I don’t blame the birds for chirping or the fish for swimming. I don’t blame February for being cold or a romantic restaurant for being booked up on Valentine’s Day. So I can’t say I blame the third and final “Fifty Shades” movie for being awful. Of course it’s awful. That’s what these movies do, they spend two hours being awful. There’s no pleasant surprise here, but there’s not really an unpleasant surprise either. The best thing I can say about this movie is that it isn’t like “Boo! A Madea Halloween 2” or “Daddy’s Home 2” where I’m astonished by how it manages to be worse than my meager expectations. It’s exactly as bad as it’s expected to be.
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are back as mild-mannered everywoman Anastasia Steele and mysterious perverted billionaire Christian Grey, respectively. Long story short, he likes her because she’s confident enough to say no to him now and then, and she likes him because he asks her really nicely to join him in all the kinky sex stuff he’s into. The film opens with them getting married in a wedding that will make everyone in the audience jealous, then they go on a honeymoon that will make everyone in the audience jealous, then they buy a home that will make everyone in the audience jealous. The movie can’t give us a tantalizing sex scene to save its life, but it is somewhat successful as wealth porn.
The honeymoon comes to an end in the form of Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana’s former boss who made an unwelcome advance on her and got removed from his position by Christian. He’s out for revenge, and Ana can’t figure out why. Conventional wisdom would say that it’s because Christian ruined his career, but the movie throws in a convoluted motivation involving Christian being adopted instead of him as a child. The storyline sees the justice system having its hands tied despite Hyde clearly being a threat, a kidnapping plot that Hyde is never going to be able to pull off, and a car chase that is clearly meant to serve as an advertisement for Ana’s car, except I don’t know what kind of car it was. I got a good look at the logo, but I don’t have a name to go with it.
And of course, there are a bunch of those trademark “Fifty Shades” sex scenes, which means there’s ridiculously tame S&M and they aren’t sexy at all. A particularly embarrassing session sees Ana and Christian lick ice cream off each other, which is sticky and gross the second it touches your skin. If these movies were really committed to being erotic, maybe they should have tried to break new ground with the NC-17 rating instead of settling for an R, where most of the nudity has to be obscured. If any franchise could have pulled it off commercially, it’s this one. Anyway, all the sex leads to Ana becoming pregnant, which Christian takes unforgivably poorly. He thinks he’s too screwed up to make a good father. Obviously I’m disgusted at his behavior toward his pregnant wife, but I can’t help but think that maybe he has a point in that he’s a person who shouldn’t be breeding.
Hooray for the “Fifty Shades” saga finally being over with this movie. We got the charming Dakota Johnson out of it (don’t let her “success” at the Razzies fool you, her presence is one of the most tolerable things about these movies), plus the addictive Ellie Goulding song “Love Me Like You Do.” Unfortunately we also got poor storytelling, forced chemistry and conflict, and plenty of off-putting sex scenes that never even came close to capturing the depravity they wanted. I’m tempted to bump up the grade to a C- just because I’m so grateful that I’ll never have to sit through one of these again. Nah.
“Fifty Shades Freed” is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language. Its running time is 105 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.