Mia Grey, it’s been a journey.
When Rita Ora was cast as the younger sister to sado-masochist-turned-lovable-hottie Christian Grey it sent waves through her fan base. The singer had been holding court on the music charts for some time, but with a place among the big-budgeted Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy it seemed she was poised to take Hollywood. She spent what felt like a year of her life doing press for the first installment, attending premieres and doing interviews and just generally associating herself with the project.
And then came the big reveal. Ora was given only four lines — 1. “She’s here?” 2. “Oh my God, you exist.” 3. “Yuck, Seattle baseball.” 4. “[unintelligible sentence in French]” — that amounted to approximately 90 seconds of screen time, 75 percent of which the audience was distracted by her wig.
To say it was a hard pill to swallow would be an understatement that no cliché in the English language can correctly convey. There are likely many fans still in denial about the role, who refuse to believe that the studio or the screenwriter or the editors did her so dirty. Then came Fifty Shades Darker, which promised the audience more Mia Grey but didn’t quite make good on that.
Forty minutes of screen time passed before Mia’s first scenes; she waited in the shadows while Dakota Johnson’s nipples stole the spotlight, living out the big screen dreams that Rita used to call her own. When she finally did appear, the good news was that her hair looked great; the bad news was that Mia’s participation was, cruelly, minor. She dropped some subtle shade in Ana’s direction (“You have an assistant? I thought you were an assistant”) but also had an important story line (finding a sweater for Ana, who caught a chill while the family waited for news of Christian’s helicopter crash) derailed by Ana and Christian’s I-didn’t-die-in-a-helicopter-crash shower sex.
The third and final film in the franchise, out tomorrow, is also the third and final opportunity for redemption in the eyes of Rita’s fan. At the risk of hyperbole, we’re willing to proclaim this her Big Break. Fifty Shades Freed seems to want its audience to know that it hears you, it sees you, it understands you — because Mia Grey is in the opening scene. She’s in the front row during Ana and Christian’s wedding and even catches the bouquet. Seeing her giddily grasp those flowers felt like a knowing wink to all the fans: Your time has finally come.
This is Rita’s (and Mia’s) big moment for many reasons. She has a single on the soundtrack (“For You,” which also features Liam Payne). She gets invited on the weekend trip to the ski lodge, where she delivers lines like “You should see it in the snow” and “When is this forest march going to end?” She sets up Christian’s big musical number, letting the audience know that no one has ever heard him sing before (“We’ve never heard him sing before”). She goes on a ladies’ shopping date with Ana and Kate, joining in on the gossip about whether the busty realtor’s…er, assets…are real (“Are they real?”).
But mostly it’s her big moment because she actually has a story line. Each of the Fifty Shades movies has a — pardon the pun — climax of confrontation: In the first installment it was Ana’s realization that Christian is kind of a sicko who needs, like, major therapy before he can be in a serious relationship; the second movie gave us Leila the stalker, who was determined to get retribution for Christian’s past transgressions by causing a breakup and maybe even committing murder; in the final flick, Ana’s former boss Jack shows up to wreak havoc on the newly-married couple. His hair-brained plot involves kidnapping Mia in exchange for an absurdly high ransom.
The pivotal scene is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it situation (we’re sensing a theme here) — the fact that the tension the whole story was building toward is over in a few minutes being just one of Freed’s lovable quirks — that still manages to give Ora the chance to play several different emotions: Scared, angry, defiant, really sick of being tied to a chair down by the abandoned warehouses while Ana tries to save her.
In the end, Mia’s fate is mostly forgotten, her condition (just fine) briefly and dutifully alluded to while the movie returns the focus to Ana and Christian and the resolution of that day’s fight. But, for Rita-stans, this movie will never be forgotten.