SPOILERS for Fifty Shades Freed.
It’s finally here. Fifty Shades Freed concludes the trilogy that everyone has an opinion on. Some people are rabid fans, others are snarkily dismissive, and yet others are determined to tear this franchise to shreds. By this point, you know whether or not you’re on board for this particular brand of sleek smut. So, how does Fifty Shades Freed stack up?
You know, it ain’t half bad. Well, for a Fifty Shades movie.
Though the movie kicks off with the typical wish fulfillment this series offers — Anastasia and Christian get married and do their typical jet-setting life of luxury montages — it also doesn’t waste any time picking up the disturbing thread of antagonist Jack Hyde.
After the events of Fifty Shades Darker, Hyde is sabotaging Christian Grey’s office and attempting to terrorize Anastasia. While he was certainly a presence in the previous film, Fifty Shades Freed turns him into a legitimate villain. He’s the first one the series has really had since Kim Basinger’s Elena was underutilized in the previous film and she doesn’t even appear onscreen in this entry. Still, the film is afraid to concentrate too much on this plot since it will get in the way of what the fanbase wants to see, so while Jack’s evil schemes are welcome they aren’t as prevalent as they probably should be.
But, we do get another piece of character conflict in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. Anastasia and Christian grapple with a well-worn (read: clichéd) relationship problem: do they want to have kids? Naturally, Christian doesn’t because of his past and fear that the baby will steal Anastasia away from him. This does give Dakota Johnson a chance to showcase some of her best acting in this trilogy. Because this is a much safer narrative than the risqué gimmick would lead you to believe, everything turns out exactly how you expect. No surprises here but maybe that’s what fans of these kinds of stories want.
Still Surprisingly Scandalous
And what fans obviously want are plenty of sexy diversions every fifteen or twenty minutes. Fifty Shades Freed doesn’t drop the ball in this regard. There is A LOT of hanky-panky in this flick. Some of it is goofy, some of it is icky — there’s a scene where Anastasia and Christian trickle ice cream on each other that goes to a bizarrely gross place — and some of it is appropriately steamy.
There is one moment that was truly shocking for a mainstream release. Christian ties Ana up to a wall and decides to deny her pleasure as a way of getting back at her for disobeying him earlier. He grabs a vibrator and proceeds to tease Ana with it and then yank it away as she begins to feel good. During this sequence, there is a shot that almost constitutes seeing penetration through Anastasia’s underwear.
If you know anything about the MPAA — the organization that judges films’ content and assigns a rating — they are pretty puritanical when it comes to showing anything remotely close to realistic sexual activity. The fact that this shot made it in is actually a little astonishing in a good way.
Seeing realistically simulated female pleasure has always been an uphill battle in the world of mainstream film. It was rewarding to see something that attempted that and went as far as it possibly could. Since the Fifty Shades series has been criticized for being fairly vanilla when it comes to unconventional sex, it was effectively jarring to witness something transgress the cinematic landscape like that.
Those Fifty Shades Problems
With all of that said, this is still a Fifty Shades film. As such, it falls into all the typical traps of the franchise. The dialogue is often hilariously bad — just wait to hear Christian Grey earnestly use the term, “Bro,” — and the pacing is near glacial due to the copious sex scene interjections. The thriller plot can’t help but feel like an afterthought as the movie still locks into its unrelenting montages of über-rich white people life.
Granted, that’s clearly an element that fans enjoy about the series. That’s fine but it admittedly makes for a slog of a story. And while there is conflict between Anastasia and Christian throughout the film for various reasons, it all comes to a resolution so quickly that it can’t help but feel fleeting.
Is Fifty Shades Freed Good?
It’s as doofily entertaining, eye-rollingly awful, surprisingly steamy, and expectedly boring as all the other Fifty Shades films. The thriller elements and change in conflict between Anastasia and Christian are welcomed, but it’s on such an apparent auto-pilot that it’s hard to get fully invested.
If the movie had taken real dramatic risks with characters or done anything remotely subversive in terms of storytelling and character development, it could have made this entry the best in the trilogy. As it stands, it’s exactly the kind of ending this franchise deserves. If you love these films, you’re guaranteed to get the same enjoyment out of Fifty Shades Freed. And if you hate these films, then you probably aren’t going to see this one anyway.