Bohemian Rhapsody

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I am a huge Queen fan and have been looking forward to the Queen biopic for the near-decade that the movie has been in the works. Having gone through multiple issues with actors, directors, and the band itself, the movie has finally been released. Bohemian Rhapsody is directed by Bryan Singer and stars Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury. The movie follows the band, with the majority of its focus falling on Freddie, from the time a quiet Freddie Bulsara replaces the leader singer of Smile (Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon), to the point where the band reunites after a rocky hiatus to play the Live Aid concert in 1985.

I was worried going into the movie, knowing the sort of issues involved in its creation. Sacha Baron Cohen felt the movie straight-washed Freddie’s past, and quit over creative differences. The remaining band members thought the movie focused too much on Freddie. Bryan Singer was fired from the film with two weeks left to shoot. While viewing the movie, one of the issues that immediately stood out to me is that songs introduced and used as markers for the band’s signature sound, were completely out of order. Anyone who is a Queen fan is going to recognize this. The band’s look was also taken out of order, particularly Freddie’s costumes, with John Deacon’s hair being the only chronologically correct appearance. Am I being overly particular? Maybe, but no more than any other Queen fan will be.

As I walked out of the theater, I was pleased what I saw – excepting the chronological errors – but as I digested the film, more and more things started to bother me. The move focused on Freddie, but I can’t say that I learned anything about him. He loved a woman named Mary, but we don’t know the dynamic of their relationship or why he loved her the way he did. Freddie fell under the influence of a man named Paul – but the movie did not reveal the fact that Paul was his actual manager and pushed the band into the Euro-disco sound of Hot Space, which the band strongly disliked. We saw Freddie turn to partying and drug use, but it was nothing more than clichéd PG-13 debauchery we’ve seen in other biopics of this type. Everything felt very superficial for a movie that runs 2 hours and 15 minutes.

A movie about a rock band that consisted of a flamboyant, golden-voiced Persian, a dentist, an electrical engineer, and an astrophysicist who created an orchestra with his homemade guitar should have been as unique as the band itself. Instead, the movie is about as formulaic as it comes – which is ironic, given the wonderful rant Mercury has about the detriment of formulas.

Judd: 2 stars

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