Christian and Ana are steaming up the big screen for a third and final time. But those expecting raging torrents of passion may be disappointed as Fifty Shades Freed only offers a mildly titillating trickle.
Picking up from the events of last year’s sequel, the story (if you can call it that) begins with Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) enjoying some marital bliss. Things seem peachy-keen in their lovable fantasy world until drama soon comes calling!
It turns out Ana’s ex-boss Jack Hyde (Edmonton native Eric Johnson) is still pissed that he was fired and she took his job so he starts stalking her. I think that’s about it.
I mean, they do fu*k a lot – in the car following a dramatic pursuit, in the kitchen while licking ice cream off each other (god, what a mess to clean up), and of course in the infamous ‘red room’ – but it’s all so awkwardly edited together.
It’s as if the screenwriter initially came up with the sex scenes and then was like “Oh riiight, the story!” In terms of a feature film, there really is no cohesive narrative here.
The whole movie seems like a bunch of episodes cobbled together; these vignettes vary wildly between domestic tiffs, tender moments, passionate lovemaking, a straight-up crazy revenge plot, and so many goddamn annoyingly inane songs.
The first film sort of worked because of the tension that revolved around Christian and Ana’s blossoming romance. But to see her pressure him about having kids as he eats steak dinner in their kitchen is just boring.
The fundamental problem (aside from the utterly cringey dialogue throughout the series) goes back to the two lead stars. Although they’re strong actors respectively – Dornan was great in TV’s The Fall and Johnson proved formidable in A Bigger Splash – they don’t have an ounce of sexual chemistry between them.
I just never bought them as lovers so any attempt to stoke the passion fires here fizzles out once again. And Irish Jamie Dornan, bless him, can’t play an American to save his life. So ultimately their interactions, whether they’re talking or screwing, come off wooden and stilted.
The sex scenes, while plentiful, are generally mediocre and fairly tame. Honestly, you’ll find hotter sex on HBO.
It should be noted that, for the first time in the series, Fifty Shades Freed embraces the ridiculousness of it all and tries to go for genuine laughs. Amazingly, it actually works. There are several well-earned, well-placed jokes in the movie that bring some much needed levity to an otherwise maudlin affair.
In fact, as the film stumbles to its inevitable conclusion there is a strange catharsis in enjoying the spectacle. It’s like the audience is meant to feel ‘well, we made it this far, might as well see how this plays out’. Fifty Shades Freed is almost so beguilingly bad that it’s perhaps easier to embrace than hate.
If you’re a diehard fan of the source material and previous two movies this will most likely appeal to you. Vancouver residents may even have fun trying to identify the various locations (made to look like Seattle) in the city and its environs. Some will swoon but most will groan in frustration or roll their eyes in exhaustion at the sheer schmaltziness of this tepid romance.
Fifty Shades Freed gets 2 out of 5 mildly passionate pieces of popcorn.
Playing at a theatre near you. Rated 18A and is 120 minutes long.