Like an impotent lover that never really attracted you in the first place, the Fifty Shades trilogy limps to an unsatisfying climax that leaves you feeling dirty and ashamed.
Though their relationship pushes the limits of what normal people might consider healthy, average girl Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) finally tie the knot and get married in Fifty Shades Freed. Their obnoxiously extravagant honeymoon is cut short however, when word that Ana’s former boss/stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) has been spotted snooping ominously around Grey Enterprises. Drawn back to Seattle, their relationship is tested once more, with Hyde’s interference spelling the end for the two lovers and their friends and family.
So, here we are at last at the end of the Fifty Shades phenomena that grew from humble beginnings as Twilight fan fiction-turned mummy porn back in 2011. If you’ve followed the series up to this point, then chances are you fit into one of two categories of people; the legions of adoring female fans playing out their fantasy of being swept off their feet by a rich hunk, or the so-bad-it’s-good movie enthusiasts scoffing at the woeful acting, dialogue and general preposterousness of the entire situation.
In that sense, Fifty Shades Freed is business as usual, though this barely half-assed final chapter doesn’t even have the courtesy of remaining consistent in its unintentional hilarity. Instead, it gets the laughably un-erotic sex scenes out of the way early on to focus on things literally no one watches these movies for – the mundanities of a kinky relationship succumbing to dull, everyday married life routine. It’s painfully boring, and a bit depressing to think that all exciting, spontaneous partnerships are doomed to flatline and centre on unsexy things, like renovating houses and starting a family. No wonder divorce is so popular.
In a poor attempt to spice things up a bit, a subplot involving Ana’s aggressive ex-boss Jack Hyde is badly integrated into the main story and could be accused of derailing it, were there anything resembling a plot in the first place. Straight out of a Z-grade action movie, Eric Johnson is dreadful as the motivation-less, cliché antagonist, doing stock bad guy things like breaking into the Grey household and holding a knife to Ana’s throat (why, exactly?), and kidnapping Christian’s sister for a $5 million ransom (huh?). It’s maddeningly nonsensical, but at least gives the filmmakers an excuse to cram in an incredibly lazy car chase sequence.
Meanwhile, our mismatched leads bring their happily-ever-after to its climax with the same lack of flair we’ve come to expect. Dakota Johnson looks even more bored than we are, no doubt relieved she can finally leave Anastasia’s dumbfounded expression behind and continue working with directors like Luca Guadagnino. Jamie Dornan at least has The Fall to back up his claim to a career in acting, because his wooden performance as Christian Grey could be mistaken for impersonating someone with autism, were he not so buff and handsome.
So… what else is there to say, really? We’re treated at the conclusion to a montage of clips from Ana and Christian’s most “romantic” moments across the trilogy, right from their meeting at the very beginning. It puts into perspective just how forgettable this journey has been, and confirms that it was never really the story or characters that had any impact on society, it was the idea itself; a kinky wet dream that somehow escaped the trappings of erotica novelisations to cross into the mainstream consciousness. Love it or loathe it, Fifty Shades has shaped and impacted modern culture, for better or worse. At least this one manages to get the title right – we’re finally freed from restraints of one of history’s most atrocious franchises.
Fifty Shades Freed is available in Australian cinemas from February 8
Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018