And so it ends. The final installment in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy has a little bit of everything: a wedding, a trip to Europe, a car chase, a Hot Architect, a vengeful ex-boss, a kidnapping, a demonstration of the Ana Grey Method of Getting Dressed in the Morning (underwear and boots first, actual dress later), and an unexpected pregnancy, explained serenely by Ana (Dakota Johnson) as "Babies happen when you have sex, and you and I tend to have a lot of that." This may be the most self-aware thing ever said by anyone in this entire franchise, but let's just say that the bar isn't very high.
There are a couple of ways to watch "Fifty Shades Freed," or any other movie from the heavy-breathing E.L. James universe devoted to the accessory-laden love story of Ana and mysterious Seattle gazillionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). But the only one that works for me is to see it as a comedy, in which two entertainingly clueless people toss non sequiturs at each other while wearing lovely clothes in beautiful rooms. Johnson and Dornan's performances are wooden and their chemistry nonexistent (particularly in the movie's more-of-the-same sex scenes), but think of it all as ultra-deadpan entertainment and it kind of works.
Ana, in this episode, blathers a lot about how much she loves her job – not surprising, as said job consists of sitting in a glamorous editorial office daydreaming about sex with Christian, followed by going home early. Christian, at one point, freaks everybody out by suddenly and randomly sitting down at a piano and accompanying himself in a middling rendition of "Maybe I'm Amazed." (Is this an homage to Ana's habit of saying "amaaazing" a lot?) Ana, upon being informed of a life-threatening catastrophe with only moments remaining in which to Do the Right Thing, does what all of us would do: goes home to change her outfit and put her hair in a cute ponytail.
So what am I taking away from the "Fifty Shades" experience, other than the ability to potentially identify Dornan's pelvis in a lineup? That if there's an audience for this, think of what the audience might be for a female-driven fantasy that was genuinely smart and funny, with a couple at its center who demonstrate actual sparks. And that the Hot Architect, who gets dropped from this movie like a forgotten candy wrapper, probably deserves a horror franchise of her own.
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'FIFTY SHADES FREED'
With Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eric Johnson, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Victor Rasuk, Marcia Gay Harden.
Directed by James Foley, from a screenplay by Niall Leonard, based on the novel by E.L. James.
Running time: 103 minutes.
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.