Alex Reviews "Bohemian Rhapsody"
While “Bohemian Rhapsody” is not a bio-pic or a documentary or even gritty telling of the history of Queen, it is a (mostly) fun recounting of the music, genius, and art of the band. The effect (or control, as some might say) that the surviving members had on the script is very apparent in how certain events and people are portrayed so be prepared to ignore timing and context of certain theatrical aspects, which as a biased fan even I was able to look past.
If there is a true gripe with the film from a fan perspective, it is the consistent bagging on Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) as a deliberately evil character. While there is plenty of evidence that no person involved with the band was a saint, there are points in this fil where it began to feel like the piling on of a man since passed as opposed to a reveal of dastardly actions. Humorously, there is even a subtle dig that Prenter is worse than Game of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen’s character of “Littlefinger,” based on the scenario set up to oust loyal band manager John Reid, whom he represents. Any fan knows why Prenter is truly considered a villain with cold hard fact, so I found the story to be beating a dead horse with these derision stories.
Enough of the negative: the music isn’t phenomenal simply because it is Queen, but the use of actual live shows used to represent the very same live shows creates an immersive, concert-like atmosphere, which is never more apparent than during what is considered the band’s most iconic set from Live Aid. If this movie doesn’t win a major award (or all of them) in sound mixing, I may give up on trying to understand the concept.
From a story-telling aspect, “Bohemian Rhapsody” does a fantastic job setting up its ending within the first minute but in a way that it is nearly impossible to see it coming. The back story as it pertains to the band getting its start flies by so fast you might miss it after the “Smile” set. Even though the first half to two thirds of the movie is a puff piece inspired by Brian May and Roger Taylor’s fondest memories of being guys throwing a record together, the interplay between the actors sets up the undertone of the band as a family. The casting is so spot on that I genuinely asked if they were pulling in relatives of May, Taylor, and Deacon in Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, and Joseph Mazzello, respectively. This movie is a celebration of the band and the music that inspired so many people. If someone wants to know the dark and dirty truth of the band members, this is not that picture. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) is fantastic as Freddie Mercury, but truly disappears into the role when the mustache makes its debut.
The last point I would like to make is how shocking it is that this movie ended up being PG-13. For all of the stories that contain sex, drugs, and rock & roll, it was impressive how Bryan Singer (X-Men) was able to allude to each of those while showing so little of it that it didn’t make an R rating. I may be biased in overlooking issues with the film, but indulge me while I provide some background to this point of view. Queen has been one of favorite bands for my entire life, if not my favorite. There is the quality of their art and my deep emotional attachment to their songs, and the greatest lesson I was ever given was because of Freddie Mercury with the album Jazz playing behind it. As the silliness of Bicycle Race played, my Uncle Chris and my father waxed poetic about always being yourself even if the Word tells you it is wrong. These are/were two of the greatest men I will ever know using the greatest singer ever (yes, I said it) as an example to stand up for what is right and to not let the world keep me down. At the time, I had no idea how alike my uncle and Freddie Mercury were in more than just how they chose to live their lives and the battle they had ahead of them. Despite that, he always kept his head high and proud to celebrate what life was left. This movie should be experienced in whatever format allows the viewer to feel the music most. The story may not be perfect, but I challenge anyone to feel the Live Aid scene and not be overcome with emotion.