Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Film Review No. 45 Bohemian Rhapsody (12+)

Strong Points:
Outstanding performance by Rami Malek
Great selection of hits - more than you can count
Performance feel for the concerts
Great costumes
Good supporting cast
Very strong second half
Some outstanding scenes...
Some dramatic irony helped to make comedy...
Wayne's World joke and cameo

Weak Points:
Odd pacing
...and some mediocre ones
Some of the hair and makeup seemed cheap
Little development for characters besides Freddie
...but could also come across as patronising
Emotional pacing
The backing score was poor in comparison to the songs

Some spoilers ahead:

Note: I haven't judged the film on any historical accuracy as I, myself, don't know enough about Queen and Freddie Mercury to pass judgement on this. However, if you were expecting a documentary, perhaps look elsewhere.

In-depth Review:
Bohemian Rhapsody as a whole is a celebration of one of the greatest and most influential rock bands ever created. However, the story is really about one man - Freddie Mercury, lead singer and legend. The same can be said about the behind-the-scenes aspect of the film. While there is a large cast and crew, they are really just supporting one man - Rami Malek, trying to recreate such a large persona on the screen. And overall, he succeeds.

Rami Malek (Mr Robot) transforms himself with vigour and passion. Such is the life of Freddie Mercury, I'm not entirely sure if Malek created a slight caricature of the man or if he really was like that, however, I found myself not really caring. Much like the band members in the film, as soon as Malek started performing, I forgot all my complaints about the portrayal and just watched in awe at a man being able to capture even a tiny portion of the gravitas of the band's performances.

The supporting cast as a whole was good. The band members ensure conflict and humour, the managers varying amounts of help and hindrance and Freddie's various relationships (particularly with Mary Austin, played by Lucy Boyonton) adding more depth in a few looks than half the script. It's a bit of a shame that none of the other characters were really developed, and if they were, it was done off-screen and the audience were brought up to speed by Freddie's interactions with them.

While the costumes were great, some of the hair and makeup seemed cheap. Two areas, in particular, stood out for me - Mike Myers, playing Ray Foster and Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor. For Ray Foster you couldn't tell it was Myers but could tell there was something 'off' about the character, with the beard especially seeming fake. With Roger Taylor, I felt they could have aged him better. All the other characters seemed to grow up from their university days, but Ben Hardy's slight baby face still shone through for me even by Live Aid, a whole 15 years later. It wasn't as immersion breaking as Myer's Ray Foster, but it was still noticeable.

What with the extravaganze of Freddie's and Queen's life, it almost makes sense that the film would suffer with some odd pacing. Within 20 minutes Freddie has gone from a luggage boy at Heathrow to touring America with Queen. All obstacles and arguments (of which there are a few) are blown away by a casual remark or line of a song until around halfway when the film finally allows us to breathe and focus on areas of their journey for more than a split second.

There's simply so much information thrown at us that the film could have benefitted from either streamlining events or even two films - one to tell the rise of Queen, then another to deal with Freddie's life. Instead, we are left with a slight hodgepodge of ideas and scenes, not allowing you to really invest in the story until the second half. Also, some of the scenes are obviously played with dramatic irony, such as lingering on the fact that Bohemian Rhapsody shouldn't have been successful. This does bring about some comedic moments, however, as the band is so strong in their convictions, and we, the audience, know how it turns out, some of the scenes become more patronising than uplifting or tension filled.

The focus on Freddie also comes at the detriment of some of the other characters development. The mantra seems to be 'to accept and move on' in the film, and it's what most of the characters do when faced with a problem - only Freddie seems to have any pushback against their status quo. Characters arrived only when they were of use to Freddie and disappeared just as quickly - the two most jarring examples were Paul Prenter's disappearance and Jim Hutton's appearance. Again, it was more a Freddie Mercury film than a Queen film, which, depending on what your expectations were when you went into the cinema, could be a good or bad thing.

One area I'm sure most people can agree on being great, however, are the songs. The film doesn't make the mistake of focusing on just a couple of songs or even the eponymous Bohemian Rhapsody. Instead, we have a constant stream of hits, either played in the film or as part of the backing soundtrack. If the tunes themselves were great, the general score of the film was somewhat lacking. I'm not sure if it was just overshadowed by the tracks themselves but there were long periods in the film where I felt a slightly more prominent score would have helped to elevate some of the more tricky scenes, allowing the music to say what words sometimes couldn't.

Finally, the cinematography of the film was decent, as a whole. While it didn't quite elevate the concert performances to the heights of A Star is Born, you still had the sense of being near, if not with the band.

Conclusion: overall, I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody, especially when it found its feet in the second half. I also found my feet tapping along to the many anthems and songs which make up Queen's amazing song library, so much so that I almost wish the cinema's had extra speakers to blast the music from all angles.

Rating: 70%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

P.S. A quick mention on the clever Mike Myer's cameo as the producer Ray Foster. While I did feel the makeup detracted from the immersion of the film, I have to give credit to the little Wayne's World joke. Ray Foster mentions that Bohemian Rhapsody just isn't a kind of song that young people will be headbanging along to in the car, which is, of course, a reference to the exact same scene in Wayne's World, another Myer's film. While I realised the reference during the film, it wasn't until I got home that the connection to Myer's happened, and I just thought I'd applaud it here. Also, what joke doesn't get funnier when you explain it?

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