Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed
This year saw the third and final entry in The Maze Runner series. Those films were based on a popular YA novel. The films weren’t critically well regarded, but they made enough money to justify themselves. Now, we get the third and final entry in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which is somewhat based on a popular YA novel. E. L. James wrote the book as fan-fiction of Twilight, the teen vampire love story. The films similarly haven’t been critically well regarded. The Maze Runner films got better as they went along with the third one being the best. That unfortunately isn’t the case here. At the end of the day, this is a romantic drama about wealth and opulence, marrying into it but not for it, the jealousy of it, as well as issues of parenthood, the effect and desire of it or lack thereof.
As such, this romantic drama isn’t new, different or all that interesting. Yet, it could have been. It had potential and the reason is due to the fact that the titular character is into BDSM, which isn’t something that mainstream, Hollywood films often treat directly or seriously any more. This movie could have been that bridge, but the BDSM in this movie and the previous ones are either lame, brief or tangential. It’s a whiff of BDSM, instead of a full-on sensory smell, which one would hope in a major motion picture in wide release.
It’s not simply that we don’t get to see a lot of kinky sex. There is a lot of sex but none of it is kinky or as kinky as one would expect given the fact that the titular character has a whole room filled with BDSM paraphernalia, the full extent of which is never shown or felt. However, depiction of kinky sex isn’t my real criticism. My criticism is that neither this nor the previous ones do a good enough job of developing where this kinky sex originated in the titular character. It’s hinted in the previous film and even less so here, which is ultimately a failing. It rather leaves a huge gap in the life of this guy. It also never allows us into his head or help us understand why he is who he is.
Jamie Dornan (Once Upon a Time and The Fall) stars as Christian Grey, the young billionaire who is into BDSM and who falls in love with a girl who at first doesn’t like kinky sex but who comes to accept it in him. He also has a highly controlling nature where he wants to dominate his partner and basically boss and subjugate women. He talks about the woman who introduced him to it when he was just a minor. He also mentions how he was in a foster home because his mother died. Becoming an orphan and being child molested are things that led to his BDSM. As offensive as that is to the BDSM community, it is worth more than passing mentions or the brief lip-service it gets here.
The movie effectively glosses over these important things in Christian’s life. Without these things, we lack important insight into his character or his psyche. We see that he can be controlling and at times childishly aggressive, but we’re not given any depth or any exploration of the whys behind Christian’s character or behaviors. Without that depth or exploration, not only does it leave the titular character adrift in this narrative, it also renders this movie’s plot very much hollow.
Eric Johnson (Rookie Blue and Smallville) co-stars as Jack Hyde, a former book editor who at first seems like he’s obsessed with Christian’s wife, but it’s revealed that Jack is actually obsessed with Christian himself because they were in the same foster home. Yet, the movie never gives Jack or Christian a scene together. The film simply wants to make Jack a threat and a physical threat to Christian’s wife. Yet, the film never takes the opportunity to draw the comparison between the physical abuse from an extreme BDSM person like Christian versus the physical abuse from Jack.
Jack is supposedly so jealous of Christian, but we never get any insight into Jack’s life. No, he’s not a billionaire, but, prior to his attack in the previous movie, we have no clue as to what his life was like. He had a good job and he’s good-looking, so was it just that we wanted an obscene amount of money? Was it simply that he wanted to be a multi-millionaire or close to a billionaire? Is he simply that superficial and psychotic?
Even if that’s the case, the film could still dig into his character instead of making him so one-note. The same is true for Christian. We get such a superficial view of Christian. After three films, I still couldn’t say what Christian does for work. He’s the CEO of a corporation, but it’s never clear what that corporation actually does. In the first film, it’s hinted Grey’s corporation is in the telecommunications sector but does agricultural work in Africa, so we have no clue exactly what that means. When Christian goes off for business trips, we have no idea what he’s doing or if he’s passionate about it.
Dornan does sing a song for this film. He does a rendition of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” that’s beautiful. Dornan has surprisingly good vocals. The lyrics to that song also perhaps provide internal reflection, more so than most of the scenes in all three films. At one point, Christian’s sister, Mia, played by Rita Ora, comments on never hearing him sing before, which raises the question of what was Christian’s childhood or sibling interactions like. We get none of it though.
Speaking of Mia, the supporting cast is so wasted. All the actors who play Christian’s family are shrugged over. Tyler Hoechlin (Everybody Wants Some!! and Road to Perdition) plays Boyce Fox, an author who’s only in one scene. Why get Hoechlin for only one scene? It’s a waste of a good actor. Brant Daugherty (Pretty Little Liars and Days of Our Lives) plays Sawyer, the bodyguard assigned to Christian’s wife. Daugherty is drop-dead gorgeous, but, besides being eye-candy, he draws focus away from Max Martini (13 Hours and Pacific Rim) who played the bodyguard in the previous movies and gets needlessly brushed aside here when he could have been a confidant for Christian’s wife.
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.
Available on DVD and VOD.