December 9, 2018

Movie Review #54 Bohemian Rhapsody

Ready Freddie?

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, and Directed by Bryan Singer and Dexter Fletcher

We are the champions…of 2018 films! 

It’s the fall when the serious contenders come to the cinema. Just one week ago we crowned Creed II the best of 2018 and in true Rocky fashion he gets knocked down (hopefully only to get back up in Creed III) by an uneven, super loud biopic, that for my money has the best performance of the year thus far. 

So, we all know the drama (if you are a movie nerd like me anyway), Sacha Baron Cohen, then Ben Whishaw, finally Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) then Bryan Singer (X-Men), then Singer fired back to Dexter Fletcher, it was a rough road for this Queen biopic, but finally it has arrived. To be honest I was exhausted by the drama surrounding this film prior to its release and expected all that drama to lead to a bad film (a la Get on up, the should’ve been better James Brown biopic), but I gotta say rarely has a movie been as bad as Bohemian Rhapsody and still be irresistible. It starts off very rocky with bad teeth and makeup, slowly gains steam while fudging facts and time lines, then finishes with a huge rock anthem crescendo. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the films sort of plays out like a Queen song. 

Director Bryan Singer (or Dexter Fletcher) bring the life of the rock band Queen to the big screen, choosing to focus on front man Freddie Mercury and the music. Rami Malek plays enigmatic lead singer Freddie Mercury with amazing enthusiasm. Credit to Malek although his makeup is awful (maybe the teeth shouldn’t have been that big?) he still shines (I think as rumored he would make an excellent Bond villain). Not many other cast members shine through the often lazy screenwriting, Lucy Boynton plays Mercury’s ex-wife Mary Austin, Ben Hardy, Joe Mazzello, and Gwilym Lee play band mates Roger Taylor, John Deacon, and Brian May all adequately. Huge Queen fan Mike Myers shows up for a memorable scene. The film has a whole host of problems (it’s shallow, sexless, a little unprepared, and again doesn’t seem to care too much about the facts or the timeline), but for some reason you can’t take your eyes or ears off it. I’ll give whichever director credit for the ending (correctly choosing to close with the 1985 Live Aid concert performance), the crowd is bad CGI, but the vibe and sound editing is spot on. I think that scene alone that goes on for almost 20 minutes makes this film. Look I’ve heard about the bad reviews and I agree with some of the criticism; if what you wanted from this film is an honest biopic that takes you behind the complicated curtain of probably the first major figure to die of AIDS, you will leave unhappy. I thought that’s what I wanted (I wanted to see a scene of Freddie and Michael Jackson fighting while trying to do a duet), but what we get here is a more intentionally cookie cutter film, that skirts here and there on the more controversial points of Mr. Mercury’s life, but never gets too close as to cause a fuss, instead it celebrates the music. If the music was bad maybe that would bother me (or others, it is the #1 grossing biopic of all time), but you know what? The music is incredible. SEE IT

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A strong Oscar worthy performance and a fun ride down Greatest Hits lane is enough to earn Bohemian Rhapsody a strong 6.5 on The Shawshank Scale (and at the time of this review, #1 film of the year). 

Ranking the Top 10 Queen Songs (cause why not!):

1. Under Pressure (for my money the best Rock Collaboration of all time).
2. Bohemian Rhapsody (such a weird song that I first found in Wayne's World)
3. We are the Champions (just an epic gut punch of a rock anthem)
4. Crazy little thing called love (Rockabilly that works in the best way)
5. Another one bites the dust (Best bass riff pre-chilli peppers)
6. We Will Rock You (Another rock anthem that never really gets old)
7. I want it all (Most underrated Queen Song, great a cappella opening)
8. Somebody to love (Beautiful, heartfelt track)
9. You’re my best friend (A smarter song than its given credit for)
10. Fat Bottomed Girls (Yea, just pure fun)

Shouts: Don’t stop me now and Killer Queen (and no I don’t like the Bicycle Race song, I know that’s controversial).