The “Fifty Shades” franchise isn’t known for being a cinematic masterpiece, and it’s safe to say the third and final installment of the trilogy isn’t any different. “Fifty Shades Freed” doesn’t redeem the first two movies or make any progress toward reversing the series’ poor reputation. From plot lines that simply fade away to an unhealthy marriage and obvious product placement, “Fifty Shades Freed” will make audiences laugh when they aren’t supposed to.
As of Feb. 9, “Fifty Shades Freed” has a rating of 11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The two films that came before it, “Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015) and “Fifty Shades Darker” (2017), also have low ratings at 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively. However, the films continue to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars. While many would say these films are simply not good, the series undeniably has a large fan base, and perhaps even a cult following. This following stems from the widely popular book series of the same name written by E.L. James the movies are based on.
“Fifty Shades Freed” takes place in modern-day Seattle and follows Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) during their new marriage. Just as Christian and Anastasia settle into married life, drama starts to arise as Steele realizes she’s being followed by her old boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson).
Several smaller conflicts seem to randomly occur without adding meaning to the overall plot. For example, Anastasia’s friend, Kate (Eloise Mumford), confides in her when she suspects her boyfriend, Christian’s brother, is cheating on her. Although this subplot is visited once more, it isn’t fully resolved by the end. Because the script left plot lines open, some parts of the film were hard to follow.
The acting in “Fifty Shades Freed” also contributes to its overall distastefulness. To give Johnson and Dornan some credit, the dialogue lacks substance and any sense of reality. This makes it hard to tell whether the acting is unbelievable because the actors are lacking talent, or if the dialogue is just so stiff and inorganic it’s impossible to deliver in a convincing way. However, we see a trend of implausible performances from Johnson in her role as Alice in “How to be Single” (2016) as a newly single woman living in New York City struggling to navigate the dating scene.
Even though the comedy offers a completely different role than the one she takes on in the “Fifty Shades” series, Johnson still received poor reviews saying her performance was “blandy earnest” and contributed to a “listless atmosphere.” Dornan also had similar criticism in “Anthropoid” (2016), a WWII period piece in which he plays a paratrooper. Dornan was criticized for his fake Czech accent and the movie was called dull.
Johnson and Dornan have a certain amount of chemistry that’s visible and effective in the several sex scenes, but in dialogue-heavy scenes, it seems impossible to believe their onscreen marriage. The relationship is portrayed as extremely passionate, but muddled with jealousy and anger, making it hard to believe such a toxic partnership could ever be considered as love.
The pair’s back-and-forth is clear in the honeymoon scene, when the couple stops at a nude beach. Anastasia starts taking off her bathing suit top when Christian orders her to stop because he doesn’t want others to gawk at her or tabloids to take pictures of her. This scene only plays into the endless cycle of their relationship — obedience, disobedience and punishment.
The only redeeming quality of “Fifty Shades Freed” is its soundtrack, which is populated with pop and R&B songs from artists such as Sia, Liam Payne, Rita Ora and Ellie Goulding.
Despite the well-crafted soundtrack, the movie itself is undeniably poorly executed. Unfortunately, the creative team behind “Fifty Shades Freed” failed to end the trilogy on a high note — a fate not completely unexpected.
“Fifty Shades Freed” is now playing in theaters nationwide.