Review: 'Fifty Shades Freed' Mixes Wealth Porn And Empowerment Fantasy Into A Campy Good Time – Forbes


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‘Fifty Shades Freed’

The Box Office:

Universal and Perfect World Pictures doesn’t have much at stake with this third and final installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Sure, they are on the hook for the $55 million budget, as well as marketing costs, but this is a wildly successful franchise that paid for itself the first time out. These movies have thus far earned $952m worldwide on a budget of $95m total. Even if Fifty Shades Freed somehow makes zero dollars at the global box office, we’re still looking at a trilogy that earned 6.3x its combined budget on the first two movies alone.

But yeah, even with excitement obviously down a bit since Fifty Shades of Grey&nbsp;inspired hope for more female-driven biggies and female-led romantic dramas three years ago (we were so young and naïve), this third Dakota Johnson/Jamie Dornan chapter will still take the franchise over the $1 billion mark, presumably as early as Saturday or Sunday. Presuming it makes at least $100 million in North America, it’ll end as the 12th-highest-grossing R-rated franchise in unadjusted domestic grosses. Overseas is a different story, but that’s some math for another day.

The Review:

At the very least, Fifty Shades Freed is goofy fun. It is significantly less serious than the last dreadfully dull chapter, and it walks the line between faithful adaptation and knowing wit. Christian Grey is still a controlling douche, and the sex scenes are so boring that I would have used one for a bathroom break except I didn’t want my audience to think I was a prude. Seriously, this franchise thinks it’s using the sex scenes as action scenes or musical numbers, but really, they are like games of Quidditch. Every time the movie starts to get interesting or the plot thickens, everything stops so Ana and Christian can “play Quidditch.”

In a skewed way, Fifty Shades Freed is the Batman &amp; Robin of the series. Not only is it a big campier&nbsp;but also its core arc for its male lead mimics that of George Clooney’s Caped Crusader. Like Bruce Wayne in the fourth 1990s Batman flick, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, trying to make a mediocre person into a dream catch) has moved past his psychological issues and is now struggling to be a normal person in normal relationships. He’s still terribly controlling and paranoid, but he’s a little looser (he gets to sing) and thus slightly more charismatic. By default, Ana and Christian have a little more chemistry this time out.

Like the final Twilight movie, this one does what it can to turn its female lead into a stronger, more independent/take charge heroine. Dakota Johnson is again the best thing about these movies, and I’m not just saying that because she spends much of this one wearing various pantsuits (sadly no glasses). Ana gets two car chase sequences and her own would-be action climax, while the screenplay lets her say all the right things during her arguments with her controlling husband. Sure, she has a job that she loves with fawning coworkers despite doing very little work, but that’s part of the fantasy. And we should remember that these films are escapist fantasies.

One thing I liked is how the film essentially uses Christian’s BSDM fetish as a way for the newly married couple (oh, right, they get married in the opening credits montage) to work through their marital squabbles. That is no less conventional than a couple forming a rock band&nbsp;so they can work through their arguments through song lyrics ala Band Aid. The sex itself is boring, but then most of it is conventional, with little rising above PG-13 roleplay. Yes, this is an R-rated movie (with, again, far more female nudity than male nudity), but there is very little kink or debauchery. And you could remove all the sex without changing the plot.

Once again, their kinky (and near-constant) sex life is rooted in explicit consent. There’s a moment when Christian acts out in anger and Ana uses the safe word, and he immediately stops and removes her restraints without thinking twice. The fantasy of this franchise remains that an adult woman could experiment with a stupidly-rich bachelor who was into kink with no fear of negative consequences (violence, retaliation, slut-shaming, etc.) should she say no. That the villain (Ana’s former boss, Jack Hyde) is a guy who sexually harassed or sexually manipulated his female underlings on the job and is thus viewed as complete scum of the Earth by men and women is itself a timely fantasy.

This all makes the movie seem better than it is. Fifty Shades Freed remains aggressively dumb with a “problematic” male lead, but it’s peppier than the last film and 20 minutes shorter than the first movie. Director James Foley relishes the action beats while Niall Leonard’s screenplay trims the fat (removing much of the silliest dialogue) and thus improves on the source material. It’s still hilarious that Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), a former book editor, can pull off supervillain maneuvers, and the whole conflict is merely an excuse to have something resembling an action finale and moments of peril. But this cotton candy concoction is at least as enjoyable as the first movie.

Sadly, it doesn’t play out enough like Twilight: Breaking Dawn. There are no inappropriate Michael Sheen giggles, and we don’t end with a stunningly awesome and shockingly violent superpowered mass battle scene that puts every comic book movie to shame. But Johnson still sells the hell out of the material, while Dornan gets to (comparatively) cut loose. Say what you will, but these movies have been female-friendly fantasies of consent, with vanilla BDSM and wealth porn thrown in for good measure. I can’t imagine anyone seeing Fifty Shades Freed by accident, so if you’ve come this far, it’s worth powering through to the end. It’s not sexy, but it is fun.

