Saturday, December 7, 2019
Bohemian Rhapsody 2018 directed by Brian Singer (mostly)
This is an entertaining film, that is certain. What it isn't is a good bio film of the band Queen or it's lead singer Freddie Mercury. I am no Queen expert and didn't follow the career or life of Mercury but even I could pick out the many timeline shifts and fudging of the facts in this film.
Most, if not all bio-pics, are full of inaccuracies, condensed time lines and merged characters - it's part of making a life into a 2 hour movie. This movie plays loose with the facts but in ways that really feel disingenuous to even a casual viewer. Everything comes easy to Queen, Mercury shows up, sings a minute and is the band's lead singer from then on. Songs magically get written and no one seems to need to learn instruments or practice. The film is a by the numbers drama that in many ways could have been about any band with the exception of the inclusion of Queen-centric trivia.
Performances are all good but Rami Malek runs away with his portrayal of Mercury. Even if it sounds like he is channeling Tim Curry in Rocky Horror at points, the sheer charisma of Malek in the role captivates you throughout. It's a shame that plot points that should have been an acting tour de force are cut short or glossed over. The portrayal of Queen's lead singer is far too confident and surface ( I would say this is a script problem over and not an acting one). The editing of the film is a mess, in my opinion. There is an obvious effort to cut it in a way that made it easier to remove sections that might be controversial in other markets. A huge part of the film is spent on the relationship between Mercury and his seemingly mostly platonic girlfriend and very little with the guy who was with him until his untimely death. In fact, we learn very little about anyone and come away remembering the painstakingly reconstructed Live Aid concert at the end more than anything personal about the band and those in it. That concert was at points fun and at other points an overly ambitious CGI recreation that resembled a video game scene insert over the filming of a real event.
Then there are - the teeth. We all might remember Freddie Mercury's teeth were not great but the way the fake teeth extend Rami's upper lip makes him look like an extra in the original Planet of the Apes movie. (Thanks to my friend Keamy for that little description.)
So overall, this movie is lightly entertaining but far from enlightening. Good performances are wasted with by the numbers plot points and accuracy was jettisoned for mundane mendacity. It might be an easy film to watch, but Queen and the it's story deserves better.