Quick Reviews, Fall 2018, Part 1: BlacKkKlansman, Life Itself, Bad Times at the El Royale, Mid90s, Beautiful BoyRead Now
Bad Times at the El Royale
Light on substance, heavy on flair
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018): A chronicle of the years leading up to Queen's legendary appearance at the Live Aid (1985) concert.
*Cue the music* I like Queen. I've enjoyed them ever since I could remember. I have many a fond memory of singing my guts out to classics like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and “We Are the Champions.” But I've never considered myself a super fan who knows every bit of Queen trivia, inside and out. I think of myself more as a casual fan of the band. So you can understand my frustration when I sit through a 2+ hour movie about Queen and don't really learn anything new about the band. While that's not entirely true, it is an accurate representation of this film. There is NOTHING here resembling substance. Instead, director Bryan Singer and co. spend (and at moments waste) their time showcasing the flamboyancy of Queen and its iconic front man, Freddie Mercury. Spoiler, right? Bet you didn't know Freddie Mercury was a flamboyant fella!
Ok, ok, ok. Let's not get too depressing off the bat. The best thing about this film is the band. There are two great performances here. The one everyone's talking about is Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. He is terrific and is effectively absorbed into the iconic persona. He captures all of Mercury's outlandish personality and witticisms. But the one I really love is Gwilym Lee as guitarist Brian May. Granted he had the added benefit of having the Queen guitarist on set (May receives an executive producer credit for his work on the film) but…you wanna talk about being absorbed into a role, look no further than this incredible performance. Only time will tell if Bohemian Rhapsody has the staying power to net either Malek or Lee an Oscar nomination for their work. I'm honestly not sure it does, because there are a lot of problems with this film.
Oh ya. I should also mention the live performances are fun. They're certainly enjoyable, but this is where the problems start for Bryan Singer and co. Actually, back up. The problems start with the fact that Bryan Singer's name is on this at all. The troubled director showed a significant flair for the dramatic throughout the production cycle, and clashed at many points with the lead of the film. Singer is nothing more than a powerfuf white man who has power simply because he's a white man, and his POV of Freddie Mercury and Queen is reflected as such. (Also, there's an impending Esquire article that exposes some of Singer's more disgusting habbits, so there's that.) This is very much the PG-13 interpretation of Mercury and his life, as we zip through anything that might be construed as controversial in order to have another live performance or another shot of Mercury's cats. It's ok for a film this grandiose to bite off more than it can chew. The problems arise when it feels like Bryan Singer and writers Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan are merely checking off boxes in Freddie Mercury's life. Show a scene of the band fighting then merely refer to it the rest of the time? Check. Show Freddie Mercury struggling to find acceptance with his family and his father, then randomly tie up this plot line up with no context or background? Check. Do literally nothing but fly over Mercury struggling with his sexuality, short of one good scene between him and his then-wife? (Played by Lucy Boynton) Check. (That one scene is the best scene in the movie, by the way.) But hey, gotta be sure to make time for the LIVE AID performance! Because we really need to see 10+ minutes of this performance and get a legit 3+ song set in a biopic about Queen. Ugh! While these lengthy performances are enjoyable, and Rami Malek / Gwilym Lee are exceptional, Bohemian Rhapsody fails to teach its viewers anything about Queen that they didn't already know, which turns it into a fairly run-of-the-mill rock biopic. And to say a band as rambunctious as Queen deserves better is something of an understatement.
The Critique: While an enjoyable concert, Bohemian Rhapsody fails to show any of the inner workings of Queen, despite its lead's terrific performance.
The Recommendation: …..eh? Easy answer is don't see it because Bryan Singer is a jerk, but if you do go see it, don't expect to do much more than dance along to the Queen songs you grew up with.
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
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