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‘Fifty Shades Freed’

The Box Office:

Universal and Perfect World Pictures doesn’t have much at stake with this third and final installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Sure, they are on the hook for the $55 million budget, as well as marketing costs, but this is a wildly successful franchise that paid for itself the first time out. These movies have thus far earned $952m worldwide on a budget of $95m total. Even if Fifty Shades Freed somehow makes zero dollars at the global box office, we’re still looking at a trilogy that earned 6.3x its combined budget on the first two movies alone.

But yeah, even with excitement obviously down a bit since Fifty Shades of Grey inspired hope for more female-driven biggies and female-led romantic dramas three years ago (we were so young and naïve), this third Dakota Johnson/Jamie Dornan chapter will still take the franchise over the $1 billion mark, presumably as early as Saturday or Sunday. Presuming it makes at least $100 million in North America, it’ll end as the 12th-highest-grossing R-rated franchise in unadjusted domestic grosses. Overseas is a different story, but that’s some math for another day.

The Review:

At the very least, Fifty Shades Freed is goofy fun. It is significantly less serious than the last dreadfully dull chapter, and it walks the line between faithful adaptation and knowing wit. Christian Grey is still a controlling douche, and the sex scenes are so boring that I would have used one for a bathroom break except I didn’t want my audience to think I was a prude. Seriously, this franchise thinks it’s using the sex scenes as action scenes or musical numbers, but really, they are like games of Quidditch. Every time the movie starts to get interesting or the plot thickens, everything stops so Ana and Christian can “play Quidditch.”

In a skewed way, Fifty Shades Freed is the Batman & Robin of the series. Not only is it a big campier but also its core arc for its male lead mimics that of George Clooney’s Caped Crusader. Like Bruce Wayne in the fourth 1990s Batman flick, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan, trying to make a mediocre person into a dream catch) has moved past his psychological issues and is now struggling to be a normal person in normal relationships. He’s still terribly controlling and paranoid, but he’s a little looser (he gets to sing) and thus slightly more charismatic. By default, Ana and Christian have a little more chemistry this time out.

Like the final Twilight movie, this one does what it can to turn its female lead into a stronger, more independent/take charge heroine. Dakota Johnson is again the best thing about these movies, and I’m not just saying that because she spends much of this one wearing various pantsuits (sadly no glasses). Ana gets two car chase sequences and her own would-be action climax, while the screenplay lets her say all the right things during her arguments with her controlling husband. Sure, she has a job that she loves with fawning coworkers despite doing very little work, but that’s part of the fantasy. And we should remember that these films are escapist fantasies.

One thing I liked is how the film essentially uses Christian’s BSDM fetish as a way for the newly married couple (oh, right, they get married in the opening credits montage) to work through their marital squabbles. That is no less conventional than a couple forming a rock band so they can work through their arguments through song lyrics ala Band Aid. The sex itself is boring, but then most of it is conventional, with little rising above PG-13 roleplay. Yes, this is an R-rated movie (with, again, far more female nudity than male nudity), but there is very little kink or debauchery. And you could remove all the sex without changing the plot.

Once again, their kinky (and near-constant) sex life is rooted in explicit consent. There’s a moment when Christian acts out in anger and Ana uses the safe word, and he immediately stops and removes her restraints without thinking twice. The fantasy of this franchise remains that an adult woman could experiment with a stupidly-rich bachelor who was into kink with no fear of negative consequences (violence, retaliation, slut-shaming, etc.) should she say no. That the villain (Ana’s former boss, Jack Hyde) is a guy who sexually harassed or sexually manipulated his female underlings on the job and is thus viewed as complete scum of the Earth by men and women is itself a timely fantasy.

This all makes the movie seem better than it is. Fifty Shades Freed remains aggressively dumb with a “problematic” male lead, but it’s peppier than the last film and 20 minutes shorter than the first movie. Director James Foley relishes the action beats while Niall Leonard’s screenplay trims the fat (removing much of the silliest dialogue) and thus improves on the source material. It’s still hilarious that Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), a former book editor, can pull off supervillain maneuvers, and the whole conflict is merely an excuse to have something resembling an action finale and moments of peril. But this cotton candy concoction is at least as enjoyable as the first movie.

Sadly, it doesn’t play out enough like Twilight: Breaking Dawn. There are no inappropriate Michael Sheen giggles, and we don’t end with a stunningly awesome and shockingly violent superpowered mass battle scene that puts every comic book movie to shame. But Johnson still sells the hell out of the material, while Dornan gets to (comparatively) cut loose. Say what you will, but these movies have been female-friendly fantasies of consent, with vanilla BDSM and wealth porn thrown in for good measure. I can’t imagine anyone seeing Fifty Shades Freed by accident, so if you’ve come this far, it’s worth powering through to the end. It’s not sexy, but it is fun.

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