Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Reed Butler, Writer

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When I looked at the 2018 film calendar towards the end of last year, one film stood out. Normally, I would see a blockbuster action movie stand out such as Avengers: Infinity Wars, but this year it was a biopic, but not just any old one. I have been a Queen fan for the past few years ever since I was introduced to arguably the greatest song of all-time in none other than Bohemian Rhapsody. When the news finally broke that the movie finally had its script, director, and cast, I was over the moon.

In its time in what many would call Production Hell, it saw a variety of famous names come and go such as Sacha Baron Cohen(Borat, The Dictator). Although he is known for his comedic talents, he has shown legitimate acting talent in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. Furthermore, he shares a striking resemblance to the legendary Queen frontman as well as an ability to sing in the live action Les Miserables. He was forced out of the movie after about a year trying to get it off the ground based on creative differences which left just the director Bryan Singer to pick up the pieces. The fallout from so much hiring and firing in pre-production felt palpable through the film as it seemed to have blurred all of the creative and unique talents into a movie that felt like it lacked a true direction. To be fair to Bryan Singer as well as the casting department, they did an amazing job with choosing the cast members. Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, and Gwilym Lee respectively portray Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Bryan May, but the stand out has to be Rami Malek’s excellent performance as Mercury. Bryan Singer was swept up in the Me Too movement during production after he was accused of sexual misconduct and was promptly fired. This allowed Dexter Fletcher to come onto the project as the director to complete the editing of the film, resulting in yet another creative voice that doesn’t really add anything.

This movie isn’t perfect. There are actually more problems then there are good things. The script as well as the screenplay, written by Peter Morgan and Anthony McCarten, was one of my main complaints while watching it. The writers have an impressive history with the two producing scripts for Academy Award-nominated movies such as The Theory of Everything and The Darkest Hour, but there always felt like something missing. The fact that the studio pushed for a PG-13 rating certainly did the movie no favors when it came to quality. Also, considering that it is based around one of the greatest rock bands with one of the most polarizing artists on and off the stage ever, I think a little edge could have been used.

The largest collective complaint about the movie was the use of Freddie’s sexuality. I personally see both sides of the argument having valid reasons. For those who believe what the studio did was wrong, Freddie could have been used as a role model for certain people. At the same time though, Freddie explicitly said before his unfortunate passing in 1991 that he didn’t want to only be known for his sexuality and tragic fight with HIV/AIDS. I think what the studio did was in the best interest of all parties. What I am not happy with is how they tried to shoehorn in things that happened after when the movie ended which resulted in both the interruption with the flow of the movie but also the fact that the movie fictionalized parts of Freddie’s life as well. While I am aware that directors/writers should have creative freedom, it makes the film feel hollow when they blatantly lie just to fit something in to say they did. That is where the real problem lies in my opinion: studio interference. During the entire movie, I couldn’t help but feel that there were issues with the script, the tone, and the pacing all because the studio insisted on confining themselves within the tame PG-13.

One of the things that undoubtedly carried that movie was everything about Rami Malek and his performance. While Sacha Baron Cohen may look more like Mercury naturally, the prosthetics used on Malek made him seem like the reincarnation of Freddie. Furthermore, Malek went through extensive training just to learn the mannerisms Freddie used which provided for a surreal viewing experience. Malek stands out for his sheer acting ability as well to play the highly talented but also troubled star. He is able to excel in both the massive performance set pieces but also the tender moments in which you are able to see how lonely and conflicted he was. It provided me as a casual viewer but also as a die-hard Queen fan more insight into how different the star was behind closed doors relative to his over the top personality he showed to the public.

The real gem of the movie was the full Live Aid, the 1985 charity concert that featured a variety of famous bands such as Queen, reenactment which completely blew me away. The scene recreated every song they performed and was highly detailed to be an exact replica. It also provided a sharp contrast from the film’s potential to the rest of the movie that followed before it. Leading up to the scene the film felt like it was treading water, especially during Freddie’s time in Germany away from the other members until they had to speed things up just to lead to the final scene. This shows the inherent problem of the film to rear its ugly head with there being too many creative voices. From the start of production, it was known the film would end with their triumphant Live Aid performance and regardless of how fantastic the scene may have been, the buildup was clumsy and deters the potential the movie had.

Rami Malek deserves nothing short of a nomination, if not the award for Best Actor. And as much as it pains for me to not just say that I loved it, it was incredibly flawed with only the occasional bright spot. I do think this movie will be remembered for the good parts which would make me recommend that people see this regardless, not based on the quality of the movie, but to see one of the best performances of the year alongside some of the best music of all time.

 

Verdict: 6/10

Noticeable interference and too many creative voices lead to a tame, and at times, dull movie which ultimately masks the bright spots such as Malek’s mesmerizing performance as the rock icon and the Live Aid performance.

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