rather nice”. To be fair cinematographer John Schwartzman once again works overtime tottery and make it all look pleasant but his work is rendered largely useless by the deficiency of anything to connect to and shallow characters.

At this point Johnson and Dornan may still be trying to do what they can but the roles seem to have worn down the two, who will undeniably move on to bigger and better and leave this red faced over-publicised naughtiness behind. As for the supporting cast, there are no memorable characters at all, with Johnson’s “baddie” being so forgettable that when he shows up for the laughably spontaneous and easily resolved (kick, kick, bang and done) narrative payoff at the end, it takes a moment for you to remember he is actually supposed to be an integral part of the film. There are also turns by the likes of Eloise Mumford, Luke Grimes and Rita Ora, who are there to either go on holiday or get threatened or kidnapped (delete as applicable).

Even the sex sequences – what few there are – are tame and, much like the previous films, they are in no way an interesting reflection of fetish culture or BDSM (if you want a film like that check out the infinitely superior Professor Marston and the Wonder Women). James Foley has nothing to direct really other than a beige Channel 5 TV afternoon Thriller, with a Danny Elfman score being drowned out by tacky pop songs and no human touch at all. Even in the screenplay’s concluding “greatest hits” moment, you cannot feel empathy or warmth, as it only reminds you – despite attempts to do the opposite – of how loveless this borderline abusive “romance” has been.

After 3 films, handcuffs, spanking, dodgy dialogue, a helicopter crash here and a home invasion there, the Fifty Shades craze is over and instead of feeling like a big event; it just feels like all pain and no pleasure.

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