Simplistically Silly Plot
So, the mommy-porn trilogy that managed to bring leather flogs, sex swings, and fur-lined handcuffs into mainstream acceptance has finally reached its climactic end. Thank goodness! I never thought I would say this, but the thought of enduring even one more 30-foot-tall close-up of an erect nipple dripping with ice cream, chocolate, or spit is pure torture. Finally, we can all now go back the days when salad dressing was for salads and when wet leather was used to make cowboy hats.
Of course the trilogy comes from the wildly popular Fifty Shades soft-core erotica novels by author E.L. James, with the author’s husband, Niall Leonard, adapting the screenplay for both the second installment in the franchise, as well as this one called Fifty Shades Freed.
We’ve seen the series deteriorate from one episode to the next, with Fifty Shades Freed continuing that trend as the worst of the three. One would think that after three films together there might be something, anything, resembling a spark of romance between innocent young book editor Anastasia Steel (Dakota Johnson) and tormented billionaire playboy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), but the two actors share the chemistry of a dirty rag and steel wool. There’s just nothing there. But that doesn’t stop Foley from hitting the “red room” of earthly carnal delights early and often. It goes something like this: get on a yacht, have kinky sex; fly on an airplane, have kinky sex; get on an elevator, have kinky sex. Yes, it is as tiresome as it sounds with a simplistically silly plot that plods along like a bad soap opera.
Fifty Shades Freed picks up right where the second left off, with its protagonists Anastasia and Christian formalizing their relationship with a wedding for the ages. But trouble arises in short order when the subject of children pops up. Seems Christian wants all the sex and pleasures of a kinky relationship but shudders at the thought of tiny little feet pattering about.
Whereas in the previous Fifty Shades Darker, Anastasia blossomed in both her career and in her acceptance of Christian’s quirks, Freed is Christian’s movie where he learns to finally let go of bachelorhood and accept what is coming from a life of love, marriage and children. We’re supposed to realize that, in a way, he’s been freed from the burden of the things he’s afraid of and is now forced to face adulthood head on. But the fact that we never really like Christian is a big problem. The character, lifeless at best and a sex-obsessed pervert at worst, doesn’t make for a very appealing leading man, and Dornan certainly doesn’t display the chops to punch through his character’s less appealing traits. Take away the planes, houses, cars, and yachts and he’s just a boring man-child.
A thread involving a returning villain is meant to bring a sense of dread and peril to an otherwise limp and lifeless plot, but instead makes for an over-simplified and nonsensical mess when we try to reconcile the idea that one couple can undergo such a litany of tragic events, from helicopter crashes, kidnapping plots, car chases, and gun shots… all in a matter of months. We roll our eyes at the ridiculousness of it all.
Fifty Shades Freed’s biggest, ahem, shortcoming stems from the fact that the mystery and allure of the franchise’s sex-crazed kinkiness is simply no longer sexy. We’ve been there and we’ve done that. And no, simply cutting to another naked romp in Christian’s playroom no longer works like it once did. But like a punch-drunk fighter looking to relive the glory days of a devastating roundhouse blow, that’s what happens over and over in Fifty Shades Freed. Even a moonlit kitchen table sex scene that takes advantage of the fridge’s contents manages to fall flat. It was done to much greater effect by Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in 1986’s 9 1/2 Weeks. if that is your thing, watch it instead.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “R” for strong sexual content, nudity and language.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.