MovieBob Reviews Bohemian Rhapsody

first_img Is Bohemian Rhapsody good?Not very.What’s it about — and DON’T just do a joke about people trying to find hidden meanings in the lyrics of the song.Yeah, they… do a couple of those in the movie.Egh. Well, at least that’s not as tacky as a Wayne’s World reference, I guess?Mike Myers turns up in a cheesy cameo as a (fictional) EMI executive who turns down “Bohemian Rhapsody” because “It’s just not a song young people are ever gonna put on in a car and bang their heads to!”Oh come on!Yeah…Okay, so is this a Queen movie or a biopic of Freddie Mercury?Both… kind of. It’s a film yanked back and forth between two distinct tracks united only by their complimentary coldness of their respective calculations: Specifically, the drive to cement the studio/media/casting-industry agreed-upon next-big-thing-hood of Mr. Robot’s wunderkind Rami Malek via the kind of show-the-work exhausting “meticulously-detailed imitation of a famous dead person’s widely-remembered mannerisms” performance that’s been known to induce priapic erections in Academy Awards voters and the equally strong drive of the surviving members of Queen (plus whichever other entities have a financial stake in the band’s substantial album catalog) to have their songs fly back up the charts one more time and make impending retirement comfortable enough that nobody has to host a Reality Show.I’ve heard it ends very strong, though?It does, with a  blow-out re-enactment of Queen’s now-legendary performance at Live Aid that serves as the film’s climax and is indeed a legitimately magnificent piece of standalone filmmaking; showcasing the best visualization of musicianship, use of iconic music and full unbound force of Malek’s impressively committed performance to be found in the entire film… and unfortunately, to get there you’ve got to endure the entire  film; the rest of which is otherwise a plodding, dreary, uninspired trudge through the “rock icon bio” Mad Libs screenplay format I can’t believe any filmmaker still goes unironically back to a decade after Walk Hard.But Malek is good?No one will deny that Malek is throwing 200 percent effort at inhabiting a dead-on recreation of a very unique and specific persona, but the script just isn’t giving him a character to play underneath the impression. Freddie Mercury didn’t lead a boring or formulaic rock-star life, but Bohemian Rhapsody is determined to tell his story focusing mainly on the aspects that would fit comfortably in one while breezing past or hugely reworking everything that wouldn’t.Such as?Early rumors that the film would attempt to somehow gloss over the subjects of sexuality or his death from AIDS turn out to be somewhat overstated; but the approach is still palpably… well “cowardice” would be too generous — every moment feels hamstrung between fears of alienating a “mainstream” audience and inability to figure out how it can depict Mercury’s personal journey and identity struggles and concurrent flaws, demons and tragic ending without seeming inappropriately judgmental by correlation. There’s also an off-putting undercurrent of score-settling to the revisionism, with the surviving members of Queen (all of whom had veto power over the film and use of music) alternately depicted as an Audience POV Greek Chorus of average regular blokes caught up in Mercury’s whirlwind (marveling at his superhuman talent, bewildered by his exotic flamboyancy) but also as a trio of paternal-surrogate wingmen exasperated with the antics of a flighty immature man-child.That seems… uncomfortable?It is. One can certainly sympathize with wanting to correct the record vis-a-vi Rock History treating the rest of Queen as… well, just “The Rest of Queen;” but the tonal whiplash of doing it in the tacky Greatest Hits infomercial you’re dressing up as your deceased frontman’s bio is pretty intense; a constant back and forth between “Freddie Mercury was a brilliant visionary firebrand taken too soon whom even we, his closest friends and family, may only have ever partly comprehended!” and “BUT HEY! He could also be a real pain in the neck diva and he was kinda nothing without us, right??”How much does that matter though, since it’s not purporting to be a documentary?Some, I think? Mostly because you can feel the compromises and pullbacks in the overall weakness of the film. The mechanical lunges for both figurative and literal “gold” plays everything so safe and rearranges history in the name of dramatic license to such a cartoonishly brazen degree that you’ve probably seen more naturalistic authenticity from actual gilded lilies. And all that’s without even taking into account that the finished product we’ve wound up with is to one degree or another a post-production Frankenstein stitch-up of sequences filmed under original director Bryan Singer and additional work by uncredited director Dexter Fletcher, who took over the production after Singer was removed for [ahem] reasons.So you don’t recommend it?I can agree that the Live Aid sequence is a very strong finish, but the “tying up loose ends” business that leads into it is embarrassingly melodramatic (to say nothing of absurdly ahistorical) treacle and otherwise… no, not really. This is one of the most nakedly cynical creations I can remember seeing play out onscreen technically meeting the qualifications of a narrative feature film that wasn’t just openly marketing a line of toys, smartphone apps or a comic book property — and even then I can name plenty of movies about action figures and superheroes with more integrity and self respect. A lead performance with this energy deserves an actual character. A moment in time this vibrant deserves a braver vision. Music this good shouldn’t play over scenes so dull and a life this big shouldn’t be made to feel so small.More MovieBob reviews:MovieBoReviews: ‘Suspiria’MovieBob Reviews: ‘Halloween’MovieBob Reviews: ‘First Man’ MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Stay on targetlast_img

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