The ‘Fifty Shades’ Experiment Accomplishes What Set out To

Fifty Shades Freed
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hours 45 minutes
Director: James Foley
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, and Marcia Gay Harden

The Fifty Shade of Grey films have been consistently dragged through the mud in both critic and fan circles for the past 3 years when the first book adaptation was realized in 2015. And after those 3 short (or long depending on who you ask) years, the controversial trilogy has come to an end with Fifty Shades Freed, an objectively dreadful film. However, while the film and its predecessors are truly awful, the franchise has its redeeming qualities when considered from a different perspective – one that sees the absurd frivolity not as your typical film, but as the hyper-realistic fantasy it is.

fifty-shades-freed-header
Newly weds Christian and Anastasia Grey continue to swoon over each other

The Fifty Shades saga follows the “carnal” relationship between a shy, aspiring writer Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and sexual deviant Billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). The most recent and final film, Fifty Shades Freed opens with Anastasia and Christian’s wedding, and is about their new marriage, Anastasia coping with her newfound riches and responsibilities, and the impending confrontation with Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Anastasia’s predatory boss whom she had fired who also happens to share an unexpected past with Christian. If any of that sounded genuinely exciting in any way, I can assure you, it isn’t.

The plot of this film (and really the whole series in general), if you can call it that, is nothing more than forgettable filler in-between sporadic moments of contrived drama, pop songs, and repetitive sex scenes, which is bad for an edgy romance that’s main selling point is the promise of hardcore BDSM. Yet despite all of that, I found myself enjoying the experience, if not only due to the sheer hilarity of the film’s badness. But even more surprisingly, I came to appreciate, and kind of respect, what the film trilogy tried to be: a mindless, female fantasy.

Please don’t interpret that as patronizing or condescending. By female fantasy, I mean a made-for-women fiction grounded in a version of reality where a random woman can escape her boring, conventional life to fall into a sex-crazed fling with a young, attractive billionaire. There are countless films catering to common male fantasizes from getting in orgies with 30 hot chicks to saving the world from alien invasions; while the films intended for female viewing (i.e. romantic comedies) are almost always confined to the familiar reality with which women are unable to escape from even in the movie theater.

It’s fitting that the Fifty Shades novels, from which the films are adapted, originate from a Twilight fan-fiction because, while the films and novels are indisputably terrible, the franchise and what it represents is well intentioned, and entertaining enough to earn its spot in the pop culture canon.

Objective Score: 2/10
Qualified Score: 7.5/10

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