One last trip through the seedy, useless mind of E. L. James, whose writings are poorly thought-out developments of two lifeless characters toiling away, rubbing up against each other and spending extravagant amounts of money to take helicopter trips to distant restaurants where they can barely get through the cheese board before hopping back in their helicopter and away to their sex dungeon. If that does not appeal to middle-aged women, then what possibly could? A good quiche, perhaps? James cornered the market with her dreadful, hack writing, which in its initial conception was a play on the tropes of the erotica genre, but still insufferably dull. But popularity prevails. It must be made into a film. Fifty Shades Freed is, thankfully, the final piece in an agonizingly simple puzzle.
Returning to the battlefield are Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, both of whom show once again that they have no ounce of chemistry or care for what they do with one another on-screen. Granted, that is fair play for a film that tries to become a thriller. Kidnap and capturing, foul play and degeneracy, it all moulds together with the expectedly airheaded effects this encapsulation of smut between a married couple offers. At least the first film had a genuine layer of antagonism, a real desire to showcase the back-and-forth power play. It was a misguided power play, but at least there was power to be played with. The sexual aspect of the Fifty Shades series goes from plot point to side avenue that is usually used as a replacement for a fade-out or camera angle change.
It is amazing to think that the sultry back and forth of the first feature would soon resign itself to the happily ever after these characters never deserved. Director James Foley, honour bound to finish what he started, must have known these characters were braindead entities, which is why he tries his absolute best to change Fifty Shades Freed from sexed-up degeneracy to a money-led thriller with insanity-clad espionage sprinkled in throughout. Foley has gone mad with the budget, and madder still with power. His sequel works on the Fifty Shades trilogy are vile not because of the content within but because of what it means for his post-Glengarry Glen Ross career. He has hit the high of adapting David Mamet and is now at the low of mopping up after James’ fans usher themselves in and out of the cinema for a third time.
The cultural storm that James’ writing first offered is a monumentally interesting crutch of culture. It is saddening but intensely interesting to see that Fifty Shades of Grey is, one decade on from its conception, still culturally relevant and revered by some. As a written form of art, it has something to it that designates James as someone who knows she is writing smut and filth to appeal to a certain demographic but is also actively attempting to mock said audience. That much is lost on the films, especially Fifty Shades Freed, a film that audiences will feel very much freed from once the credits start rolling and the backdrop encapsulates the back-and-forth misery of two sociopaths.