It’s hard to believe that Ana Steele and Christian Grey spanked their way onto the big screen and into our hearts and pants just three short years ago. It’s been quite the journey. They’ve been on, off, on again, tied up, chained up, whipped, oiled and blindfolded - and now they’re getting married. It’s just so romantic. Alright, alright, all jokes aside, I do actually enjoy the ‘Fifty Shades’ franchise. Why? I couldn’t tell you even if I wanted to. It remains a mystery even to myself. Yes, I read the books too. Devoured them, more like it. I thought they were terribly written, I laughed at them most of the time, and I’ve had the same reaction to their screen adaptations. What can I say, I think they’re fun. Obviously not for their intended reason but hey, a fan is a fan and I've been a card-carrying 'Fifty Shades' fan club member since 2011. And now I am awash with that same feeling of, “What the hell am I supposed to do with myself now?” you get when you’re done binging a Netflix series - because the third and final film ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ is upon us.
We kick off all too briefly with the wedding. Then the epic honeymoon which is cut short by trouble afoot back home. A fire at Christian’s offices incriminates Ana’s ex-boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson, ‘Orphan Black’) and tensions are high, so the newlyweds return home to navigate married life, advancing careers and dealing with a psycho on the loose hellbent on revenge. Balancing work, friends, a possessive husband and a madman is so time-consuming; so where does one find time for sex? If you’re Ana Grey nee Steele, you make time, or you simply do it in the car for efficiency. Love and loyalty are called into question as the surprises just keep on coming, but perhaps a kidnapping will put everything into perspective and make it all right again. Or they’ll just bang out their problems. Either way works.
These last two films of the franchise have so clearly been written and directed by men - which is strange given its target audience. It boggles the mind that after appropriately allowing a woman to helm, the first film they didn’t continue the trend. Let me put it to you this way - the wedding that fans have been dreaming and fantasising about for years is only minutes long - if that - and never do we get a good look at the dress. That scene of Christian emerging from the water, James Bond style, that we’ve had on repeat from the trailer for months - isn’t in the final cut of the film. And the infamous sex scenes are anything but sexy - perhaps a result of criticism after return director James Foley’s (‘Glengarry Glen Ross’) previous efforts in ‘Fifty Shades Darker’. But instead of simply switching off the “male gaze” they’re now brief, over-edited (and badly), boring and gratuitous. Basically not what the fans want or are paying good money to see.
And the infamous sex scenes... they’re now brief, over-edited (and badly), boring and gratuitous.
Ana’s character is much stronger in this third instalment, which is a minor win but it’s all marred by that same woeful dialogue thanks to return screenwriter Niall Leonard - so much so that even the efforts of the film’s talented cast can’t seem to make passable. Oh god, and then there’s that scene where Christian sings ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. It’s embarrassing to say the least.
As with the previous two films, the takeaway here is the soundtrack - the franchise’s one shining light. Sia is back for the third time, as is the Ellie Goulding hit ‘Love Me Like You Do’ and an original by Liam Payne and the film’s cast member Rita Ora, as well as fantastic covers of INXS’ ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ and James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’. Perhaps just download the soundtrack and be done with it. Definitely a film for the true believers only.