Many films, intentionally or otherwise, tend to leave a lot of questions unanswered, to have audiences leave the cinema, thinking about the movie and what it meant.
Fifty Shades Freed is one such movie, but not in a good way. The first question that comes to mind is, ‘Why does this exist?’.
The third and (thankfully) final instalment of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, adapted by the novels of the same name by E.L James, is finally at an end, and as the movie promotions promise, audiences are brought to the climax of the trilogy’s story.
But there’s as much climax here as watching paint dry or ice melt. Devoid of the promised passion and raunch, the only thing that is freed is the knowledge that this abysmal trilogy will no longer be able to haunt us in any way.
As bad as they were deemed when they were launch, at least some cult classics, like The Room, had its own enjoyable charm to the movie. Here, the only money shot is the rolling credits.
The movie starts off with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson, who looks to be resigned to the fact that she was picked for this career-ending role) getting married to the suave and wealthy Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan aka the Josh Duhamel forgettable type). Right after they say their vows, the movie takes its audiences through a series of uninspiring montages, in places many couples with no money can only dream to go to, for their honeymoon.
While the movie was trying to portray the couple’s romantic globetrotting experience, what got translated to the audience was something completely different. Although the shots themselves were beautiful, the montage felt empty and soulless. With no opportunity to portray the personality of the characters, the audience is never allowed to get attached (and eventually empathise) with the couple.
The film manages to do something spectacular as well – have so much going on, yet showing so little at the same time. For most of the film, the plot is entirely inconsequential. Incidents “happen” because they just do. There isn’t a decent transition between each scene, and the movie just cuts to a new scene, because hey, “that’s what happens in the book” so the director is just following blindly, with no soul or originality.
The film isn’t without its conflict, though. Ana and Christian fight frequently but with no warning given. They also cease quarrelling when the movie calls for it. But because the audience isn’t allowed to dwell on the emotions, nor even sympathise with either character, each argument has little to no impact on the film. And with each argument that happens, it just makes the movie even the more duller.
To add on to the unnecessary number of arguments between the couple, there is an antagonist in the form of Steele’s former boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson). His presence throughout the film is almost negligible, but when he does appear, the scene for some reason becomes downright comical.
His motivations for whatever he does goes beyond any normal person’s suspension of disbelief. He breaks into Grey’s supposedly high-security multi-million dollar house, but the infraction resolves itself so quickly, that one wonders why it even happened in the first place. He serves as so insignificant a threat that anything found in Grey’s “playroom” (their S&M dungeon) would probably cause more harm to Steele.
Maybe it’s unfair to criticize the movie’s plot and pacing after all, as its selling point is the S&M sex scenes the franchise is famous for.
Why not try unarousing, insipid and downright insulting? There’s almost no build-up to any of the more sexy scenes. Instead, sex is mechanical and soulless, just like the rest of the movie. Audiences are constantly thrown into a scene, without any explanation as to how or why it’s happening.
At one point, Steele was simply eating an ice cream, alone in the dark, when Grey suddenly appeared. She immediately decides to put the ice cream on him, and BAM. Brown chicken brown cow. This is not a Brazzers video clip, for crying out loud, and even those have a better narrative than this one. It’s a big question in the movie as to why Steele suddenly seems to be kinkier than Grey.
Besides the movie’s grave pacing issues, the characters themselves make it harder for anyone to connect with them. The leads are passionless, and bland. The acting is frequently awkward, and the dialogue lacks character. Actions speak louder than words, however, and Johnson portrays her character in such a way where she really wants to drill it into the audience, that she’s now rich, married and an independent lady trying to build her career.
*snigger* Better luck next time sister.
Dornan is no better – it’s clear that his character is supposed to be inherently damaged by his past, but that doesn’t translate on screen, at all. It’s a matter of showing vs telling, and here, Dornan’s acting and dialogue tells the audience that there’s more bubbling beneath the surface but it is not convincing, at all. As a result, Grey ends up looking like an abusive and toxic husband to Steele.
Johnson’s and Dornan’s on-screen chemistry is laughable at best. You can feel neither love, passion nor romance between the two.Johnson fails to portray the mischievous, submissive wife, while Dornan lacks any of that ‘billionaire charm’ fans of the series expect him to have.
Maybe the best thing about Fifty Shades Freed is that it marks the end of a terribly written franchise. The books weren’t great, but at least the books helped get its readers attached to the characters. Any outsider to the Fifty Shades series would be left confused over what’s going on in the movie.