Bohemian Rhapsody - 2018
Director(s): Bryan Singer / Dexter Fletcher
Writer(s): Anthony McCarten
Cinematography by: Newton Thomas Sigel
Editor(s): John Ottman
Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers and Aaron McCusker
Look, I'll be upfront on this review. When the Queen biopic was announced my eyes automatically rolled back, mainly due to the wet napkin of a director it had attached, and partly due to my aversion to biopics in general. When tackling such a complicated story, I tend to prefer a documentary. You get the information from the people that lived through it or were close to the subject matter. Biopics tend to be an oversimplification of the truth, or they stretch it beyond recognition that it might as well be an original script and forgo the thinly vailed "based on a true story" pretext. So, walking into this movie, of one of my favorite bands of all time, my expectation wasn't at an all-time high (and I was bashing it on Twitter beforehand). Walking out I'll be the first to admit when I was wrong, and I had an absolute blast with this movie even with all its flaws. Let's talk about it.
The story centers around Freddie Mercury (Malek) the front-man of the legendary rock band Queen. We see him go from airport baggage handler all the way to his epic performance in one of the biggest concert ever to be put together, 1985's Live Aid. Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, and Darkest Hour) wrote the script, and he is becoming the "go to" writer for biopics. One of the aspects that I liked about his script is that it tackles the complexity of Freddie's personal life without being too preachy or overly indulgent. We see him being lonely despite being adored by millions, feeling out of place despite being welcomed by all and not loving himself due to insecurities brought on by his sexual identity and physical appearance. All these themes are explored and given context without them being entirely the plot of the movie. Sadly, it does fall on to some tropes of musical biopics, and maybe it is inevitable, we do see the rise and eventual breaking up of the band, the writing a song out of nowhere and the montages of concerts that all blend together into one blob of nothing. However, the overall story is balanced enough for the audience to overlook the familiarity of the genre.
Quick note: there are a few sequences that felt like an SNL skit, and it took me out of the emersion a bit. I'm referencing Mike Myers's character, a music producer that thinks Bohemian Rhapsody will never work. At one point he says, "no kids will bang their heads to this in their cars." Get it? Like he did in Wayne's World? My wife thinks I'm cranky, but it felt unnecessary to the story. It's my thing.
The direction was solid, nothing flashy as we come to expect from the wet napkin. I am not too fond of his "style" overall, and his personal and professional life are huge red flags that I cannot understand how he keeps getting hired to direct. The movie overall was cohesive, and it felt it came from a singular voice, an impressive feat considering they fired him during the filming of the movie, Dexter Fletcher finished the shoot. The live aid concert sequence was probably the most remarkable aspect of the film and an exciting way to end your movie. They did overuse the reflection of the glasses, and the montage of concerts I mentioned above was shot in a way that it could have been the same concert and nobody would know the difference. However, that's a nitpick on my end.
Quick note: it helps to be a fan of Queen's music as the entire runtime indulges in their songs. No complaints.
How about we talk about what everyone is talking about and that is the acting of Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. It took me a second to adjust to him in the teeth and the wig, it felt weird and funny looking. However, as he continued to embody Freddie's persona, through mannerism, the tone of voice and just his absolute confidence, in what and who he is, I forgot this was Malek. I know, it is a cliché thing to say, that you forgot the actor is acting, but I am not exaggerating. He entirely becomes Freddie, and it was just impressive to see. His portrayal goes beyond the onstage bravado of Freddie, as he deep dives into his inner demons fueled by his self-hate and always longing to belong. The rest of the cast is excellent I loved the banter of the band as they all fit in like pieces of a puzzle put together to elevate Malek. Lucy Boynton portrayal of Mary Austin, Freddie's wife, was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time and had terrific chemistry with Malek.
Bohemian Rhapsody is a heart-pounding, entertaining look in to one of the greatest front-men to ever hit a rock and roll stage. With solid direction and a good script, it has all the elements for a great music biopic, especially if you are a fan of Queen. Not sure how true the events are on screen, but the humanity given to the characters, especially Freddie, sets it apart from your standard biopic. Elevated by a career-defining performance from Malek, this movie is worth your price of admission and it will rock you (sorry had to get one in). Malek is why I love movies.
Bohemian Rhapsody is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it.
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