|Directed by||:||James Foley||Produced by||:||Michael De Luca, E. L. James, Dana Brunetti, Marcus Viscidi||Based on||:||Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James||Starring||:||Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden||Production company||:||Perfect World Pictures, Michael De Luca Productions, Trigger Street Productions||Distributed by||:||Universal Pictures|
“Fifty Shades Freed,” Reviewed: Feels Like the Third Time
omance is more or less dead in studio movies—neither the romantic comedy nor the romantic drama has remained a big-ticket item—but this week it returns in “Fifty Shades Freed,” in a form that is best summarized by a song from the Depression-era musical “Gold Diggers of 1937”: “Oh, baby, what I couldn’t do (ooh-ooh), with plenty of money and you (ooh-ooh).” The last film in the trilogy is an alternately breezy and tense tale of marital accord, conflict, and reconciliation, set against a background of fabulous and seemingly effortless wealth and the many difficulties that it poses.
The notion isn’t all facetious, either, not even in the slight, simplistic, utterly undeveloped paces through which the film puts its newlyweds, Anastasia (a.k.a. Ana) Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). They escape from their lavish wedding party and are whisked to a nearby airport, where they board Christian’s private jet—or, rather, as he instantly reminds her, their private jet. (Those new tax breaks will certainly come in handy.) What’s his is hers, but, when they get home and Ana shows up at her office at the book publisher Seattle Independent Press (ludicrously discovering that, in her absence, she has been promoted to chief fiction editor), she hesitates about making what’s his—namely, his name—hers. At home, to her domestic staff, she’s Mrs. Grey (though she’d prefer to be called Ana), but at work she wants to remain Ms. Steele, to keep her own working identity and not convey the impression that she owes her position to her husband (who has, in fact, bought the company—picking up on a gag from the second film in the series, he’s her boss’s boss’s boss). Christian, discovering that she’s using the name Steele rather than Grey in her office communications, has a hissy fit; then he gets over it.
Arriving home with Christian in his—sorry, their—sleek and vast apartment occupying mansion-like terrain inside a modern high-rise apartment building, Ana is taught the rules of the game: she can go nowhere without a member of her security detail, because wealth and fame make her a potential target of robbers and kidnappers. Daily life has become complicated, and what she used to do effortlessly and unthinkingly—going out, seeing friends, driving—is now a logistical labyrinth (though, fortunately, there’s a chief of staff at home to keep the system running smoothly). When the couple heads out to a remote old lakeside house, Christian insists on taking their Autobahn-ready Audi, which she’d like to drive. But first they’re met at the intricately ramshackle old manse by an architect named Gia Matteo (Arielle Kebbel), who flirts brutally with Christian. (The come-on line is an all-time howler: “I love what you’re doing in Africa.”) In a moment alone together, Ana gets her power moment and delivers it, putting Gia in her place with a lacerating insult that only the high-handed rich patron could get away with. The dispute, however, pivots not just on flirtation but on architecture and its uses: Gia proposes to tear the house down and is showing off her plans to rebuild a modern one on its site. But Ana wants to keep and renovate the old house, maintaining its charm while upgrading its facilities.