Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Critic Consensus: Bohemian Rhapsody hits a handful of high notes, but as an in-depth look at a beloved band, it offers more of a medley than a true greatest hits collection.
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Critic Reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody
Malek does an impressive job of re-creating Mercury's moves onstage, but the core of the performance is Malek's intensely thoughtful, insight-rich channelling of Mercury's hurt, his alienation and isolation even at the height of his fame.
Ideally, a film like this would attempt to add to, or to contextualize, a legacy. Instead, "Bohemian Rhapsody" tries to sanctify it, pack it in bubble wrap to protect it from causing, or being caught in, any friction.
Some of the liberties do Mercury and Queen an injustice, but most are harmless (if dim). A hundred small things wrong barely matter when there are one or two big things right.
The biopic reaches out for the very last row, and in doing so, it becomes unfortunately basic, flattening out the fascinating character while sanding down and rearranging elements of the story to serve the band.
Audience Reviews for Bohemian Rhapsody
YAAAAAAS QUEEN! - My Review of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (4 Stars) Sometimes a movie works despite itself. Although it may contain a paint-by-numbers structure, an underlying emotional current works on the viewer who surrender to its undeniable pull. Such is BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, the Queen biopic, which has many critics sharpening their knives while audiences have clearly embraced it to create a worldwide sensation. I loved every minute of this film when I wasn't crying my eyes out. It's a powerhouse. I discovered Queen as a child when their first hit single, "Killer Queen" busted out with its effete lyrics, bouncy pop rhythms, overlapped background vocals and the effeminate singing of Freddy Mercury to create what I still think is a pop masterpiece. I'd never heard a song before which dared to use multisyllabic words like "fastidious and precise". Like Bowie and later, The B52s, Queen spoke to the freaks and geeks of the world, the loners, the outcasts, and the sexually fluid. Queen dared to carve their own path, and as such, I find them singular and legendary. MR. ROBOT'S Rami Malek plays Freddie, who we meet as he prepares to go onstage at Live Aid, the 1985 internationally televised fundraising concert which cemented Madonna's stardom and reaffirmed Queen, who had been in a slump, as the "champions of the world". Then the movie jumps back in time to find Freddy as a young Heathrow baggage handler whose racist co-workers label him "Paki". With his extra incisors and dead end job, Freddy runs out from his family one night to hear a band play at a local club. It's here he meets two of his future bandmates, guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), and despite his unusual looks, sings a few bars for them and worms his way into becoming their new lead singer. Eventually they pick up bassist John Deacon (JURASSIC PARK's Joseph Mazzello all grown up and doing a great job with every bemused expression) and form Queen. Although the rest of the band is thinly sketched out, the resemblance to the real band is uncanny and they all have their little shining moments. Freddy falls for Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), who he meets backstage that first night, and they have a complicated relationship as we see Freddy struggling with his sexuality while Mary struggles with being in love with a gay man. It's touchingly presented and goes a long way to seeing Freddy's generous spirit. He's also a bit of a narcissistic ass at times, but isn't that what we all wanted out of him? Ultimately, however, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY tells the story of a very lonely man who found his confidence by believing in his own genius and how to achieve unimaginable success with Queen. Their story as a band resembles so many VH-1 Behind The Music specials, filled with music montages, drug use, fights - the usual rise and fall and rise again story. While energetically directed by Bryan Singer, who was famously fired from the film late in the game and replaced by an uncredited Dexter Fletcher, who has helmed the new Elton John biopic ROCKET MAN, the real meat here is in the performances and in the subtext of Anthony McCarten's (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, DARKEST HOUR) screenplay. The connection I had to this film formulated in such small moments as when Freddy sits at the piano to find the chords for the title song, surprising even himself with its beauty. There's also a fantastic sequence in which we see how the song got recorded. This creative spark and Freddy's unflinching ambition and demand to peacock like the great diva he was, feels like an impossible victory for this strange, strange man. Malek is just great in the role, clearly understanding the necessity of Freddy's performative nature in order to break out of his own shell. It's as if the "Freddy" persona was more him than the depressed real guy he found himself to be in those "in between moments". Queen didn't want to be good. They wanted to be great. You feel it in this film and are right there with them when they marvel at a giant foreign crowd singing the lyrics to "Love Of My Life". Again, it brought me to tears, much in the same way Lady Gaga did when she finishes her big "Star Is Born" number and guilelessly laughs at the size of the audience. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is at its best during these moments where the band feels its audience. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the phenomenal LIVE AID performance which ends the film. Each band member looks out at the crowd, and you can just feel the energy as the crowd claps and undulates at Freddy's swirling, prancing command. It was indelible when it happened in real life, and is even more so in this film. The film is also filled with some fun details. Witness the cut to the rooster as we hear the first "Galileo" sung by Roger Taylor in the recording studio. Mike Myers serves as his own in-joke as the record executive who didn't want to release "Bohemian Rhapsody" as a single. It was too long and weird and "no one is going to be head-banging in the car to [it]". It's a groaner of a line, but undeniably funny as a meta-WAYNE'S WORLD joke. Malek also has tons of cheeky one-liners with my favorite being his retort to his irate drummer, "Roger, there's only room in this band for one hysterical queen". I also loved his quick assessment of Mary's new boyfriend, the way "We Will Rock You" came together, and the behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the "I Want To Break Free" video, which remains one of my favorites of all time. The movie also achieves a certain amount of pathos when Mercury's AIDS diagnosis takes center stage. I loved the small exchange between Freddy as he walks down a hospital hall to encounter a young man with AIDS, covered in Kaposi's Sarcoma lesions. The patient sings Freddy's signature "Day-Oh" to him, uniting a fan with his idol and forming an instant fleeting bond between AIDS patient and AIDS patient. That he died so young, denying the world of more great music, is such a terrible tragedy. Just a few years after his death, AIDS drugs came along which would change the entire landscape. I often wonder what kind of music Freddy would be making now. I think he'd really dig Mika, Adam Lambert, Panic At The Disco and Troye Sivan, all of whom have Freddy to thank for paving the way for their brand of confident, gender-bending fabulousness. Yes, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY serves as a tribute to a great band, but even more so, it's a giant roar for believing in yourself no matter how much of an inconsequential little nothing the world has labelled you. It's in this that the film finds its giant tug of unbridled emotion. Freddy said it best when he sang, "You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it. I thank you all." This movie serves as our way of saying "Thank you" back. When they discuss performing at Wembley Stadium for LIVE AID, Freddy talks of busting through the ceiling. When Deacon reminds him that Wembley has no ceiling, Freddy says they'll "punch a hole in the sky" instead. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY gloriously shows a group of somewhat nerdy musicians who refused to be "normal", making this imperfect biopic a perfect clarion call for everyone out there who refuses to be "normal" too.
In the end, it doesn't really matter that you have all those amazing songs and some fantastic performances if the movie's script is so lazy and mediocre at best, unable to explore who Freddie Mercury was as a person and frustratingly superficial about the whole thing (including the songs).
Bohemian Rhapsody isn't the kingly biopic of Queen that it thinks it is. Possibly the most frustrating cinema experience I've had all year. Why? Squandered potential. It's Queen. Quite possibly the biggest rock band to ever exist. Influential to millions. Idolised by thousands. The risks they took with their musicality and stage appearances were aspirational. And yet here we have a biopic that, whilst undoubtedly entertaining, just doesn't know what it wants to be. Chronicling the formation of Queen, Freddie Mercury rises to fame as their lead singer and soon starts clashing with the other band members. Malek singlehandedly saved this film. His performance was both transformative and engrossing, occasionally fully embodying Mercury's eccentric personality. The exaggerated false teeth did initially distract me, but these are diminished once the story starts to unfold. The other members were also well acted and certainly looked the part, particularly with the 70s hair styles. The whole plot intelligently culminates to the infamous Live Aid performance that shot Queen's reputation to stratospheric heights, which evidently is the greatest segment of this biopic. It allowed the music to come through and force Mercury's emotions to be conveyed through auditory senses. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' is deservedly one of the greatest songs of all time, and just the Live Aid performance alone showed its importance to Mercury and the band. It wants you to sing along, it wants you to tap your feet to the beat. It's infectious. It will leave you wanting to listen to their other fantastic songs. The development beforehand was well paced, nuanced and enjoyable to watch. However, there are two huge detriments to this biopic that lead to an underwhelming result. Bryan Singer's direction and McCarten's screenplay. Singer is unsure what angle to use to portray Mercury. He had a big career, with personal failures equalling his musical successes. Yet Singer attempts to balance the narrative with Mercury's life and what is essentially Queen's greatest hits. The two do not marinate seamlessly. Is it a Queen tribute? Or a Freddie Mercury biopic? Can it be both? Yes it can. But this is not substantial enough. The band has so much history and acute details that were glossed over in this film, ultimately feeling rushed. The time shifts range from a month to five years. Singer attempts to tackle too much, and it shows. In the first twenty minutes, they've already conceived their first album! That's ludicrous. Then we come to the screenplay. I'm sure Brian May and Roger Taylor's inclusion in this production somewhat hindered the telling of the band's history. It's completely sanitised. The often comedic dialogue juxtaposes the tonal shift of Mercury's eventual loneliness and battle with AIDS. There is literally a scene of Mercury contemplating the idea of conceptualising a solo career, only for the proceeding scene to joyfully create 'Another One Bites The Dust'. The script tries too hard at being a crowd pleaser, that the more important issues are diluted and consequently forms a tonal shift. Sure it allows Malek to show off his acting ability, but at what cost? There's no emotional resonance. Nothing feels memorable. It's a shame, as this could've been an excellent biopic. However the mediocre directing and script really hindered the emotional investment required to make this a successful trip down memory lane. It's a biopic that general audiences will enjoy, it's just not the biopic I wanted.
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