Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
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FIFTY SHADES FREED: Third Time’s The Charm

While nowhere near the best picture of 2018, Fifty Shades Freed does prove itself to be a tantalizing, sultry, and seductive conclusion to the saga of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey that is sure to satisfy fans.

FIFTY SHADES FREED: Third Time's the Charm

Following last year’s disappointing adaption of Fifty Shades Darker, my expectations walking into Fifty Shades Freed were not high. However, I can not believe I am going to say this, Fifty Shades Freed was actually not bad and surprisingly a very enjoyable film. I’m not saying this is a best picture or film of the year material, but for the nature of the film and the sadly poor adaptation of the last film, this installment has found freedom from itself.

Where the first film was a success due to its novelty, the second failed to properly utilize any plot (Christian’s ex-sub stalking was an element but not a driving force), with the sole focus on the repetitive activities between the two main characters. Adapting the final book, however, rode on the wave of a waning novelty and a failed adaptation, setting the bar low for a film that had the most potential – thankfully, in the end, defying the odds.

Since we are staying honest, a friend and I planned our showing for opening night –  the best night for a fan to experience the film. I am sure my positive feelings towards this film were also heightened by this, the audience clapping as Anna told of the landscaper, the whooping as Christian stands more revealing than usual in the shower (these cries of joy from the audience not limited to this one scene), and the applause as the film concluded. As Fifty Shades Freed opened, there was an energy that only increased as the film continued – a surge of electricity from an audience truly enjoying a film.

Fifty Shades Freed

Soft, bright light radiates off everything as Fifty Shades Freed begins to play across the screen. Anna (Dakota Johnson) in her stunning wedding dress, rings placed onto fingers, a wall of white flowers from floor to ceiling illuminating as Christian (Jamie Dornan) and Anna say their vows, forever uniting them after a whirlwind relationship. Whisked almost immediately off to their honeymoon, their tour of Europe takes them setting to sea, climbing ruins and enjoying the sun on the sands of France’s exquisite beaches. Everything is perfect – until Christian receives a call form Grey Enterprises informing him of a small fire in the computer room and a breach of security surrounding some of Christian’s personnel information.

FIFTY SHADES FREED: Third Time's the Charm

source: Universal Pictures

Cutting their honeymoon short, they return home, where Anna finds that her marriage changes everything around her. As lady of the house, she finds that everyone is waiting for her decisions and opinions on the house and the home menu, while a promotion is given to her (when she wasn’t even there!) leaving nothing but animosity from her coworkers – never mind the forever shadow of personal security.

This doesn’t deter the two from enjoying each other, Christian determined to show Anna the world. Yet, as much as they try, Jake Hyde (Eric Johnson) proves to be a threat to their happiness that will not be stopped. As information surrounding Christian’s helicopter crash comes to light and an attempted abduction sets everyone on edge, finding out what is driving Hyde to terrorize them proves to be more difficult than they imagined. As the threats increase, Christian and Anne find that happily ever after may come at a price.

Seducing an Audience

Fifty Shades Freed was my favorite of the trilogy and honestly the only one that could have been a success without the novelty. The third book had more of a plot and a driving force other than a constant focus on sex and the red room – there was more meat to the story from start to finish. Fortunately, the adaptation, hugging close to the original text, did not sacrifice the meat of the story for sex. There was an even balance between story and eroticism, never losing focus on the plot. Where director James Foley and screenwriter Niall Leonard seemed to lose focus in Fifty Shades Darker, their combination of story and screen was a cohesive success the second time around.

Opening scenes at the beginning of the film with regards to the wedding are beautiful, with gorgeous bright soft light radiating off everything – an immediate sharp contrast to the title of the last film and the source material. The faces of both Anna and Christian were light and warm, showing the growth of their characters to reach this satisfying moment in their relationship. From here everything stays bright, only darkened when the overcoming shadow of Jack’s terrorizing actions threatens to divide the two.

FIFTY SHADES FREED: Third Time's the Charm

source: Universal Pictures

A brilliant decision in this film versus the others was the usage of other characters within the text, not putting the focus and screen time literally on Anna and Christian entirely. Jack gets more of his own screen time, adding more tension as a threat, whereas before it was hinted but never truly shown – well not until the last moments, but by then there was little to no impact. Christian and Anna also interact with more characters, breaking free of the enclosed relationship they have bubbled themselves into.

