FIFTY SHADES FREED. Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, with cameo appearance by Kim Basinger. Also starring, Arielle Kebbel and Max Martini. Directed by James Foley. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong sex scenes).105 min.
This American drama is based on the 2012 novel of the same name written by British female author, Erika Mitchell (writing under the pen name of E. L. James), and is a sequel to the films, Fifty Shades of Grey” (2015) and “Fifty Shades Darker” (2017), based on her books. This is the last instalment in the “Shades” trilogy by E. L. James, and the same Director (James Foley) has directed the two sequels to the original movie (“Fifty Shades of Grey”). The trilogy as a whole is intended to depict Anastasia’s journey towards “sexual discovery”.
Dakota Johnson, as Anastasia Steele, and Jamie Dornan, as Christian Grey, have decided to get married. After Anastasia and Christian marry, they go on a honeymoon, and return to Seattle to resume work. There, they live an expensive lifestyle, and immerse themselves in bondage sex, until their relationship is affected seriously by events and people from their past.
Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), who was Anastasia’s former boss was fired by Christian, starts stalking and stressing Anastasia. Christian misinterprets his motive, which is one of revenge. Christian is jealous of Hyde, and Anastasia learns that Christian is seeing his mother’s former friend, Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger). Elena seduced Christian as a young teenager, and introduced him to his bondage lifestyle - in this way the pathology of sexual abuse is raised briefly in the movie to explain Christian’s behaviour, but it is not explored. Hyde is sent to prison for his behaviour toward Anastasia, but Christian is especially conflicted by the news Anastasia is pregnant, and Anastasia thinks mistakenly that her husband views Elena as an attractive alternative to herself.
Marriage brings Anastasia to an awareness of how controlling Christian is, and she confronts his possessiveness. The re-appearance of Hyde and Lincoln unsettles both of them and they fight and quarrel with each other. For a time, Anastasia and Christian seem emotionally reunited, but descend again into quarrelling. Hyde is released from prison and continues to further his revenge. He kidnaps Christian’s sister, Mia (Rita Ora), for ransom, and tells Anastasia not to tell anyone about what is happening, on pain of Mia’s death. With multiple plot-digressions and diversions, the film tries to escape the feeling of déjà vu by moving from sex-mode into crime-mode, and after Anastasia shoots Hyde she is found battered, and unconscious by a repentant Christian.
After flooding the screen with multiple sexual encounters, and criminal diversions, the film finishes by showing viewers Anastasia and Christian living harmoniously together with Anastasia “awaiting your pleasure” in their special room. Christian has accepted being a good father, and Anastasia is expecting their second child.
This film, like the two movies before it, aims at sexual eroticism, and tries to achieve it through soft-porn titillation. Like the films before it, is is cliched and stereotyped, and aims at pleasing its audience by displaying demeaning attitudes towards women. It is a film that sells itself by playing shallowly with sensuality and sexuality. It raises sexual tension, and then leaves it to the viewer to embellish what it doesn’t choose to further show, or say. Aiming constantly for titillation, it undermines human dignity. This sequel extends the messages of the last two movies in two main ways. It tells us that bondage behaviour is something that can be enjoyed in married, family life. Also, it is far more explicit than the two previous movies in informing viewers that sexual bondage can be practiced and enjoyed by females as much as it is by males. The word “freed” refers to the end of Anastasia’s journey of self-discovery. Finally, in married life, she discovers - fully liberated - sexual pleasure without conflict.
This is not a film for young teenagers, and parents should note that the film restricts viewing for them. The film’s byline (“Don’t miss the climax”) communicates immediately what the movie aims to sell, to whom it is marketed, and why. This is a sequel, that offers more of the same.
Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Universal Pictures International
Released February 8th., 2018