Is the conclusion of this trilogy free of bad judgment?
The finale of the Fifty Shades saga doesn’t provoke, doesn’t cross lines or break boundaries, or incite thunderous debate like its first installment did – but it does manage to somehow neatly wrap up the complicated story that spawned a film series grossing over a $1 billion worldwide.
Picking up immediately where Fifty Shades Darker left off, Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) try to settle comfortably into married life but are confronted by the dangers of violent threats from Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), the possibilities of parenthood and the overwhelming trust needed for a healthy marriage. Like its two predecessors, the story unfolds at an alarmingly rapid pace that makes it very difficult to develop real interest or devotion to the lives of the characters depicted.
Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia continues to be worthy of praise; although wooden and unimaginative at times, she does remain faithful to her literary character and offers an uplifting, enjoyable presence to the film in stark contrast to her co-star Dornan, whose portrayal of the BDSM-loving billionaire Christian Grey continues to feel depressingly miscast. While the apparent lack of chemistry between the two stars plagued the duration of the first film, it’s now at a point where viewers can look past it and try to immerse themselves in the complex and admittedly interesting relationship between the two characters, as the story moves past the unforgiving sadomasochism of the original novel and delves deeper into the darker side of sexual relationships and the longing for freedom within the walls of a doomed relationship.
James Foley’s direction is most unflattering, where it seems he followed in the footsteps of the director of the first film, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and was torn between making an erotic thriller film and bowing to the intense over-sexualization of the most intimate scenes of the E.L. James-authored novels. I feel that Foley should have been allowed to have more creative control of the material, where he could have pushed the film more into the direction of a thriller that illuminates audiences on the reality of dominant-submissive relationships, particularly in the contemporary political climate surrounding sexual abuse in Hollywood.
As a viewer who can’t help but adore a film with attractive, bold and daring visuals (I’m thinking Wally Pfister and Robert Richardson!), this was not the case with Fifty Shades Freed, as I was not particularly drawn to any of the visual elements presented in the film (Dakota Johnson doesn’t count!), and I’m surprised to admit that the cinematography and editing of the first Fifty Shades of Grey film was much stronger and braver than its two sequels.
As stated earlier, I must recognise that this film does manage to tie up (no pun intended) the trilogy quite well, although I really wish Grey had been better cast with someone like Henry Cavill, and that the lazy film editing had instead allowed much more time for the story to flow naturally and for the characters to actually realise themselves on screen and not just flood the movie with an endless parade of sex that is actually quite meaningless, and did not advance the plot for most of the film. But there is some kind of feeling of closure that manages to rise from the climax of the film, and I think most audiences can feel that can comfortably put an end to the Fifty Shades of Grey film trilogy.