Courtesy of Universal Pictures
"Don't miss the climax" is the clever tagline that reads across the poster for E.L James trashy S&M finale "Fifty Shades Freed." A clever ploy that likely won't entice new viewers outside of the series, (you know, the ones who helped propel book sales into the high-teen millions.) The erotica novella was graced to the silver screen three years ago this week, and since then, ticket sales have been robust - even if they decline slowly with each installment. Recognizing this, the filmmakers shot "Fifty Shades Darker" and "Freed" back to back (it definitely shows with lead star Jamie Dornan and his inconsistent facial hair.) But credit needs to be given to Dornan, who plays billionaire S&M enthusiast Christian Grey and leading lady Dakota Johnson, playing Anastasia Steele, because above all else, they do their best to make these sloppy movies somewhat entertaining.
Keeping in tune with the tempo of the last installment, "Freed" opens with the promise of love. Grey and Steele have tied the knot, eloped to an exotic play land, and thus begun their life. Long gone are the days of promiscuity and contracts depicting their sexual escapades, now they just do the deed, on average, every ten minutes of screen time. They also find new and inventive ways to "get the job done," which means I'll never look at Ben and Jerry's ice cream the same way again.
What plot does exists has to do with the diabolical scheme of Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) - the slimy sleezeball that came onto Ms. Steele in the previous installment, and Grey being the possessive, insecure, man he is doesn't have any of it. While on their honeymoon, Grey receives a call that his headquarters have been breached. Johnson, who looks floored and surprised at every line of dialogue she says, proclaims that "it's Jack!" And suddenly, the bing-bang boozle of their sexy getaway is over.
Once back in the states, Anastasia Steele is now Mrs. Grey, she's been promoted to Editor of her fiction department (without any notice or warning of this happening.) Mr. Grey is still very much in control of his "possession," and they bicker about why she won't change her last name in her work email. The horror! They're also lines like "boobs in boobland" and "purple" as the safe word. Some of this stuff is so flimsy and made of cardboard, it justifies everything else. I wasn't bored with this movie, because it almost feels like the actors are winking at the audience. They know this isn't good, but you bought a ticket anyway. Shlock cinema at it's finest.
The red room of pain does come back for a record third appearance (and if you don't know what that is, you probably don't want to see this movie anyhow.) Under the direction of James Foley - yes that guy who once helmed the magnificent "Glengarry Glen Ross" and then decided he needed money rather than credibility - stoops to some new series lows (which is harder than you think.) I was having trouble keeping up with all the subplots going on at once, including one with Christian's brother (Luke Grimes) who may or may not be cheating on his girlfriend, and a seductive architect named Gia Matteo (Arielle Kebbel) that has approximately five minutes of actual screen presence.
They're even more absurdities that procure over the film's two hour runtime, like a cheesy car chase sequence that, of course, ends in an afternoon quickie or how a judge grants bail to a man that almost killed someone, but he had "a clean record," so that automatically grants him amnesty. The audience that will be dialed into this won't care about those discrepancies (the box office numbers seem to justify that). But in between all the constant humping, I'd hope that writer Niall Leonard (who just happens to be the husband to E.L. James, further proving nobody wanted to touch these films) fleshed out some of those finer details, but I can't fault him for staying true to the source material.
"Freed" isn't going to sway any newbies to the dark side, In fact I pray for the poor soul that happens to get roped into seeing this film without any precedent. The good news is: this trilogy (I can't believe I've sat through three of these things) has reached its peak. Some won't be happy "Fifty Shades" time in the spotlight is over, but the other 95% needs to hope it stays that way. C