February 09, 2018

Fifty Shades Freed

The Steele Disarray
Grade: D
Director: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hrs.

Branding Fifty Shades Freed with the oft-used idiom “lather, rinse, repeat” might sound trite until faced with the fact that one of the innumerable pseudo-sexual sequences in this third and (mercifully) last installment in the film series involves washing hair. The level of sameness that envelopes these screen adaptations of E.L. James’ novel trilogy is more breathtaking than any of its S&M silliness. It’s recurring scenes of banal softcore porn erected around a wisp of a plot—call it Fifty Shades Skinemax.

Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) and Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) are now married, renovating a countryside home, and globetrotting—”I didn’t know you owned one of these,” Ana declares when she and her billionaire hubby pull up to a private jet, as if she wasn’t around during the previous two movies. They also quarrel about Ana still using her maiden name in her e-mail address (seriously) and Ana wanting to hang out with friends even though she’s being stalked by Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), her spurned former boss.

The core fault with the entire trilogy remains the lack of chemistry between the two leads, already crippled by having to portray a dysfunctional, discomforting relationship featuring a possessive sociopath and his emotionally arrested prey. After every argument, lame car chase, and just being out of other’s sight for more than five minutes, there’s another coital montage set to another butchered adaptation of a pop/rock classic, including Bishop Briggs’ mangling of “Never Tear Us Apart,” Jessie J’s desecration of “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and Dornan himself garbling through Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Each scene is equally antiseptic, whether Christian and Ana are licking ice cream off each or paying another visit to the red room. Frankly, there’s greater emotional attachment to the repetitive Audi product-placement than the main characters.

Despite the dearth of any substantive storyline, it‘s striking that director James Foley still manages to leave several half-written subplots lingering, including whether Christian’s brother Elliott is cheating on girlfriend Kate and fleshing out the complete motives of both Jack and his mystery partner in crime. Kim Basinger, who previously played Christian’s former dominant Elena, gets completely edited out of the film for some reason, even though her character doesn’t. Then after one last trip to the playroom, Foley caps the film with a montage that crams in revelations about Christian’s childhood adoption, the identity of his birth mother, and he and Ana becoming parents twice-over, all of which theoretically would be more fertile narrative ground than the preceding two hours of this fallow final Fifty Shades. When the end credits finally roll, it's the audience who feels freed.

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