Sometimes film criticism feels like an inherently masochistic pursuit. Case in point: the Fifty Shades trilogy, a tepid pornographic fantasy warped by sensibilities simultaneously prurient and puritanical, something akin to a virginal nun in her twilight years trying to imagine what sex might have been like had she elected to go that route. If the last Shades “films” at least boasted some unintentional comedy, this one lacks even the decency to provide me with an incredulous chuckle — while the previous two entries were often bad enough to be laughable, this one only manages to be bad enough to inspire deep regret. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this film legitimately led to a sort of existential crisis that left me questioning the life decisions that had placed me in the theater watching something this aggressively terrible. Consider yourselves warned.
At this point, like it or not, we’re all at least passingly familiar with E.L. James’ thoroughly unfortunate Twilight fan fiction, her proclivity for ridiculous names and unnatural dialogue. Those of us unfortunate to have sat through the big-screen adaptations are all too aware of Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan’s lack of chemistry, and directer James Foley’s complete and total inadequacy when it comes to understanding either BDSM or even simple titillation. So what’s of note this time around? Nothing, save that this is the final installment of this torturous trilogy — meaning I will never have to sit through one of these things again, a fact that fills me with immeasurable joy.
Basically, this movie only exists to tie up the loose plot threads from Grey and Darker — which really is something of an accomplishment, because neither of those films had anything remotely resembling a plot. Christian (Dornan) and Anastasia (Johnson) get married in a monotonous first-act montage and then scamper off to France for a ritzy honeymoon, one unduly truncated by the return of Ana’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson, no relation). Jack’s still a creeper, Christian’s still a maladapted, borderline abusive douchebag, and Ana’s still a clueless bystander in her own life, incapable of making rational decisions or fostering healthy communication outside of Christian’s sex dungeon. Then some stuff happens — all of it arbitrary and contrived — leading to the most predictable and least satisfying conclusion that could possibly have resulted from six hours of meaningless melodrama. Good work, guys.
Johnson and Dornan still appear to hate each other’s guts, which honestly doesn’t bother me anymore. What does bother me is the fact that Johnson is given a few scenes in the script that call for her to drop the ingenue naiveté and she fails miserably, while Dornan still couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag and really isn’t attractive enough to skate by on his looks. Every time I see him, I’m reminded of Quint’s speech in Jaws: “Another thing about a shark is it’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’ …”
At any rate, I doubt you needed to read this review, or any other, to decide if Freed was in your future. Maybe, like me, you felt some sort of twisted obligation to finish what you started. Well, I’m here to tell you that you can just quit now. Nothing good will come of continuing to abuse yourself like this. But if you must, know that there is one humorous line, and it’s the very last one in the film: “Mrs. Grey, you’re topping from the bottom.” It was funny in the moment, but it took on greater weight when I realized that’s exactly what the Fifty Shades franchise has been doing all along: top-of-the-box-office numbers, bottom-of-the-barrel quality. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.