Nov 5, 2018
Welcome back to Matinee Monday! Today’s film should probably win best trailer, and by the time I’ve gotten to this point, one of the most viewed trailers I’ve seen this year, at least for me. For a few other music-related films from this year, check out “Paradox” (Episode #086), “Stop Making Sense” (Episode #179), “The After Party” (Episode #237), and “Been So Long” (Episode #306). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com or reach out over social media.
Today’s movie is “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), the 20thCentury Fox biopic about Queen directed by Bryan Singer and written for the screen by Anthony McCarten, based on a story in collaboration with Peter Morgan. The film follows Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek), and the rest of Queen, from their initial meeting, their climb up the charts, a string of hits, a string of tragedies, and their eventual reunification for one of the greatest concerts in music history.
Sometimes being a film critic means not getting to fully enjoy a film as much as other folks. I’m not being snotty or mean when I say that, but once you watch enough movies, it changes the way you view films, and honestly, it makes some films harder to enjoy. I actually envy folks who can just sit back and enjoy a film, because there is a lot to enjoy about “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and a lot I did enjoy about it. But it was also a big task. We’re talking about the story of Freddie Mercury. We’re talking about the story of Queen. We’re talking about the story of the music and its legacy. And in today’s film, we’re talking about all three of them mashed into one chronological narrative. That’s swinging for the fences, and this film didn’t quite hit the mark.
Two major sources of confusion for me. First, the film tries to be both a film about Queen as a group and a film about Freddie’s story as an individual. Yes, as the film addresses, the media and many fans had trouble telling the two apart, but in trying to tell a blend of both, neither is really done justice. Committing either way would have allowed a deeper look into the rest of the band, or a better focus on the inner turmoil of Freddie. And with such a strong, dare I say Oscar-worthy performance by Rami Malek, I would go with a full-on Freddie Mercury biopic, starting well before Queen is founded and ending with his funeral.
I did say two sources of confusion. The second is the title. Why call the film “Bohemian Rhapsody”, which feels like a title that tests well in a focus group, rather than have any real meaning to either Queen’s tenure as a band, or Freddie’s life, at least not how it’s presented in the film. A film with a title like “Bohemian Rhapsody” should be ninety or so minutes of the process of making that song, from their initial proposal through its poor reception, and how the cryptic lyrics reflect back on Freddie’s life. I saw all those elements clearly during this film, and I think that became the film I wanted to see, a film within the film if you will. I didn’t want to see a montage of how they created three other hits by arguing in a studio, like a really obvious game of Name That Tune. This is the curse of watching too many movies, and it’s one of the major reasons why sometimes critics can’t predict what will score well with large numbers of fans, if the box office for today’s film is any indication.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) is a dynamic, chronological look at Queen, Freddie Mercury, and the string of hits that defined their legacy. While it fails to commit to any one of the multiple stories that could be told, a strong performance by Rami Malek and great sound editing make up for some missed opportunities, and creates a roller coaster ride of music, comedy and tragedy. Fans of Freddie Mercury, or Queen, or their music should definitely check out this film, and especially folks who may have only encountered Queen from their greatest hits album.
Rotten Tomatoes: 59%
One Movie Punch: 7.4/10
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) is rated PG-13 and is currently playing in theaters.