Home designer Gia Matteo (played by Arielle Kebbel, best known for The Vampire Diaries) not only plays a vital part in Mrs. Grey’s growth in her relationship with Christian, but also continues to play a role in a side plot, again expanding the focus and breadth of the film. Anna’s friends Kate (Eloise Mumford) and José (Victor Rasuk) are brought back into the film (more than once!), creating character continuity and expanding the scope of the world Christian and Anna have created together – the same can be said for Christian’s family, his mother (Marcia Gay Harden), brother Elliot (Luke Grimes) and sister Mia (Rita Ora) all making more than one appearance. Needless to say, this inclusion of more than just two central characters could also be attributed to the success of the film.

And speaking of more, the ladies will find that Christian Grey is more risqué – both visually and vocally. I had forgotten in the book there is a scene where Christian sings to his family. While his singing did not get the same whooping from the audience as some other scenes in the film, it must be said that Jamie Dornan has a very lovely and entrancing singing voice, lending his vocals for the film’s rendition of “Maybe I’m Amazed” (and available on the soundtrack!). It’s very short, but a great listen.

My only true issue with Fifty Shades Freed, that I just can’t shake, were in scenes involving racing to or from things. Sadly, instead of an intense, edge-of-your-seat action moment, races played out like a video game. You saw the chase and the editing was not too awful, but the voices and conversations sounded like a surgery or automated computer game – “you are losing the patient”, “The enemy is approaching”. Dialogue was sharp, quick, and dry, with no emotion behind it to truly capture what was happening on screen. This unfortunately occurs twice in the film, taking away from the even pace and beat of Fifty Shades Freed.

A Tantalizing Soundtrack

By far the best part of Fifty Shades Freed is its soundtrack, both composed and compiled, in the film and as a standalone soundtrack – a tantalizing soundtrack that matches the seducing atmosphere of the film (I literally have not stopped streaming it). As Christian and Anna whisk themselves through Europe on their honeymoon, the upbeat song “Capitol Letters” by Blood Pope and Hailee Steinfeld (best known for her roles in The Edge of Sixteen, Pitch Perfect 2) plays, keeping the tone of the montage light, poppy and energetic, electrifying the growth of this onscreen couple millions have fallen in love with.

FIFTY SHADES FREED: Third Time's the Charm

source: Universal Pictures

There was a great tieback to the original album, with Elle Goulding‘s “Love Me Like You Do” brought back to the forefront and the journey of these two loves recalled – creating a clever continuity in this concluding chapter and bringing everything full circle. However, this was not the only beautiful use of continuity, the soundtrack finding other means of musically recalling the first film. “Never Tear Us Apart” by Bishop Briggs borrows from the first film’s biggest marketing remix of Beyonce‘s “Crazy in Love”, the piano riff playing cleverly in the background of this new song.

New songs round out the soundtrack, a sultry remix of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by Jessie J intensifying “playtime”, “Pearls” by Samantha Gongol mischievously mimicking the playful “disobedience” on screen, and “For You” by Liam Payne and Rita Ora, who stars in the film, keeping the up-beat, lighthearted aspects of the film alive. The only questionable moment of music marrying with film was during the car chase early in the film – like I mentioned, I just can’t shake these scenes. “The Wolf” by The Spencer Lee Band plays over the intense chase, the Bruno Mars-esque beats wiping away any intensity, creating instead a seemingly cheesy game of cat and mouse rather than a potential life and death situation. While it was the perfect buildup for the aftermath of the chase, it was a little out of place – especially when you add the Christian Grey video game dialogue on top of it.

Fifty Shades Freed: The Concluding Chapter

While nowhere near the best picture of 2018, Fifty Shades Freed does prove itself to be a tantalizing, sultry, and seductive conclusion to the saga of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. While currently not a favorite of critics, receiving an 11% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this article, it is sure to satisfy fans of the series.

Have you seen Fifty Shades Freed? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

Fifty Shades Freed was released in the US and UK on February 9, 2018. For all international release dates, see here.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Stephanie Archer is 31 year old film fanatic living in Norwalk, CT, USA.

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