18 – 105mins – 2018
COMING TO A HEAD
Now married to the love of his luxurious-if-troubled life, can billionaire spank-lover Christian Grey (Jamie Shadows in the Sun Dornan) and his innocent and grounded new wife, Anastacia (Dakota How to be SingleJohnson), live happily ever after, or will shady figures from Christian’s murky upbringing come back to haunt Mr and Mrs Grey’s honeymoon period?
I’m a 30-something year-old man who probably should know better, but I’ll come clean: I’ve read all of E. L. James’s “mummy porn” bestsellers (yes, even the ones from Christian’s POV!) and I have now seen the trilogy of blockbuster adaptations. Despite the initial thrill of stories with explicit sex every other page having long since worn off, I really don’t understand the hate people hurl at this R-rated series. Yes, Christian’s S&M proclivities are a little… twisted, but he’s a damaged character, so is it not best that his looks and money do not completely overshadow his flaws?
I’ll also confess that I never aligned with the popular criticism that the source material is poorly written. I studied Creative Writing at University and I still devoured the addictive page-turners far faster than a usual read. I theorise that the glut of 2-star reviews which dogged Sam Taylor-Johnson’s controversial first big screen instalment in 2015 were from critics who had already made their minds up before they even sat down for the screening. And if they had no time for Grey, than parts two and three had no chance.
With that rant behind me, I’ll now admit that trilogy-closer Freed is not cinematic perfection. Now more than ever the insertion of nudity and sex scenes feels more a superfluous necessity than integral to the characterisation or intimacy. Furthermore, with Ana and Christian the main focus, some of the supporting characters are given short shrift, particularly Andrew Airlie (blink and you’ll miss him), Marcia Gay Harden and Rita Ora (who deserves more fleshing out given how the plot demands you care for her survival), while Darker‘s “Mrs Robinson” receives merely a name check!
That said, fans insatiable for the ‘climax’ will not be disappointed with how the couple’s rocky love story plays out, with the tense stand-off against scorned madman Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) concluding with a cheer-worthy montage of clips from throughout the trilogy, soundtracked to a rousing encore of Ellie Golding’s synonymous hit “Love Me Like You Do”. Fifty Shades Freed is far from an unmissable classic, but I refuse to dismiss this perfectly watchable adult drama as avoidable trash. Dakota Johnson still shines as Ana and Jamie Dornan has grown into a role I initially felt he was unsuitable for.
CR@B’s Claw Score: