What many fail to understand is that Fifty Shades Freed, along with Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker, are adaptations of books written by E. L. James. Not just that, but they were originally written as online fan-fiction for another hugely successful franchise, the Twilight Saga. While many are quick to call the story lame, the characters flat, and their motivations purely sexual, let’s not forget all this comes straight from James’ books, warts and all. It shouldn’t come as a surprise the films are equally torrid. After all, these films are adaptations, not revivals.
Screenwriter Niall Leonard starts off Fifty Shades Freed where the last film ended, with Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) accepting Christian Grey’s (Jamie Dornan) marriage proposal. The audience witnesses their lavish wedding and then accompanies the newlyweds on their honeymoon to various cities in Europe. Unfortunately, after a quick visit to a nude beach and a short sexual rendezvous on their yacht, the fun ends, as the series’ antagonist Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) causes an explosion at Grey House causing Christian and Ana to rush home to Seattle.
As a fan of the series, both book and film, I felt both Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan’s chemistry was palpable as they embraced married life with all its ups and downs, including take on a formidable foe in Hyde. Director James Foley makes the whole affair quite entertaining to watch details of the Grey’s luxurious lifestyle unfold on screen, and seeing Ana drive that expensive Audi made me want to get one for myself (if only I could afford it). Christian Grey, despite his many quirks, sexual and otherwise, remains as the unattainable, though highly sought after, love interest, that many can only dream of finding.
Also returning from previous Fifty Shades films are Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Max Martini, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Callum Keith Renni, Bruce Altman, Robinne Lee, and Academy Award-winner Marcia Gay Harden as Christian’s adoptive mother. Newcomers Arielle Kebbel, Brant Daugherty, and Tyler Hoechlin (Supergirl) join the fun.
On a personal note, I’d like to commend Arielle Kebbel for her performance as Gia Matteo. Her toe-to-toe with Dakota Johnson’s Ana over Christian was just as heated and amusing as I remembered from the book.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this series’ success is how easy it is for women to put themselves in Ana’s shoes. Her awkward, often frustrated, eager-to-be challenged female longing for something new and different to whisk her off the beaten path isn’t as uncommon as you might think. While most might never dream of catching a Christian Grey-type, few would deny themselves the pleasure of watching someone else revel in the experience of being wined and dined by a handsome billionaire with obvious flaws, albeit one who occasionally wears his heart on his proverbial sleeve.
The only thing that was slightly off-putting is that Jack Hyde starts off as a fiction editor in the previous film, only to end up as a technologically savvy bomber, kidnapper, blackmailer and murderer here. One might say this is quite a character arc for one person to accomplish, even managing to stand out in a series like this as truly unbelievable. It might have been interesting to see this evolution for ourselves, maybe witness him buckling down and studying hard to be the ultimate evil-doer.
Alas, none of this is shown, nor indicated. Also, his reasons for targeting the Greys are revealed much too late in the film, though this may be intentional, since the audience learns of his motives at the same time as the newlyweds do.
Fifty Shades Freed is a fun escape from reality for fans, especially those who crave a few hours of adventure filled with sexual tension, frustration and release from a gorgeous actor and the woman he desires on screen. Say what you will, but the Fifty Shades trilogy has officially cemented itself as the guilty pleasure of an extremely large and devoted target audience who is sure to be delighted by the final installment of this sexy billionaire series.