Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody
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Read Paul Shirey's take HERE!

PLOT: An authorized biopic of the classic rock band Queen, from their early days in England, through their breakthrough success in North America, lead singer Freddie Mercury’s (Rami Malek) struggles with fame and excess and finally, their triumphant Live Aid performance.

REVIEW: A Queen biopic is long overdue, but, it was never going to be the warts-and-all version some of us may have wanted. Still very much in touring mode, the surviving members of the band were never going to tarnish their legacies with a gritty, THE DOORS-like expose, especially with lead singer Freddie Mercury having been dead for twenty-seven years and not around to add his own two cents.

Thus, the band, along with producer Graham King (for whom this was a passion project) and credited director Bryan Singer, have made a reverent celebration of their legacy. Yet, in an effort to tone-down the subject matter, you can’t help but feel that everyone involved has done something of a disservice to the band and especially Mercury. Already, the film is being criticized for the way it deals with Mercury’s homosexuality and you can’t help but notice that in some ways his homosexuality is treated as a dark secret that led him down the road to excess. I’m sure that being gay wasn’t the only reason for that and while the movie is in no way trying to be consciously homophobic, you can’t argue if some interpret it as that. In fact, the movie feels like a frank depiction of homosexuality IF it had been made in say 1992. In 2018, audiences expect something a little more nuanced.

The fact is, had Freddie not been gay, Freddie wouldn’t have been Freddie and Queen most definitely wouldn’t have been Queen. All that aside, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a mixed bag. Famously, Bryan Singer was replaced towards the end of principal photography and the finished product has the feel of a one that had a lot of folks demanding a say, giving it a disjointed feel. Some of the performances are affected by this, most notably Allen Leech as Paul Prenter, Freddie’s manager, who’s presented as a villainous Svengali. At times, Leech plays it nuanced, but at others he’s presented as a scenery-chewing baddie. Again this feel like a clash of perspectives.

Luckily, the main performances, from Rami Malek and the guys playing the rest of the band, are spot on. While I don’t think Malek looks especially like Mercury, it can’t be denied that he captures the mystique of the man whole-heartedly. It’s a legitimately great performance. Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, as are quite good too, with the film somewhat acknowledging their own jealousy of Mercury, although when he eventually goes to record a solo album he’s treated a bit unfairly and the music is written off (he actually recorded a few classic tracks). Lucy Boynton from SING STREET is also quite good as Mercury’s on-and-off lover, Mary Austin, while Mike Myers has a fun cameo as an EMI executive who, ironically considering how WAYNE’S WORLD popularized the song, despises “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

If imperfect, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY succeeds in the most important aspect of telling Queen’s story - they nail the music. The film is a celebration of their catalogue and their incredible stage presence, and the music absolutely kicks as when you listen to it in huge, big theatre sound. The band actually shows to have something of a sense of humour about themselves, mocking titles like “I’m in Love With My Car” from “A Night at the Opera” and sharing the horrible reviews the now classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” was met with initially.

While the dramatic arc that finds the story climaxing at Live Aid was very much not the band’s last great hurrah (they recorded the bitchin’ HIGHLANDER soundtrack a year later and kept recording together until just days before Mercury’s death), it certainly sends them out on a triumphant note. Their famous set from Wembley is recreated brilliantly and this bravura sequence, which was apparently the first thing they shot, is enough on its own to make this a must see.

Even if it’s not quite the genre redefining music biopic Queen fans may have been hungry for and perhaps a little too vanilla, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is still a solid big studio piece of entertainment and something that should find a big audience. It may not be revealing, but it’ll certainly help keep the band’s mystique alive, which is likely what the goal was all along.

Source: JoBlo.com



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