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The UnPopular Opinion: Bohemian Rhapsody

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Whenever the Academy Awards announce their annual shortlist of nominees for Best Picture, fans and critics alike tend to balk at the selection of films for being too haughty or too obscure and rarely echoing the box office results. In plain English, blockbusters rarely get their due when it comes to the highest award in American cinema. Being nominated for Best Picture usually means a film has earned a spot as one of the best movies of the year from a critical rather than a commercial standpoint. 2018 was a big year for film and it should come as no surprise that three of the nominees for the top Oscar were box office hits. Still, none of those three movies deserves to take the trophy. I have previously explained why both A STAR IS BORN and BLACK PANTHER are not deserving of the acclaim bestowed upon them, but no film is less worthy of Oscar attention than BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.

After years in development hell with iterations involving Mike Myers, Sacha Baron Cohen, and rumors of Daniel Radcliffe in the lead, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY finally made it to the big screen. Not without controversy (specifically the creepy ass accusations surrounding director Bryan Singer), BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY was poised to turn the fan favorite musical stylings of iconic band Queen into the stuff of Hollywood wet dreams. Film has always been enamored with telling the life stories of musicians and the Oscars love to eat it up. From WALK THE LINE to RAY, I never cease to be disappointed by the Hollywood musician biopic, but BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is so offensively cliche that I cannot overlook it and just have fun. Maybe it is the substandard directing, the saccharinely generic screenplay, or the glossy and superficial story, but this film doesn't come close to being the worthwhile story that Queen or Freddie Mercury deserve.

Biography, Drama, Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Bryan Singer, Tom Hollander, Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

Watching BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, you never feel that any of the characters are fully realized beings even though they are based on real people. Forget the other three members of the band, but this biopic is truly about Freddie Mercury and needed to be as impressive as he was. Rami Malek, who definitely delivers a great performance in a few scenes here, is more of a caricature of Mercury than the embodiment of the man and his life story. From the very first scene of the movie, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY plays like the cinematic equivalent of a Queen cover band: yeah, they look and sound like Queen but there is not much else there. Every musical performance is realized in a way that it looks almost exactly like the real thing, but the abysmal lip syncing takes you out of the moment and undermines any element of realism the movie had going for it. Rami Malek moves just like Freddie Mercury, but when the recorded voice of the real man comes through the speakers, it completely takes you out of Malek's performance.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY too easily moves through the rise of Queen from pub band to world famous rock group. Each moment of struggle that the band encounters, from recording an album by selling their van and other possessions to Mercury's excessive behavior and challenges from music executives who scoffed at the titular anthem all glide by with minimal conflict and are treated as checkmarks on the band's journey to success. There are no moments in the movie where you truly feel the impact that any of these moments had on the bandmembers, let alone Mercury himself. The moments that are meant to represent Mercury's loneliness and separation from those he loves feels like a fleeting attempt to make this movie seem like it has depth. Even the scenes where Freddie leaves the band to go solo are neatly wrapped up and resolved within a few minutes. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY never provides an encompassing view of Mercury himself or the band and instead feels like a Cliff's Notes version of a much better movie.

And then there is the treatment of Mercury's sexuality. The initial trailers for BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY focused on Mercury's romance and marriage to Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). For the first half of the film, I watched and wondered why they acted as if they were ever going to address Freddie Mercury's sexual orientation. It has been widely chronicled that Mercury was a drug user and explored the gay scene in England during his early days with the band, but BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY treats this as if it were a discovery he happened upon late in life and never truly came to terms with. There is also the fact that Mercury was introverted when not on stage and yet his personality and demeanor in all settings is approached by Rami Malek as if he is constantly performing. This has the effect of making Mercury almost cartoonish in his campiness which betrays the man himself. 

Mercury's illness and eventual death do not factor heavily into the story and feel almost like happenstance along the plot of the film. As the band prepared to perform at Live Aid, Mercury struggles with his vocal chords. Almost magically, he is able to sing again for the concert and delivers one of the most impressive performances of all time. Rather than presenting true hurdles or mountains to climb, every moment that is meant to show Queen and Mercury himself overcoming obstacles are played like tiny bumps in the road. There is nothing exciting about seeing a greatest hits album played on the big screen when you could just as easily listen to the soundtrack. No single character in this movie feel like they are taking part in anything but instead are positioned where they need to be for Bryan Singer's exacting reproduction of visual history while sacrificing the much needed depth to the story itself.

Biography, Drama, Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Bryan Singer, Tom Hollander, Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is an affront to the music of Queen in that it lacks any of the depth the band put into every song they created. In the scene after the release of the title song, the screen is superimposed with critics and headlines lambasting the song while the movie shows the fans don't care what the critics think. Queen continues to become more and more popular and nothing can stop them. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY as a film is much like that scene. No matter how many critics tell it like it is, fans still enjoy this movie. I cannot figure out why as it doesn't offer a single organic moment that makes it feel like it is worth the price of admission. Singer could just have easily remastered actual footage of the band performing and projected it on an IMAX screen and it would have told you more about the band than this movie ever will. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY may be the top grossing musical biopic of all time, but it is also the most overrated one as well.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected] or spell it out in the comments below. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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