The real kink is being rich enough to paper over the problems of your toxic relationship
Fifty Shades Freed begins with the wedding of Ana Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The two have a pretty blissful honeymoon, but it’s interrupted when Ana’s former-boss-turned-stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) shows up and breaks into one of Christian’s buildings and steals a bunch of personal data. Ana and Christian try to get on with their married life, but they’re forced to be constantly looking over their shoulders, on guard for the people that seem to want to do them harm. And when something unexpected occurs in their relationship, it only adds to the stress of their situation.
This final chapter still pretty much follows the same pattern as the previous two stories. Though the series is ostensibly about kinky sex, the stories are mostly about ostentatious displays of wealth used as a means of atonement for bad behavior. The film mostly carries on in this way, with Ana and Christian having arguments over various things, mostly having to do with Christian’s general possessiveness. But then, Grey shows that he cares by buying Ana a house or flying out her friends on a all-expenses paid vacation in a very fancy mountain resort. The sex is almost incidental to the whole thing.
Adding some intrigue is the whole matter with Ana’s former boss, Jack Hyde. At least in theory. In practice, Hyde isn’t formidable enough a villain to create any suspense for the narrative, especially since the couple is so affluent. Surrounded by security, and having enough to pull to communicate directly with the authorities, Hyde’s tepid machinations hardly cause a ripple in the overall picture. The film also gets into an unlikely connection between Hyde and Grey, but it isn’t very interesting. It just adds another layer of improbable narrative developments in a series that is already plagued with them.
And so this film totters along, with little in the plot actually moving things forward. But then late in the game an actual development takes place that brings up some potentially interesting questions for this young couple. Unfortunately, a lot of that is waved away, and like in the second chapter, the work of the emotional development required to have these characters have a change of heart is bypassed through the deployment of a preposterous crisis. And this crisis involves the villain of the film continuing to be a pretty bad villain. So, it isn’t anything worth sitting up for.
Dakota Johnson continues to be the best thing about these movies, even though the character she’s playing is about as deep as a wading pool. But when the film gets in close, when it focuses on her face, she is able to convey a level of desire the rest of the film isn’t able to mount. Jamie Dornan is still about as interesting as a granite countertop. To be fair, the character is really just terrible, but Dornan doesn’t appear to care enough to at least make an effort to create a fuller picture of Christian Grey.
Fifty Shades Freed certainly won’t convince anyone of the value of this series, if you aren’t already a fan. This final chapter just leans into what the series has always done: play the fantasy of being rich enough to paper over all the problems of a relationship. Because what’s depicted in the film, even absent the problematic, myopic portrayal of BDSM, is pretty toxic. The real kink here is being able to leave everything behind and fly off to an exotic destination in order to forget for a moment that things are bad between these partners. And far be it for us to kink shame, but that’s just not very interesting to watch.
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.