Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
The music you know, the story you don't
This one comes recommended, so instead of being on the fence of whether or not to watch it, it’s on tonight’s docket. It’s not that I don’t like this type of movie - I mean, perhaps biographies made as Hollywood flicks and the inevitable entertainment inflation could be a little bit of a put off - but rather that I already know what I kind of figured the movie would go over, so despite the man behind the band I didn’t know if the interest was going to be there. Soundtrack wasn’t going to be a question - I enjoy the crap out of some Queen - just the drama. Still, a recommendation is a recommendation, so let’s find out if this movie is a drag or flying off like a rocket man. Tonight, we check out Bohemian Rhapsody.
Straight up the main thing that will stop or perhaps drive a viewer is going to be the soundtrack. Don’t like Queen? Than I’m not entirely sure how you expect to fully enjoy the movie, since you know it’s going to have their songs in the background. Yes, there is a large focus on Freddy, but it is still also about the band, and both at some point or another are going to involve songs that some would consider hits. Although at times they can become front and center - particularly the finale concert - they actually do a good job of keeping the songs going as background music and working them into scenes without it feeling like some mechanical song churner. Now, I already like the band’s music, so it’s a step in the right direction that the sound track is made up of a decent selection of the songs I enjoy. The way they go about almost teasing certain songs, such as the title song, is somewhat refreshing though given how easily it would have been to just have it playing in the background anyways. It’s not the first movie to tease things like hero themes or the likes as scenes build to the payoff, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less of a nice touch.
Past that, there’s a pretty straight forward bio style movie surrounding all the music. Did I learn a whole lot? Well, I mean, I guess I learned that Freddy really liked cats? Learning movies are always best with a grain of salt really, but the highlight reel of Freddy’s life is rather self evident to anyone who already knows the band, because they’ve already learned all the main reveals long before they’ve watched the movie. Mind you, this doesn’t stop them from putting them on screen in effective and emotional ways, it just doesn’t spring any real surprises on you. The more learning bits would probably focus more on the intricacies of the situation as opposed to the broad strokes, but if I point out every little detail than there isn’t much reason for you to watch outside the music and acting and fanfare, is there?
The acting is pretty darn good too. There’s some nuance to the characters portrayal and the eccentricities of egos and band dynamic that could have been glossed over if they wanted too - straight to details like deciding a person’s name is to plain and renaming them on the spot. It makes for an interesting watch in it’s own right, but with some bad actors the more emotional scenes could have really fallen on their faces fast. Sure, at the front end you might figure that it’s nothing outside the normal, but by the time you get to the final act they’ve built things out and start executing them in such a way that it really can feel quite heartfelt and touching. Couple all of that with the fact that as far as I know the singing is actual the actor’s singing, and it wouldn’t be absurd to think of some of the scenes getting some mentions for awards at times, at least in effort. I’m not saying all the shots in the movie are filled with the best acting in the world, but by and large it’s not bad in the slightest, and quite commonly better than good.
The pacing is there to keep up with the music as well. Given all the music getting placed in there, the movie never really drags too much, with the closest thing being the tumultuous header of Freddy’s self destruction arc. Of course, it all ends on a somewhat high note, even if it’s still a somber one regardless - and that’s when the fact that at least portions of reality are in this movie only helps to drive home some of the impact of things going on. The different scenes are connected together in nice, flashy ways as well - sometimes with lights and glamor shots, sometimes with fancy effects, and other times more traditional cuts as well. It’s in that slightly over two hour run time, but it doesn’t really feel long at all until you get to the final concert scene. Now, it’s not even that it’s long - although there is a bit on the extras that’s pretty much the full concert done up - but rather at that point it’s largely a just a concert with the weight of emotional build up from the movie behind it. I’m not complaining, because I like the songs and they really blend it down to a shorter time incredibly well and smoothly - just pointing out that it might feel longer than it is as an end cap.
Costumes range from normal when it comes to the generic day to day moments to more extravagant during the show segments. It makes sense, but does reflect on my often sad comments about how it’s easy to overlook the effort that probably went into making everyone look like they belonged but not offering something drastic enough from the norm that it really stands out as costume work. There are a few moments, mostly relating to Freddy’s outfits on stage, where things get to be over-the-top and snazzy. Settings are likewise relatively normal most the time, with a few nice looking buildings and some fun performance stages. There is some nice scenes of experimenting on instruments that includes buckets, liquids, coins, and other fun shenanigans, but this isn’t something that’s really all that effects heavy in any real way beyond the transitions - as fun as some of them can be.
The other big thing in here that could turn people off, which I haven’t bothered to mention and honestly probably wouldn’t if it wasn’t for the fact that I have no effects section to really talk about, would be the portrayal and handling of being gay. In fairness of the movie, it didn’t really treat it as quite as much a big deal as it really was back when the events would have happened and outside of a few emotional moments you wouldn’t even really think twice about it more than you would today. Well, more than most would today. Some people find it an incredibly touchy or taboo topic, and in turn that part of the movie - or the man, for that matter - might turn some folks off to the movie. I find it interesting the portrayal of the main straight relationship of Freddy after he realizes that he is at the least bisexual, as it’s an interesting concept to me that you could be so attached to a person despite not necessarily being attracted to them as much as another gender - or perhaps it’s just the movie hit it in such a simple manner that it seemed more broad or complex than it actually was. The build to Freddy realizing his attraction to men was handled well, with a good build up across the movie, but it also takes the time to show that it can be just as toxic as any relationship, because quite frankly crap people are going to be crap - and it never steals the thunder from the various more band-centric moments. Some of the most enjoyable moments, for me, was in fact the band moments, seeing them playing off each other to create the music they made, but the balance between the two never feels entirely one-sided.
If you like Queen, you’ll enjoy the movie. If you like Freddy Mercury, you’ll probably enjoy the movie. If you don’t like anything about either, then I don’t know why you’d even think about watching the movie in the first place outside of if you really have an insatiable need to watch all biography movies. For me, the music is good, the story has a few little tidbits I didn’t really know, and it works on an emotional story telling level. It’s entertaining enough for the single time I’ve viewed it, the actors do a good job, and it does certainly feel like they put some effort into the movie to make it as good as they can. If anything really negative can be said for the experience, it’s that when it came time to the review, I found that a lot of software - read as all the software I own - can’t take a screenshot of a Bluray, meaning I had to resort to taking screenshots of the Youtube trailer instead. Of all the things big brother Hollywood is worried about, of course taking a static image of a nice high definition movie would be the most abhorrent behavior.