Monday, December 10, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech
Director: Bryan Singer

Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Rating: PG-13

I have been singing Queen songs nonstop since I saw "Bohemian Rhapsody". Did I have some issues with this film? Yes. But was I also thoroughly entertained? Indeed. The film does a really great job at reminding you of how charismatic a performer Freddie Mercury was, the enormous number of hits Queen had, and how the AIDS epidemic shook our society upon its discovery. The film does a not-so-great job of portraying their rise to fame in a realistic way, and it doesn't shine much light on Mercury's relationships with band manager Paul Prenter (played by Allen Leech, NOT his doppleganger Kevin Connolly) and longtime partner Jim Hutton. Rami Malek though, is a tour de force as Mercury, and while it wasn't perfect, it was very enjoyable.

The film opens as Mercury takes the stage for Queen's well-known Live Aid Concert performance - a stunning visual that we see more of later in the film. But we're quickly transported back to the early 1970s, where Mercury works as a humble baggage claim attendant at the airport. Much to his parents' chagrin, he goes out to the clubs - late and often - and finally approaches a band about joining them. They laugh at his appearance - dark skin, buck teeth and all - until they realize the dude has got some pipes.

What most bands experience - a slow rise to the top, difficulty finding representation, struggle releasing a hit single - Queen seems to find with ease. It's not long before performing in bars becomes a record deal, and famed manager John Reid takes them under his wing (I would have liked more screen time with this character - or maybe I'm just partial to Aidan Gillen from "The Wire" and "Peaky Blinders" fame). Shortly afterwards, hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Killer Queen" start pouring out of the band and rising to the top of the charts. It's almost crazy, how fast the hits came to Mercury. He really was a musical genius. Malek does a fabulous job of capturing the essence and flamboyance of the performer - it's difficult to take your eyes off him. The fake teeth were a bit of a distraction and a little overkill, but it was fun to recognize the infamous looks throughout the years - from the shadowy "Bohemian Rhapsody" photo showcasing the 4 bandmates, to Mercury's plunging neckline jumpsuits, all the way to his mustache and tight white tanks.

We're given a peek into Mercury's personal life, dealing mostly with Mary Austin (played by Lucy Boynton), but I think they could have delved more into his relationship struggles. He was clearly very much in love with Mary, but he was also clearly gay. This is complicated, and they just kind of skimmed the surface without really digging in. It also would have been interesting to see Mercury in his final years after the Live Aid concert, while grappling with AIDS. I suppose those conflicts are for another movie. This one is more light-hearted and about Mercury, the entertainer, not Mercury, the man.

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