A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fifty Shades Freed is the final installment in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, movies based on E.L. James' best-selling erotic romance novels originally written as Twilight fan fiction. Like the other two movies, it's an erotic drama with more bedroom action than pretty much anything else. Like Twilight's Breaking Dawn, Fifty Shades Freed starts with the main characters' wedding and then follows the sex-fueled newlyweds as they navigate external pressures -- but mostly just find ways to have sex anywhere they go. There are many explicit sex scenes, including extreme close-up shots of naked breasts and buttocks and glimpses of pubic hair -- as well as multiple sexual accessories and toys. The language is also strong, with "f--k," "s--t," and other words used frequently. Characters also drink often (appearing drunk in a couple of scenes), and there's lots of brand/product placement, especially luxury cars (Audi in particular) and electronics. Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan co-star.
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What's the story?
FIFTY SHADES FREED begins with the wedding of Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), who immediately rush off to their luxurious honeymoon on a private plane. After sightseeing and making love around the world, the new Mr. and Mrs. Grey are forced to return to Seattle when Christian is told that an arsonist set fire to his company's server room. The perpetrator is Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson), Ana's former boss and attacker. After Jack is arrested for the fire, the Greys continue their life as newlyweds: Ana is promoted to a position that even she's not sure she deserves, and Christian mopes about Ana's commitment to her work. Ana calls Christian out when he lapses back into controlling possessiveness. They also buy a fixer-upper mansion, travel with friends, have a lot of sex, and then deal with Jack again.
Is it any good?
Although Johnson tries to liven up the wooden dialogue, this third and final installment is still a plot-free excuse to show the chemistry-less Greys having lots of sex in beautiful locales. Dornan, who's a decent actor in non-Fifty Shades projects -- particularly the gritty crime drama The Fall -- finally looks comfortable in his role, but Christian is still a deeply flawed, unlikable, mostly undeveloped character. The filmmakers tell but don't show him dealing with his past. He's just a walking piece of wish fulfillment, not a fully fleshed-out human character. And let's not even mention the ridiculous way in which Anastasia is promoted (due to nepotism) at work. The fact that Christian feels free to barge into an important meeting she's having with a star author to demand that she explain why she didn't immediately change her email address from "Ana Steele" to "Ana Grey" is perhaps one of the worst marital conversations ever portrayed on the big screen.
What makes this movie and Fifty Shades Darker even bigger disappointments than the original is that there's basically no plot. Like a more polished, big-budget version of late-night cable erotica, Fifty Shades Freed is pretty much just a series of artfully shot sex scenes (director James Foley loves to zoom in on Johnson's breasts) separated by the thinnest of narrative structures and poorly executed characterization. By the time Ana's unsurprising pregnancy enters the picture, it's that much more obvious that this movie isn't so much a climax but an anticlimax. But if all you're craving is a movie with plenty of graphic love scenes and luxe interiors, this is a fine pick.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how sex is depicted in Fifty Shades Freed. Is Ana and Christian's marriage/relationship healthy? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Why do you think the Fifty Shades books and movies are popular? Is it an appropriate saga for teens? The author began her story as Twilight fan fiction; can you recognize traces of Edward and Bella in these characters?
Which, if any, of the characters are role models? Are they sympathetic? Why, or why not?
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