The erotic trilogy comes to a close with a welcome dose of levity

The erotic trilogy comes to a close with a welcome dose of levity

While seeing these two finally behave like lovebirds is thrilling, and even though those scenes of more conventional sex are surprisingly well crafted, the essence of the “Fifty Shades” series has always been the transgression of norms and indulgence in extremes, but that theme was underplayed until now

The disappointing quality of the first two films demonstrated that the material didn’t live up to its own would-be provocations. “Freed” is thus a notable departure, circling back around to more relatable domestic concerns. The most convincing trials that Ana and Christian face in marriage are those that any couple must to address: communication, calibrating their power dynamics, and the all-important work/life balance. To those concerns are added the return of a vengeful ex-boss, Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), whose motivations remain vague and whose story arc is resolved in less time than it takes Christian to untie his wife’s ankle belts.

The ending will surprise no one, except for the way it echoes another love story currently showing in cinemas. Just as Ana teaches Christian to trust her by showing him how much he needs her – both for sex and for life – Alma, the heroine of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” eventually manages to harness her selfish husband Reynolds Woodcock by mechanically making him rely on her for his life. The degree of sarcastic awareness at play in both of these resolutions is the topic for another article. Nevertheless, it would seem that Ana and Christian will never be freed from the bondage of matrimony – and maybe that’s how they like it.

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“Why do you defy me?” asks Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) to his new wife Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) as they have passionate sex with the help of handcuffs. “Because I can,” she replies, which only excites her partner morepared to how submissive and sapped of all agency the character was in her two previous outings, Ana does seem extremely mischievous in “50 Shades Freed,” the third and presumably last entry in this kinky franchise. Yet all in all, she’s only asking for the respect that she rightfully deserves. Finally, the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon has yielded a disarming comedy that makes this ridiculous material fun to watch.

In director James Foley’s second contribution to the cinematic brand extension of E.L. James’ bestselling series of erotic novels, the newly-married Ana is finally striving for more freedom in her relationship with her dominant partner. After the painfully one-sided sexual adventure of the first film, in which she met Christian and was brutally exposed to his odd habits, and after Christian’s even nastier control-freakishness in the ill-conceived “50 Shades Darker,” Ana is at last able to demand to hold the reins from time to time – a narrative turn that manages to frame their marriage as an empowering structure for women: now enclosed in the gilded cage of their union, Ana can pull on the rope that Christian had tied around her neck.

In any case, the mutual participation at play in this sex scene makes it a lot more exciting to watch than any of Christian’s theatrical BDSM tricks, and the rest of the movie follows suit

While honeymooning in Nice, she goes topless despite her husband’s possessive forbidding. At work, she tells Christian, “the boss of her boss of her boss,” that she might have to stay at the office later than planned. These moments of self-affirmation are both galvanizing and perplexing, hinting at a new feminist-leaning and more playful moment for Ana, while also being too insubstantial and out of character to constitute a true cause for celebration.