But in terms of drama, or melodrama, or just bad drama, Freed rarely delivers the goods while trying hard to give fans what they came for: more visits to the “playroom” for some lightweight sadomasochism, more eye-rolling plot mechanics involving Christian Grey’s troubled past, more reactionary views on love and marriage, more money shots of sports cars, private jets and holiday homes that only the 1% can afford, and more attempts to turn what may be one of the duller couples to ever grace the screen into two captivating characters.
Seriously, is this the best we can offer adults who don’t want to watch Marvel movies? Given that the Fifty flicks have so far grossed nearly $1billion (R12bn) worldwide, the answer seems to be yes. This instalment should likewise draw a good crowd, although perhaps less than the other two films.
When we last left the filthy-rich Grey (Jamie Dornan) and his paramour Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), they were on the verge of getting married.
Freed, whose script was written by Fifty Shades Darker scribe Niall Leonard, begins with their glorious wedding, followed by a honeymoon that includes stops in Paris and the Cote d’Azur.
At one point Christian gets a little rattled because Ana wants to go topless on the beach, but that dispute is quickly resolved when he whisks her back to his giant yacht and takes out a pair of handcuffs.
Johnson and Dorman do their best with the material as well, and at least for the former’s sake Ana Steele has a minimal sense of humour and a bit of life to her. Grey is such a bore that Dorman seems to be doubling down on the stiffness and gives his line readings like he’s reciting from a Teleprompter.
For the many erotic titillations the Fifty Shades films advertise, their approach to sex has always seemed way too aseptic, like we’re watching two people make love with rubber gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
Can’t they just let loose a little bit, instead of playing by some supposed guidebook and what seems like zero spontaneity?
The kinkiest scene is probably one that occurs about halfway through Freed where, after a bout of insomnia, Ana and Christian decide to get busy in the kitchen with a tub of vanilla ice cream.
They actually look like they’re having fun for once, which is not such a bad thing. But in terms of, er, last licks, it comes as too little, too late.