“Freed” at last.
If you’re a fan of the “50 Shades of Grey” book and film series, you might say that with a different inflection.
The story (about a domineering tycoon and his submissive girlfriend/wife) is so poorly written you won’t walk away with anything worth pondering. When set decoration is more interesting than the action on screen, you know this isn’t a trilogy worth touting.
In “Fifty Shades Freed,” Anna (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) are married, looking to build a house and start a…wait a minute. That family thing? Apparently, it wasn’t discussed during all those sessions in the red room. So, there’s tension. And there’s a mysterious man trying to kill both of them. And there’s an architect trying to put the moves on Grey. Toss in a kidnapping, a couple of chase scenes and a nice new office for Mrs. Grey and, well, you pretty much have it.
Directed by James Foley, the latest installment lacks any tension whatsoever. Yes, there are sex scenes, but they’re pretty tame (by the book’s standards) and they don’t have a reason for being. The most we learn: The Greys have a nice rain showerhead that might look good in my house.
When the two are put in danger, “Freed” should kick into high gear and be something other than an ad for Audi’s ability to accelerate and whip around semis. Unfortunately, it never becomes a chase film. Or a whodunit. Or a romance. It’s just a lot of things smooshed together to make a bigger whole.
Without a lot of better actors in the cast, you’d think Johnson and Dornan would stand out. Oddly, they shrink into that home décor and don’t offer anything close to acting. He gets silent. She smiles seductively.
Their friends (and relatives) factor in; Grey learns something about his birth mother; and the calculating architect disappears shortly after she suggests tearing down an old house and putting up a “statement” home.
Much of “Freed” unfolds like a series of discarded ideas. When the end credits roll, we get a montage from the three films that reminds us just how thin this whole thing was. There’s a feeble attempt to explain why Grey likes his whips and chains but it doesn’t justify what’s taking place in his home, particularly now in the era of #metoo.
In that context, the film seems practically archaic. The mere idea producers would ask actors to do some of the things Johnson and Dornan do has to prompt at least three new planks on the actors guild bill of rights.
“Fifty Shades Freed” is a big ol’ mess – a film that wouldn’t have existed had its predecessors not made a lot of money. Knowing as much, the folks behind it should have spent some of their profits, hired a better screenwriter (not the author and her husband) and made something of this.
Instead, the last installment is just risky business as usual.