Pain gets easier to deal with on the third time, right? America’s favorite pain-inflicting couple in Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) are back and taking things to the next level. This doesn’t mean only sexually, but Ana taking Christian’s last name in holy matrimony. Their relationship, forever a complicated one, seems to finally be on the same page.

Still, there are things Ana wants that Christian is not entirely sold on. like the idea of a family. This is troubling, but not as troubling as old thorn Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) popping up consistently in efforts to get revenge on the newlyweds for ruining his life. Bliss cannot be fully achieved until Hyde is fully removed from the situation.

Why Fifty Shades Freed? Yours truly is a completionist in just about everything I do in this life, and if there’s a clear end seen, I’ll often stick with it. Fifty Shades Freed is the clear end to the E.L James trilogy of novels adapted into features on the silver screen starting with Fifty Shades of Grey. No matter how this goes, this is the last one. Reason for celebration. You don’t need me to say this is a bad film, but I will. At least this series has consistency.

But, there are (a few) positives! Fifty Shades Freed and director James Foley, responsible for last year’s sequel in Fifty Shades Darker, his stars, and the like finally seem to be in on the joke more times than not. “FSF” is—surprisingly—amusing at times in a completely intentional way. This addition does result in a slightly less dull watch than Darker, and by default, Freed is a better movie than the second, for whatever that’s worth. Still, these fleeting moments and dialogue are the exception, not the norm. Most of what is heard is as agonizing as those films that came before it, despite the committed efforts of the brightest spot of the series in Dakota Johnson giving and baring her all.

Like those other films, Johnson tries to bring strength to the role, but Anastasia is what she is at this point: A character whose actions often don’t jibe with her words and desires, making her a challenging character to invest into. The return of Johnson of course means the return of Dornan as the playboy billionaire sexual miscreant Christian Grey. Dornan is hilarious at times, whether crooning on the piano or giving no cares in the world with how often his American accent slips into his native Irish one. But like the other movies, he’s mostly dry and stiff, and together, the duo just does not possess the smoldering chemistry needed to overcome the trilogy’s story problems.

Being slightly more self-aware doesn’t make the bruises go away, however. Fifty Shades Freed, like its predecessors, is doomed from the start simply because of its source material shooting blanks in regard to providing anything of substance plot-wise or character-wise. Even at one hour and forty-five minutes which amounts to the shortest Fifty Shades run-time to date, there’s isn’t enough here to constitute it.

It’s probably why Foley, when not filming a Fast and Furious-like scene or generic Lifetime thriller set-pieces, resorts to an endless supply of pop tunes every 10 minutes in any given scene, whether BDSM is involved or not. To put a final bow on the proceedings, Ellie Goulding’s Love Me Like You Do plays over the series’ most famous/infamous scenes and is a perfect representation of the glossy coat of paint that has attempted to cover its pitfalls.

“Don’t miss the climax” is the main tagline for Fifty Shades Freed, and it is sort of funny. The word climax typically carries a positive connotation, suggesting that whatever came before it was at the very least semi-memorable. Can’t have a good climax without good foreplay, though. Time to turn out the lights on the Red Room of Pain for good.


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