2018 is drawing to a close, and I’m getting caught up on the Holiday movie releases! Here’s my first of a few upcoming reviews.
When I think of things that bring me comfort and joy, my mind tends to reach towards thoughts of marshmallows – specifically, marshmallow fluff. It is a condiment that makes any dessert better, and is so sugary sweet that it produces an equal amount of pleasure as it does food-related guilt. So when I finished viewing the Queen Rock n’ Roll bio-pic Bohemian Rhapsody, I found myself sitting there and thinking about the same delicious treat.
Directed (mostly) by the controversial X-Men director, Bryan Singer, Bohemian Rhapsody tells the very typical tale of a boy (Freddie Mercury, played by Rami Malick) who joins a band and transforms into the iconic musician that (perhaps) he was born to become. Through behind the scenes drama, personal discoveries, and multiple worldwide tours, Freddie and his fellow Queen bandmates evolve into musical gods, and leave their imprint on pop culture for decades to come…. or at least, that’s what the surviving band members want this cinematic retelling of their story to come across as.
What Bohemian Rhapsody truly is, at its core, is a two-hour long commercial for Queen – one full of lines cheesier than a Lifetime TV movie, and filmmaking choices that seem borderline juvenile (including multiple cringeworthy, and graphics heavy, montage sequences) for Singer’s (and later replacement director Dexter Fletcher’s) lengthy career. But does that make the movie “bad”? No. It just means that the end product is too sugarcoated for its own good – making each bite of its over two hour running time that much harder to swallow.
One scene in particular – where Mercury struts into a restaurant to have a meeting with future manager, John Reid – includes a sentence (“…We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for the other misfits….”) that comes off more like a tag line for a Queen t-shirt found at Hot Topic, than any form of actual dialog. Sure, it does speak to the message of the band, but it sure doesn’t sound like anything a then 24-year-old Mercury would have spoken out loud, despite all his inner and outer sparkle.
These are the moments that make you question much of the legitimacy of Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, leaving you often to beg the question, “Are these moments in service of the film or of telling Queen’s actual story?” And though the answer is not easily given, the last 25 minutes of the movie sure seem to be a more “fan fiction” friendly interpretation of historical events as opposed to what truly occurred – a pretty cinematic ribbon to an already overly shiny present box.
Luckily, Rami Malick’s performance is the peanut butter that cuts down on the sweetness. Yes, he’s wearing a set of teeth that rivals Bette Midler’s in Hocus Pocus, but when all is said and done, this is Malick’s show. From his movements, glances, and delivery, it is quite obvious that he’s bringing Mercury to life with a level of confidence and charisma that makes it impossible to not fall under his spell. He may have not been the “Freddie” you dreamed of, and represents more of what Freddie was onstage than off, but by the film’s last frame, its hard to imagine anyone else delivering such a loving tribute.
In fact, that’s simply what the film is – a tribute – just like Adam Lambert’s various Queen covers on American Idol were. It doesn’t break any sort of brand new ground, nor does it learn from the lessons that movies such as Ray, Walk The Line, or its parody Walk Hard, set as the typical faults of the Rock bio-pic genre. But that’s not what Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor wanted this movie to be. With its PG-13 rating, it exists as a reminder of a band that did change the musical landscape, and altered the lives of millions of people. And with this flick, May and Taylor want that legacy to continue for generations to come.
So in the immortal words of Mr. Mercury (that close out the film),
“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time….I feel alive…..And the world is turning inside out….and floating around in ecstasy….So don’t stop me now…..cause I’m having a good time…..”
I, nor this movie, won’t be stopping you anytime soon, Freddie. Don’t you worry.