The Fifty Shades trilogy ends exactly as it began: trying to convince you that it’s important.
The Fifty Shades movies are less like movies and more like Sharper Image catalogues, but with a lot more sex in them. The characters are so feeble, and their stories are so inconsequential, that everything that would usually make a movie interesting becomes window dressing for… well, the window dressings.
Ornate bathtubs, lavish beds, a frying pan that even an amateur chef would kill for, fancy cars and even fancier aircraft. Fifty Shades Freed, like all the other films in this series, is so obsessed with the protagonists’ affluent, enviable lifestyle that whenever the characters actually talk it feels like somebody owes the montages an apology for interrupting.
And yet it’s hard to enjoy even the superficial allure of the Fifty Shades movies, because evidently the price of every single product you could ever possibly ask for is a creepy boyfriend no one could ever possibly want.
Fifty Shades Freed opens with Anastasia Steel (Dakota Johnson) finally marrying billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), a man so possessive that he had her followed by a private detective, broke into her house, sold her property without her knowledge and bought the company she worked for. In the last film he even admitted that he’s a sadist who likes hurting women who look like the crack addicted mother who abandoned him… which Anastasia Steele does.
Any sane person at their wedding party would give them six months, tops.
But to hear Fifty Shades Freed tell it, their actual biggest problem isn’t Christian Grey’s neediness or Anastasia Steele’s eagerness to overlook his debilitating emotional problems whenever he buys her something fancy or shows her how to use a different sex toy. No, their biggest problem is Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Anastasia’s old boss who tried to sexually assault her in the previous film. Now he lives off the grid, on the fringes of society, plotting revenge against Anastasia for destroying his career, and revenge against Christian for reasons which are supposed to be a mystery even though the “clues” are literally just explanations for why he’s doing it.
Jack Hyde, who sounds like he only got his name because “Dr. Acula” and “Frank N. Stein” were taken, pulls a Mission: Impossible heist on Grey Enterprises and eventually engages the ancient supervillain art of kidnapping people and tying them to chairs. And yet no matter how much Eric Johnson tries to add a generous portion of ham to this otherwise dry offering, his efforts are ultimately wasted.
Fifty Shades Freed spends almost all of its running time admiring itself. Every superficial quality takes center stage at least once, so we can drink in the enviable production design, the probably delicious food, the densely produced soundtrack, the abs of its protagonists and the elaborate sexual paraphernalia that probably cost more than most people make in a year. Whenever Anastasia and Christian talk about their problems, even the ones that most people would roll their eyes at, they’re treated with the same gravitas usually reserved for adaptations of Jane Eyre.