Nov 6, 2018

[Movies] Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Review

Biographical movies tend to be quite a mixed bag as there will always be a lot that can go wrong with such ventures. People will expect the movie to be accurate to history in many aspects and everyone will expect this or that part of the subject's life to get into the film, but you'll never make everyone happy. And there will always be more controversial parts to anyone's story that may or may not get "sufficient" coverage, whatever that may mean.

So Bohemian Rhapsody worried me given Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury is definitely a candidate for a celebrity who has been both celebrated and vilified by different people. And to have him as the subject of a movie was certainly inviting controversy and criticism.

Early press and initial reviews stressed that this is movie is about Queen as a band and not just Freddie Mercury. And in many ways, this made sense was totally a good way to go in telling this story. Sure a lot of Queen's story is inevitably Freddie's story, but as the movie stresses there's a lot more to their music than just one man.

Synopsis: Bohemian Rhapsody is 2018 biographical film about the British rock band Queen as directed by Bryan Singer (and Dexter Fletcher). The screenplay was written by Anthony McCarten and covers the formation of the bad culminating with their performance at Live Aid in 1985.

In 1970's Britain we meet Farrokh Bulsara (Rami Malek) as he works as a baggage handler at Heathrow Airport. His parents are disappointed with his seeming lack of direction in life, his seeming determination to distance himself from his culture by calling himself Freddie, and his tendency to go out all the time to hang out at night clubs. On a particular night he goes to the club to catch a local band called Smile. It's also the same night their lead singer decides to quit.

He meets the remaining members of the band guitarist Brian May (Qwiym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) and initially just wants to compliments them but later offers his services as lead singer after belting out a quick tune. They get bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) to join the crew and start to perform together. As they get bigger, they rename themselves Queen and continue to rise.

What I Liked: The initial press photos for the movie certainly assured fans that Rami Malek had at least captured the look of Freddie Mercury. But this movie is really mostly about how amazingly he brings Freddie to life through his amazing and emotionally powerful performance. Sure he doesn't sing like Freddie Mercury and has to lip sync but even those performance moments are done with amazing style, flair and panache that is all 100% Freddie Mercury.

There was also a lot of criticism about the movie not going deep enough or not dragging out enough skeletons from the closet but I didn't feel that was the case. This is a movie about the band and not just Freddie Mercury alone and the selection of what to feature and what to indulge in really tried to drive that point home. This movie is ultimately a celebration of Queen and all that they have created and how that has changed so many people.

What Could Have Been Better: Given the amount of time that the movie tries to cover, you will get the feeling that they had to jump around a lot as if this was really the Greatest Hits of Queen's History and not the full story. The movie could have narrowed the focus a bit or maybe steered away from some of Freddie's story but admittedly there's no perfect way to address all this. But the resulting movie was a little messier than it needed to be.

And while it was stressed to be a Queen biography, the movie has a heavy focus on Freddie Mercury's life given the sub-plot of his relationship with Mary (Lucy Boynton) and the whole diversion of Freddie's little solo career, it's hard to not look at this as essentially a Freddie Mercury story. They bring up some of the more colorful aspects of his life but they may not dive in as deep as some people would prefer had it been solely about Freddie. But we don't exactly learn more about the lives of the other band members outside their time as Queen either.

TL;DR: Criticism aside, this movie is all emotion and certainly some true movie magic in how Rami Malek brings Freddie Mercury to life. It's a movie that celebrates Queen's music and will probably help usher in a new generation of Queen fans. Thus the movie gets a roaring 5 crazy revelations about different Queen songs out of a possible 5.

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