Fifty Shades: ‘Freed’ from BDSM or just too ‘Vanilla’?

In some ways, the build-up to last years’ ‘Fifty Shades Darker,’ and the hysteria surrounding the expectation of on-screen eroticism was arguably unfulfilled by the ‘Vanilla’ nature of the protagonists sexual chemistry: seemingly, the “kinky f*ckery” in the movie fell flat in comparison to the promise of E.L. James’ raunchy erotica, and in the context of the expectations of ‘Darker’ sexual antics as implied by the title.

Of course, after ‘Darker’ comes ‘Fifty Shades Freed,’ the third and final instalment in the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ cinematic trilogy. Comparatively, ‘Freed’ alludes less towards dark sexual antics and more towards romanticism. Despite its predictable Valentines oriented release, the hype surrounding this years ‘Fifty Shades’ has, in my opinion, been significantly elevated. This is, of course, can perhaps merely be attributed to simple advertising standards and marketing…however I am inclined to argue that the movie speaks to the ‘hopeless romantic’ in all of us.

Thanks to the finality of the movie as the trilogy’s conclusion, the increased investment in the film is centred around Ana and Christians more relatable love story, as opposed to their S&M Kinkiness, which can seem to many viewers as slightly ridiculous. While ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ maintained an overwhelmingly sexual outlook that was indeed ‘dark’, ‘Freed’ holds seemingly more optimistic and romantic ideologies at its heart. Centred around tackling difficult situations (and people) and coming out stronger on the other side, we may view ‘Freed’ as somewhat a satisfyingly domestic, if slightly simplistic, conclusion to the perhaps dangerous sexual world that precluded it.

The film stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively, and follows the newlywed couple as they must deal with the sins of their past when Ana’s former boss Jack (Eric Johnson) begins to stalk her. Imbued in moral conundrums, and  in spite of criticism against its ‘predictability,’ the movie ultimately delivers an optimistic message to the modern viewer, one of overcoming ones past and moving forward. Furthermore, Despite criticism aimed at its screenplay and performances, there are still elements of the movie that were cinematically satisfying, especially in the context of its ‘Valentines Day’ release. The movie is indeed far from being an artsy or hard-hitting cinematic piece, but this is not its aim: speckled with arguably sickening and cheesy romance scenes, the film fulfils its basic but aesthetically pleasing conformity to the romantic genre.

Cue montage of the newlyweds taking their private jet off to Paris , as in literature and movies, commonly heralded as ‘the most romantic city in the world!’ . The somewhat predictable scenes continue with the Newlyweds making love in a canopy bed (how traditional!), biking by the Louvre, and running through the rain to a café. So…somewhat cliché! However, I don’t think that the intended (and aptly executed!) modes of romanticism cheesiness and fairy-tale should be dismissively viewed here: the movie aims to do nothing more than aesthetically represent such themes, so should be praised for doing so, rather than criticised for not achieving the ‘heights’ of subversive controversy often exclusively valued in the Hollywood movie accolades of today. Why shouldn’t we be able to bask in the nostalgic and traditional modes of romanticism, beauty and acceptance? Must we always be ‘challenging’, disruptive and seditious in the context of ‘conforming’?

Seemingly, the movie’s visuals haven’t lost the glossy magazine page look common in the previous movies of the trilogy: the lifestyle of luxury apartments, copious sex, and superior living are still as sharpened as they’ve ever been. Therefore ‘Freed’, aside from its more humble allusions to ‘married life’ certainly looks like it belongs in the context of ‘luxe’ that we have become so used to in the context of the ‘Fifty Shades’ sphere. Is it, then, a true representation of modern romance? Or an idealised ‘Hollywood’ version?

Despite the disparities and mixed opinions surrounding the Movie, America’s Universal studios is reporting $38.6M for ‘Fifty Shades Freed’ this month. Still the bigger scream for Fifty Shades Freed is overseas where the pic has tied up $98.1M for the weekend, $136.9M worldwide, escalating the whole Fifty Shades trilogy to $1.08 billion. Therefore, whomsoever may criticise the franchise, its ability to generate popularity, not to mention profit, is undeniable.

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