The Greys's love is on the line once again as Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) happily ties the knot to complicated-is-an-understatement Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). But not everything is good in kinky paradise. Surprises are in store for the newlyweds as an unplanned pregnancy uproots their attempt at a vanilla relationship, and Ana's former boss Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) returns to hijack their wedded bliss.
Breaking free from Sam-Taylor Johnson's impressive yet awkward Fifty Shades of Grey, and James Foley's stilted sequel Fifty Shades Darker, the journey here is as smooth as its going to get. Writer Niall Leonard and Foley team up once again to helm the story and up the ante in the eleventh hour just enough to save two love birds who are idolized by their author and readers from being totally forgettable. Unfolding a slew of excitement at a solid pace, the action and romance surprisingly strives for 'a climax' fit for its fandom.
Leading the way in her final curtain call, Dakota Johnson gets her power back. Ana no longer tiptoes around Christian's issues as she becomes more than pleased to challenge him for independence and her own desires at every turn. Chemistry still lingers between Johnson and her partner-in-the-red-room Jamie Dornan, but the latter is somewhat left in the dust as their characters' relationship morphs from his twisted psychosis to two hearts meeting in the middle. The couple are united in their love enough to deal with all matters kinky-sex-related or not, but it's ultimately Johnson's funny, vulnerable and bold transformation that matters most. She's finally given a fuller opportunity to grow the quirky, experimental ingenue into a strong-willed, fierce woman calling all the shots - Mrs. Grey Will See You Now if you dare.
Despite the fans holding onto being entertained for the final time, Freed's biggest flaw stems from its home studio leaving everything to the last minute. With a major lack of promotion and any industry-led interest, Universal didn't camouflage how quickly they wanted to unload the finale off of its slate.
Fifty Shades Freed doesn't have time on its side, barely hitting an hour and forty-five minutes to explore its fanfiction origins. Compared to its predecessors lingering at two hours each, the first awkwardly strayed from being a truer adaptation and the second had nothing going on except a humpathon, Freed isn't given the luxury of letting the story the build. Surely the production and costume aesthetics carried on from Darker are just as impressive here, but any standout moments are difficult to savor. Even the supporting cast making up the Greys's clan of family and friends, who were never more than appearance-makers before, are too fleeting to have a purposeful impact. Packed with action, comedy, and erotica, the script doesn't waste a single scene squeezing in as much as it can, but the film's pace is rushing towards a finishing line with nothing on its tail. One can only imagine what the cutting room floor looks like, leaving the series's true admirers to cross their fingers for an extended DVD for a fuller movie. Blink and you might miss the theatrical alternative.
Though fans forgave what critics and naysayers considered to be cinema sins, the Fifty Shades's road has been bumpy, to say the least. But let's be honest, Fifty Shades was never for the haters. The story was understood and beloved primarily by its readers and author. From being inspired to try kinky sex with their own spouses to readers understanding abusive relationships, or just being curious about the books and starting discussions, there's still power in a story that hooked millions of women, who cherish and know what the characters mean to them. For them, it'd be silly and lazy to ignore the importance of this sensation written by a woman for women, something that is still severely lacking in Hollywood and even if the results are imperfect. The fact that its heroine goes out with a bang matters just as much.
Outside of its inner circle, Fifty Shades Freed is another one for the books and fans who will surely enjoy themselves. Foley manages to squeeze what's left of the original material for its worth with a script aiming to tie up all the loose ends. Even if it's comforting that third time's the charm, it's a shame the trilogy didn't have this kind of gusto from beginning to end. For even the most casual fan of its actors like myself, there's no denying the trilogy had a shaky start and middle, but for the ending, Freed finally manages to get it right.
for readers: ★★★
for everyone else:☆☆☆