Fifty Shades Freed image

Anastasia Steele becomes Anastasia Grey during her wedding in the opening scene of Fifty Shades Freed.

Arguably the most successful fan fictions ever written, the Fifty Shades trilogy of E.L. James’ books have sold hundreds of millions of copies around the world. A big part of their success was the guilty-pleasure appeal of main character Anastasia Steele’s dirty inner monologue, narrating all the BDSM-themed sex between her and her dominant millionaire lover Christian Grey. They’re essentially soft-core porn, so when the trilogy was announced for film adaptations, audiences got all hot and bothered. As the third and final film in the trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed, directed by James Foley, marks what will hopefully be the end to this lifeless, embarrassing blight on American pop culture.

It opens on the wedding between Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jaime Dornan), and the plot meanders aimlessly from there. They have sex on their honeymoon, they have sex when they’re on a vacation with their bland, boring friends, they have sex in their infamous “Red Room” with all their toys. There’s a story about a villainous boss from the last film, Jack (Eric Johnson), as well as a side plot about troubles with married life, but that’s about it. The plot could easily fit into a television episode but is miraculously stretched to over 100 minutes, and it is excruciating.

My only positive is the trilogy isn’t especially offensive from a visual standpoint. The camerawork is perfectly average, with static shots showing attractive people and locales in a serviceable manner. I dare say the most attractive aspect of these films is Seattle. Foley packs in tons of pretty nature shots of the woods and rainy cities of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle tourism could splice together shots from this series and make a pretty good showcase of the region.

Aside from a few nice visuals, there is nothing of value in this film or any film in the series. It can be a little difficult to judge the acting, as they’re portraying some of the worst characters put to film. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey have a horrible relationship based on dominance and psychological issues, but they’re the protagonists, darn it, and we have to watch them struggle to act like normal human beings. The writing could have been so-bad-it’s-good, with a wealth of embarrassing lines from the books to choose from, but it sticks to bland, so-bad-it’s-bad lines instead, possibly in an attempt to make the film presentable. All their friends are bland and entirely inconsequential, making any scene not involving Anastasia and Christian feel like pointless fluff. But when the barely-there plot gets stretched out this long, eventually everything starts to feel like filler.

But audiences don’t come to a Fifty Shades movie for a gripping plot, clever filmmaking or interesting characters; they come for the naughty bits that they heard about in the news a few years ago. I can’t speak for everyone, but my theater was surprisingly quiet for all the sex scenes. No embarrassed giggling, no whispering to friends, just bored silence.

Fifty Shades Freed, like the entire film trilogy, takes trashy guilty-pleasure novels and makes them boring. Fifty Shades of Grey had a massive box office opening, but its sequelFifty Shades Darker, dipped in profits and early looks at Fifty Shades Freed looks like it will continue the box office decline. It has an exceptionally “lets get this over with” feel, and lucky for everyone, it’s over. 

Vox Rating: V (1 out of 5)

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